By Jerrell Richardson
Anyone who watched the 49ers rout of the Bears Monday Night saw that Colin Kaepernick is far more athletic then Alex Smith, has a bigger arm and proved to be just as accurate. To jump to conclusions after just one game and name Kaepernick the outright starter though would be foolish. Alex Smith and the 49ers are the perfect marriage, and with the best defense and running game in the league surrounding him, he does not need to play spectacular for the team to win. Critics knock Smith, claiming that the best thing about him is that he doesn’t turn the ball over, but the 49ers can rest assured that the player who touches the ball on every single down realizes the importance of ball security, which can’t be ignored.
Alex Smith Continues To Improve
Alex Smith is 19-5 since Harbaugh took over, and has gotten better along the way. This year, for the first time in his career, he won both the FedEx Air Player and NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors and set the franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception. Despite his strides, he has not shown that he can make the difference that may be needed to win it all, which is where Colin Kaepernick comes in. If his performance against the Chicago Bears was no fluke then Kaepernick is the best man for the job. The problem is that after one game it’s impossible to tell as three very different things could explain Kaepernick’s magical night.
A big part of the NFL is film study and the Bears had no clue what was coming at them. The only film on Kaepernick in a 49er uniform is him running the wildcat so even the home crowd was surprised at how many times San Francisco dropped back to pass in the first half. By not having the conservative game plan that the Bears expected, it kept Chicago off balance and guessing. The only black eye on Kaepernick’s evening was his failure to do anything during the only two-minute drive he was asked to engineer, and he almost looked human when the down and distance dictated the play call. It will be interesting to see how he fares as more film of him gets out and teams can game plan around his strengths and weaknesses.
Chicago elected to start the game on defense which proved a costly mistake. They of course wanted to put pressure on Kaepernick but it backfired and allowed San Francisco to play with the lead, where they thrive. Once San Francisco was able to push it to multiple possessions the Bears were in no man’s land, and to top it all off was without their starting quarterback. San Francisco also played a very clean game with no untimely drops, penalties or other miscues that can complicate things. Playoff games often times are not as smooth so how he responds to real pressure is unknown despite his Monday Night performance.
He Is Just That Good
What the team hopes is that Monday was no fluke. What bodes well is that the Bears have terrorized every team they have played this year, and it’s not often that an entire defense has an off night. Chicago has at least one Pro Bowler at each level defensively and could do nothing to slow down the 49ers. The running game took a lot of pressure off Kaepernick, but a large part of the success that Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter enjoyed was due to Kaepernick picking apart the secondary. Randy Moss, Delanie Walker, Kyle Williams and Vernon Davis can run past anyone opposite them, and Kaepernick’s powerful and accurate arm (at least for one game), forced the Bears to respect the middle to deep routes. The most important stat from Kaepernick’s night was that he protected the ball. The Bears lead the league in both interception and fumbles and could not force the Kaepernick into either. If he can combine his physical talents along with playing smart, then there is no doubt that he should be the starter.
Give Him Another Shot
The only way to find out if the praise that has been heaped on Kaepernick is deserving or premature is to play him again. This is potentially dangerous as the Saints are one of the worst defenses in the league and Kaepernick would most likely have another good game. The other side of this is that if he struggles against the lowly Saints defense, the team will know that he is not ready. By beating the Bears, San Francisco is still in control of the NFC West and will simply need to win their 3 remaining division games to lock up the playoffs, which is something a team with Super Bowl aspirations should have no problem doing. The question is who will be under center as they try and do it?
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.