Colin Kaepernick made some spectacular plays in the NFC Championship. He scrambled for a 58-yard run in the second quarter, setting up a touchdown to put San Francisco ahead of Seattle 10-0. He later threw a jump pass for a touchdown.
But in the second half his mistakes took prominence over his athleticism. He committed three turnovers, and as he later said, “I cost us the game.”
It’s enough to make you wonder if the 49ers would have been better keeping Alex Smith, a game manager who never would have let this game slip away.
In the third quarter, Kaepernick was stripped of the ball, but his center Jonathan Goodwin recovered. The next play, Kapernick threw into the end zone for Michael Crabtree, who was shoulder to shoulder with All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. The ball went through Thomas’s hands and into Crabtree’s.
It was a bad decision by Kaepernick – throwing to a blanketed receiver – but a 49er touchdown.
Down 20-17 with 11 minutes left in 4th quarter, Kaepernick had plenty of time to regain the lead and put the game away.
On 3rd and 1, the 49ers failed to get off the play. Delay of game, for which the quarterback is responsible.
On 3rd and 6, an even bigger mistake. Kaepernick fumbled for the second time, but this time Seattle recovered. Seattle fumbled it back, so Kaepernick had the ball down 20-17, with 8 minutes left. He underthrew a pass down the left sideline that Kam Chancellor easily intercepted.
“Terrible decision, a terrible throw,” FOX commentator Troy Aikman said.
The interception led to a field goal that put the visitors down 23-17.
Still, Kaepernick had an opportunity to bring his team back. He drove to the 18, and threw to the end zone for Michael Crabtree. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman tipped the pass to linebacker Malcolm Smith, who intercepted.
Kaepernick insisted the Crabtree-Sherman matchup was the one he sought, which caused some pundits to wonder what he was thinking. Phil Simms on CBS Sports Network, said, “Richard Sherman would be one of the last guys in the NFL that I would ever look for on a matchup and think I’m going to win.”
Rich Gannon, on CBS Sports Network’s NFL Monday QB, said Kaepernick
“was careless with the ball in the pocket at times. At times he got away with it. At times he didn’t see out in front of throws. . . . He didn’t have to force that one into Crabtree with Sherman in tight coverage.”
Simms on the same show expressed optimism that Kaepernick will improve with experience. “Once he learns a little bit about finding the first receiver, going to the next, it will change everything about that football team. That could happen this off-season.”
Kaepernick will earn $1 million next season as his rookie contract reaches an end. The negotiations soon will begin for an extension, but Kaepernick at this point does not look like an elite quarterback.