Tag: Colin Kaepernick

Officiating Was Horrible But Kaepernick Was Worse

My San Francisco 49ers lost their home opener in their new stadium in Santa Clara last night on Sunday Night Football to the mediocre Chicago Bears by the score of 28-20.

There were two primary factors in the defeat.

First and foremost, QB Colin Kaepernick flat stunk up the joint. He turned the ball over four times to a suspect defense that played over its head a bit but which Colin consistently misread. Three picks and an ugly, ugly fumble later and the game was over.

niners-bears-refsSecond — and only of slightly less importance — was one of the most zealously over-officiated games of a season that already promises to be one of the most intrusively officiated seasons in the history of the NFL. As Bleacher Report put it, “There were 26 penalties called on a nationally televised game. Some of those were the right calls, but that doesn’t change the fact that this game was diluted thanks to a severe case of over-officiating.”

It wasn’t so much that the calls were bad or that too many went against the Niners or that those that did were more costly (though all of those were facts in my admittedly prejudiced view). It was the fact that the officials didn’t let the teams play. And when a well-oiled machine of an offense like that of the 49ers gets constantly interrupted and disrupted by yellow hankies (on more than one occasion there were three or four on the field on a single play!), its rhythm gets thrown off. Its performance suffers. And the fans experience a less enjoyable game, regardless of outcome.

Back in the day (you can tell I’m really old, right?), when I was officiating all three major sports year-around and/or writing about them, we had one thing drilled into our heads over and over again: if the officials are visible, they aren’t doing their jobs. The role of the official is to play unobtrusive and objective observer and rule-keeper. The League had better get this epidemic of yellow flags under control quickly or the season is going to deteriorate badly.

Now, back to Mr. Kaepernick.

He appears this year to be caught up in an inability to deal with adversity. In short, he panics. Two of his three interceptions were clearly in high-pressure situations. (One of them was a brilliant case of route-jumping for which he was only partly responsible.) The fumble took place on a run where he should have gone down sliding sooner, though how anyone smashes the ball out from under that huge bicep of his is beyond me. On several other occasions when he didn’t throw an INT, he did panic and do dumb stuff. He also lost focus twice and cost the Niners a delay of game and two unnecessary timeouts.

The good news is, these are all things that can be fixed.

The bad news, is we lost to the freaking Bears. Yeesh.

 

49ers Make Playoffs! But if Defense Wins Championships…

The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons yesterday, 34-24, in a game that was closer than it sounds and shouldn’t have been.

49ers-FalconsThe lowly Falcons shouldn’t have posed any real challenge for the Niners. Atlanta starts more rookies than any team in NFL history that wasn’t an expansion team in its first season. Seven rooks on the defensive side of the ball a good part of the day? QB Matt Ryan is at best a slightly above average player. The Falcons were 4-10 and out of reasons to play other than maybe morale. The Niners were playing to clinch a playoff birth (which they did) and keep slim hopes of a division title alive.

And yet Ryan and his low-octane offense scorched the Niners time after time after time. They ended up the evening with 402 yards of total offense, 341 of it through the air. And a good bit of that yardage came on long passes that seemed to find the pores in the Niners’ passing D. When the Falcons tried a desperation on-side kick with just over 2:00 left in the game — and freaking recovered it! — I really thought it was game over for the Niners. A tie seemed all but inevitable and the way Ryan had the team working, a winning TD wouldn’t have come as a shock.

Then a fluke INT plopped into NaVorro Bowman’s hands and he returned it 89 yards for a TD and the game was over. Finally.

I must say the Falcons acquitted themselves very nicely. They have demonstrated to their fans that they can play with the league’s elite even if that comes too late to salvage a disappointing season.

So the Niners are in the playoffs. Depending on how they do in the final game this week at St. Louis. But you have to be a little worried about that defense. Over the past three or four games they’ve had lapses that have seemed incomprehensible. And they’ve yielded their share of penalties while contributing very few turnaround or scoring plays or opportunities. Sure, they’re still stingy as hell on scoring and that’s huge, but in the playoffs it doesn’t take too many lapses before you find yourself playing catch-up.

And Coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have to reduce the number of dumb play calls and poor clock management incidents or they’re going to cost us a crucial close game.

On the up side, the offense has been clicking a bit more smoothly and efficiently of late. Kaep got some of his wheels back yesterday and looked really good a couple of times. He’s still making too many bad decisions on passes, sailed a couple too high and ate the ball once too often. But given that he’s only a bit more experienced than a true rookie, I guess we have to cut him some slack.

Why Do Low-Scoring Football Games Bore Me, Unlike Low-Scoring Baseball Games?

So what’s the matter with me? I love it when a baseball game ends with a low score and a low winning margin. Pitcher’s duels are a feast for my baseball eyes. But show me an NFL game that ends 10-9 like the Niners’ loss today to the Carolina Panthers, and I’m bored to tears.

Never mind that my team lost; the Panthers’ defense was obviously much better coached and prepared than the Niners’ offense. In fact, I’m beginning to worry about the Niners’ ability to sustain a championship run with an offense that is dead last in the NFL in passing. I thought Colin Kaepernick was supposed to be a gun. Maybe a Derringer?

But I digress.

The game today was just dead for me. To many turnovers, too many sacks, too much offensive futility, and far too little scoring. I think that my sense is that when a baseball game ends 2-1 or 1-0 or 3-2, there’s dynamic tension and strategy at work. But when an NFL game ends that way, it generally means, as it seemed to me today, that the offenses were just sputtering. It comes off as ineptitude. I’m not saying the teams in today’s game were not good teams; they clearly both are. But they’re not exciting teams, at least not the way they played each other today.

I expected a track meet, a high-scoring shootout. Both teams were on long winning streaks, both had scored 30+ points per game in their last several outings in dominating opponents. Instead — and I was obviously in a minority in my expectation because most other observers seemed to expect what we got — we got brutish, smash-mouth, in-your-face defensive football. Which I just don’t enjoy.

kaep_running_towardFWIW, I no longer expect the Niners to make a run at the Super Bowl this year. They may not even make the playoffs but if they do, they’re not going very far. Kaepernick has proven to be a weak (that is, inaccurate and sketchy) passer and once the defenses in the NFL caught on to the college-style offense the Niners tried to get away with behind Kaep, the team has relied on running and defense to win. That formula won’t carry the day, as they learned painfully today.

But I don’t care if they make the playoffs or not; I just hope they find a way to win and lose future games in a bit more exciting fashion than they did today in their first real test against a good defense since the Seahawks clobbered them.

If not, it’s going to be a long five weeks to the end of the season.

 

49ers Week One: Some Less Obvious, Popular Take-Aways

Well the San Francisco 49ers managed to pull out a very hard-fought win over the tough-as-expected Green Bay Packers yesterday, by a score of 34-28 that was closer than it sounded. The Niners led most of the way, but never by very much and always with the very present possibility of shooting themselves squarely in the foot.

After everyone else has hashed over the highlights, I like to come by with my small broom and sweep up a few hopefully less obvious conclusions. So here are my next-day thoughts about Week One.

kaep_ready_to_pass

Colin Kaepernick

Many have said that we learned this week that Colin Kaepernick is who we thought he would be. I disagree. While he was really awesome working in the pocket, his big claim to fame is supposed to be the read option. That, in turn, is supposed to allow him to rely on leg power to get him through the game. That was not the case yesterday. He ran for a measly 22 yards in just seven carries, and candidly executed the read option pretty poorly. There was chaos in the backfield, lack of focus that led to delay-of-game penalties and lousy clock management, all of which appeared to me to be connected to the Packers’ clear ability to stop his main weapon.

The secondary was scary. And not in a good way. True, the Packers under Aaron Rodgers are a formidable group. That guy can throw the ball as well as anyone I’ve seen in a half-century of being a fan. Still, pass defense looked cold, stiff, bewildered, and just out of sorts. That unit has had better games against Rogers and his ilk. They are going to have to step up their game if the Niners are going to end up relying on a shoot-out style of play, as appears to be the case at the moment.

San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin

Anquan Boldin

An embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver corps could actually become an issue as the season progresses. Why? When superstars like Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are vying for playing time, jealousy and envy can often be a problem. I hope I’m not looking for difficulties that won’t arise here, but Boldin is a seasoned veteran. Having had the amazing start he got Sunday, he is going to be extremely reluctant to give up any playing exposure when Crabtree returns to the lineup. So, that could go either way. If the veteran can stay classy, the Niners’ offense may even be better than it looked Sunday (which was awfully good). If not, things could deteriorate. It’s up to Coach Harbaugh to make that work. His hands-off approach to player management could prove a downside.

Eric Reid opened strong as a rookie and showed glimmers of getting even better as the game progressed. His coach famously worried that  giving Reid his debut against the Packers would be potentially damaging to the young man. No way. I look forward to Eric applying strategically devastating hits to a lot of Niners’ opponents this year. The guy’s an animal.

NFL Official -Confused Much?

NFL Official -Confused Much?

I tried. But I could not leave this week’s report without a comment on the alleged officiating. In my long and storied (hey, I used to be a sportswriter, so I wrote the stories!) career as a football fan, I would rank this game among the 10 worst-officiated of all time at any level. Not only did the crew blow the application of the dead-ball penalty rule, giving the Niners four undeserved points, they missed at least a half-dozen holding and interference calls that were blatant and right in front of their faces. And this is not sour grapes. The terrible calls were about equally distributed between the teams. When the zebras don’t do their jobs, the game and the fans suffer. Hopefully this will turn out to be an aberration.

 

Kaep Shows Well in Wild Niners Win

Well, they don’t get much stranger than this one. I fully expected the 49ers to slink out of New England with her tail firmly planted between their legs, having been handed a one-sided loss by the Patriots. Instead, I’ll led by mid-season replacement QB Colin Kaepernick,  the Niners won two of three games played under miserable conditions and emerged with a surprising  41-34 victory.

SF backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick

49ers Starting QB Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick got the team off to a huge start, and by the third quarter the game looked all but out of reach for the host Pats. Then the veteran Tom Brady seemed to wake up. In surprisingly short order, the game was tied at 31.

In the end, though, it was the second-year signal caller who has become the butt of my many barbs with season who pulled their game out of the fire, ending with a QB rating north of 100.

CK was able to pull off this win despite some really questionable play-calling from the bench. As the game wound down, Chris Collinsworth was singing in the young players praises, singling out his mental agility at finding secondary receivers.

For me, it’s still too early to become a fan of No. 7, but he certainly made a good, strong impression in the way he handled abundance and lack during one of the most engaging and exciting games I’ve seen in a while.

Next up for the 49ers: the Seattle Seahawks. Having clinched a playoff spot tonight, the Niners will be looking to lock down the division title and a great position during the playoffs.

Niners Have One of Five Best Future QBs, But It’s Not Alex?

Interesting post on the Bleacher Report today by SF Bay Area correspondent Grant Cohn. In picking the top five prospects to be a top-rank NFL quarterback in five years, Cohn gives the No. 5 spot to Niners' backup Colin Kaepernick.

Gotta admit I didn't see that one coming.

Cohn has some interesting arguments in favor of Kaepernick despite the guy's abysmal showing in the past pre-season. But what it seems to come down to for him is that Kapernick will be way better than he seems to look almost entirely because of the influence of Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Could be. Harbaugh certainly did wonders for Alex Smith this year (though going way conservative in game plans had something to do what that as well). But I'm pretty skeptical. Also, I'm doubtful that if Kaepernick is half as good as Cohn says he is, he'll still be a Niner in five years. I don't see Alex retiring or being let go in that time frame unless he explodes or gets hurt badly and I don't expect a guy with the skills Cohn sees in Colin will stick around as a backup that long.