The San Francisco 49ers advanced to third straight NFC Championship game with a win against Carolina Panthers. Just like in Wild Card playoff round, the 49ers missed opportunities to score touchdowns early in the game and had to settle for two field goals. Defense didn’t allow any points in the second half and the offense made enough plays to get another playoff win. As expected, Colin Kaepernick didn’t find success running with the ball against stout Carolina defense, but he did score rushing touchdown in the second half. The 49ers had a total of eight drives and scored 23 points on offense, 2 TDs and 3 FGs.
1st drive: Own 20, 15:00 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
The 49ers opened the game with F. Gore’s run for a loss of one yard. Kaepernick then completed a pass to M. Crabtree, but good only for one yard. Facing first 3rd-and-long Kaepernick found WR Q. Patton for 23 yards and a first down. Combination of runs and short passes put the 49ers on CAR 40. It was another third down situation, with six yards to go Kaepernick looked for A. Boldin but was off-target with his pass. Unnecessary roughness penalty on Carolina made it 1st-and-10 from CAR 25-yard line. Kaepernick didn’t find his passing rhythm early on and was again off-target when he looked for V. Davis, F. Gore got one yard and it was third down again. Kaepernick had no chance and had to take a sack and the 49ers had to settle for a FG.
2nd drive: Opp 46, 6:18 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 3-0
P. Willis intercepted Newton’s pass and the 49ers started the second drive inside Carolina’s territory. The Panthers committed two penalties which helped the 49ers to keep the drive alive. With the ball on CAR 20-yard line the 49ers tried a trick play, Kaepernick tossed the ball to A. Boldin who threw a pass intended to M. Crabtree, the pass was off-target. After another incompletion to Crabtree, this time pass from Kaepernick, the 49ers faced another third down. Kaepernick missed another throw and the 49ers had to settle for 2nd FG.
3rd drive: Own 1, 14:53 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 6-0
Defense stopped the Panthers on fourth down from SF 1-yard line and the 49ers took over on offense in dangerous territory. With QB sneak Kaepernick got two yards on first down play. On second down Kaepernick had to throw the ball away with pressure from the Panthers. His third down pass intended for M. Crabtree was nearly intercepted. The 49ers had to punt for the 1st time.
4th drive: Own 20, 13:40 left in the 2nd qrt, SF down 7-6
Kaepernick connected with A. Boldin for 20 yards with the first play of the drive, but miscommunication with F. Gore was probably the reason he missed A. Boldin on the next play. Kaepernick was pressured on second and third down play, both plays resulted with incompletion and eventually the 49ers had to punt again.
5th drive: Own 20, 3:41 left in the 2nd qrt, SF down 10-6
Kaepernick completed 5 of 9 pass attempts in this drive, including his 1-yard TD pass to V. Davis. The 49ers faced only one third down in this drive, defensive pass interference penalty on Carolina on 3rd-and-9 made it 1st-and-goal from CAR 1-yard line. F. Gore was stopped for no gain on first down play, the 49ers hurried to snap the ball on the next play, Kaepernick rolled to his right, extended the play and waited for V. Davis to get open in the corner of the endzone.
6th drive: Own 23, 13:25 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 13-10
With a lead the 49ers turned more to their running game and F. Gore but it was Kaepernick’s pass to A. Boldin for 45 yards that set them up for another score. Kaepernick slightly underthrew Boldin who was wide open and could have scored a TD had the pass been perfect. Instead the 49ers had the ball on CAR 2-yard line, Kaepernick is going to be ‘credited’ for snap fumble which happened on the first play, but it was more Gore’s fault, the 49ers were lucky to recover the fumble and had 2nd-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Kaepernick kept the ball on read-option play from the pistol and it was WR Q. Patton with a key block that allowed Kaepernick to score.
7th drive: Own 12, 0:33 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 20-10
Up by 10 the 49ers’ plan was to control the clock. They ran seven run plays compared to five pass plays. Kaepernick’s only scramble play came in this drive, he scrambled for seven yards. Later on this drive he got one yard needed for a first down with QB sneak. Already inside field goal range, the 49ers ran three more times, on the last play Kaepernick lost six yards on bootleg run from the shotgun. P. Dawson’s 34-yard FG was good.
8th drive: Own 27, 4:22 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 23-10
The 49ers ran eight more times to try to run down the clock. The Panthers had to burn all their time-outs and got the ball back with just 19 seconds on the clock.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers had 64 offensive plays in just eight drives and scored 2.9 points per drive. Kaepernick connected with V. Davis for one touchdown, ran for another score on designed run play and didn’t turn the ball over. Here are overall drive stats for Sunday game against the Panthers.
On Sunday Kaepernick lined up under center on 57.8%, he was in shotgun on 23.4% and ran the offense from the pistol on 18.8% of all offensive plays. Similar rates to the ones from the 2013 regular season. Kaepernick ran 12 plays from the pistol, five of them were run plays, one of those five was Kaepernick’s touchdown run in the third quarter.
Kaepernick didn’t put up great passing numbers against one of the best defenses in the NFL, but compared to Week 10 in which the 49ers lost to the Panthers, he did end up with more passing yards, higher passer rating and improved on yards per pass play. Back in Week 10 he was sacked six times on 31 dropbacks, on Sunday just once on 30 dropbacks. Against the Packers it was M. Crabtree who got the most of the yards, this time it was A. Boldin who finished with 136 receiving yards.
Colin Kaepernick was pressured on 35.5% of his total dropbacks back in Week 10 regular season game against Carolina, on Sunday, based on my count, he was pressured on eight (26.7%) of his 30 total dropbacks. He attempted seven and completed three passes for 30 yards when under pressure. The rest of the pressure play resulted in one sack. He did scramble one time, but again, the way I see it, it wasn’t the result of opponent’s pressure.
Kaepernick attempted 28 and completed 15 passes which leaves him with 13 incompletions. In the last two playoff games Kaepernick had combined 26 incompletions and 15 of those (57.7%) were off-targets. Here’s a breakdown of his incompletions:
Colin Kaepernick ran on six designed run plays against Carolina for eight yards (not counting the aborted snap), he scored one touchdown on read-option play and was succesful on two 3rd-and-1 plays with QB sneak.
As expected, Colin Kaepernick didn’t have the kind of success scrambling with the ball that he did in Wild Card playoffs against the Packers, but he did made some plays on the ground, converting a couple of short third downs and scoring one of the two 49ers’ touchdowns. On Sunday, Colin Kaepernick missed a lot of throws and finished with just 196 passing yards, but that’s 105 yards more than he had against the Panthers back in Week 10. Again, Crabtree’s presence was felt and even though he didn’t put up big numbers he helped Boldin to have 100+ receiving game. I’d like to see Kaepernick to be more accurate with his throws to give the 49ers a chance to stay alive in the playoffs as competition gets tougher.
Next for the 49ers is the NFC Championship game against division rival Seattle Seahawks. Both teams have won home games in the regular season and it will be a huge advantage for the Seahawks to play this game in front of home crowd. Back in Week 2 the 49ers’ defense kept the team in the game, but four turnovers by Colin Kaepernick were the reason for 29-3 loss. I’d be surprised if the 49ers find success against top ranked pass defense (according to Football Outsiders) even with Crabtree back in the lineup. In order to have a chance to advance to second straight Super Bowl, San Francisco has to limit mistakes on offense and not fall behind early in the game as it will be impossible to come from behind against league’s best defense.