With Alex at the helm, the Giants and their unique combination of talent and scheme represent the 49ers greatest obstacle. An Achilles heel, if you like.
The Giants achieve pressure with four speed rushers who force quick, short throws, which allows their secondary to smother the passing game by being highly active jumping underneath routes. Their trump card is Eli Manning. It's only a matter of time before he makes the critical play to earn the win. When they are behind, Eli will bring them back. When they are in the lead, they will limit their opponents passing game while Eli executes the offense. The only antidote is to get the ball deep as fast as possible, or to evade the pass rush and throw accurately on the run.
Last year, outside of passing the football, the 49ers could execute in every phase of the game with the very best of teams. During the off season the 49ers passing game showed signs of evolution. The 49ers wide receiver core was significantly upgraded and fortified, while Alex made a concerted effort to strengthen his shoulder and to repair his mechanics. Heading into year two in a friendly system, Alex's retooling and familiarity encouraged the expectation that the deep passing game was no longer going to be a weakness.
Speaking of the 49ers offense schematically, there are match-up problems across the board for any defense. Opponents have to stop the best run game in the NFL, to cover their top flight speed demon of a TE, the other TE who's a 250 pound former wide receiver, the sure handed possession receiver Crabtree, and a range of sub 4.4 guys on the outside most notably the deceptively quick Mario Manningham and the legendary Randy Moss. Conceivably, taking advantage of such speed on the outside, to push the ball deep, would represent the final puzzle in an almost indefensible offense.
Alex has attempted one deep bomb to Moss, late in a game behind by many scores with his back against the wall. He's achieved just 6 30+ yard pass plays in 7 or so games he started. We don't need a fantastic statistical analysis to prove what Alex has or hasn't done for this offense, all we have to do is watch Colin Keapernick throw the football and evade the rush. The Kid has got an unequivocal, FDA approved, 100% certified, home-grown, sustain-ably farmed, shade-grown, organic free-trade, spine-tingling, hair-raising, wide-eyed, white-knuckled, no excuses, no holds barred absolute cannon for an arm. This may not be as much about what Alex has done as it may be about what Colin can do.
Just this year, Alex has set the 49ers franchise record for most consecutive passes without an interception. He led the one and only offense to ever run and throw for 300 yards in a single game in NFL history. In a primetime performance Alex completed a record setting 18/19 passes, one shy of going down in NFL history as the single greatest passing performance ever. He was completing passes at an astounding 70%. In his final 8 quarters before the concussion, Alex was 32/35 (91%), 385 yards (11 YPA), 5 TDs, 1 INT, and a 140.2 passer rating. The 9ers were ~7-2 and running away with the division. You get the picture.
He also followed up an abysmal NFCC game passing performance by losing to the same team in a worse performance. The New York Giants. This was a crushing loss. Barring the particulars, the 49ers came in very emotional. They left dismayed. Before that game the team motto was "Unfinished Business", this loss forced them to change their motto to "It's All New Business" from here on out. That's a dismantling.
There was a conundrum to both losses: How do they do it? Well, Eli and Cruz force the 9ers into scoring. Then the Giants force Alex to make short throw or take sacks. Every offensive advantage is rendered impotent if the ball isn't going deep or if Alex is forced to evade a ferocious rush.
To beat the Giants, to get over the hump, the 49ers need deep passing. They need a passer capable of getting the ball out as quick and as deep as possible. A quarterback with the ability to extend the play, to avoid what are basically 4 pass rushing defensive ends sprinting at him. Alex really isn't all that limited... except when The Kid is right there sitting on the bench.
Colin's running and gunning represent the final piece to the 49ers remarkable offensive puzzle. These skills also marry perfectly with what the 49ers need to beat who is shaping up to be their arch nemesis. Colin is a 2nd string 2nd year 24 year old Kid from a small school pistol offense. How can he possibly be expected to protect the football and run this offense once we get deep into January? The answer is pretty simple, no defense is going to be able to dismantle his game. The 49ers have the deepest, most talented team in the NFL. They have the best run game in the NFL. They have the best defense in the NFL. They have the best kickers and special teams. Colin has Moss and Vernon to throw to. They are the most prepared and most well-coached team. (*you didn't forget who the author was, did you?). What is a defense going to force Colin into doing that he is incapable of? The very fact he can throw the ball deep destroys any game plan this offense could be presented with. The deep strike opens the field underneath for some world class skill guys. It opens the #1 run game even further. It challenges the defense to make decisions that, quite frankly, there are no answers for. The offense finally embodies the vision. The 49ers defense is going to keep every game close and give him great field position. With Gore in his pocket and a wide open field in front of him, his ability to outrun any lineman and out-throw any defender will protect him from any scheme over the course of a game. On top of that, The Kid is already 2/2 in dragon-slaying.
Colin doesn't only represent the final puzzle piece, The Kid is the answer to any question the Giants, or anybody else, may ask.