Breaking down Colin Kaepernick's Week 7 performance with some advanced stats

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

I take a look at some stats for Colin Kaepernick's Week 7 game against the Tennessee Titans.

By and large, the statistics in this post are coming from Pro Football Focus. They have signature stats that are more conventionally comprehensible (like how many QB hurries a lineman gives up). In addition, though, PFF provides weekly "grades" that are overall numbered scores. You can read about their grading process HERE. Positive numbers are good while negative numbers are bad. Anything above +1 is a really good game; anything below -1 is quite a bad game. The grade is a composite grade of different smaller grades (like "pass blocking"). I will typically highlight the strengths and/or weaknesses of a particular performance by looking at these composite grades.

Last week, in the comments of the 49ers vs. Cardinals thread, Bigmouth had a good question, asking how I chose the players to highlight in my weekly segment. The fact of the matter is, it's a bit random. By and large, I like to talk about the players who aren't stealing the spotlight each week. If Frank Gore is in every headline one week, I don't always want to highlight only his day. Sometimes, though, I like to review a positional group, like I did with the o-line last week. If anybody wants me to review certain players after a certain game, I am totally welcome to taking requests. You can reach me by email, which you can find by clicking on my username.

This week, I want to focus on one person, unlike in previous weeks: Colin Kaepernick. I'm particularly inspired to look his game based upon the fact that Mr. Kaepernick received the best QBR score of the season yet (of any QB), with a 99.0 out of a possible 100. Go Colin!

Colin Kaepernick: 0.5 PFF Overall Grade, 13/21 CP/AT, 61.9%, 199 Yards, 9.48 Yards per Attempt, 2 Sacks, 68 Rush Yard (11 Attempts), 1 Rushing TD

After a slow start to the season, Kaepernick is starting to pick things up again. On the season, he has a DVOA of 5.5% according to Football Outsiders, who says that DVOA "represents value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations." This puts him as the 12th best QB on the season according to DVOA.

This last game against the Titans, though, saw Kaepernick put together a strong game through both the air and on the ground. The reason why ESPN's QB rating is so high is because Colin was excelling in "clutch" moments. Before the game got away from the Titans, Colin was 11/13 at one point. His large runs came at key moments, like on 3rd downs.

Pro Football Focus was not nearly as bullish on Kaepernick, though, giving him a decent 0.5 grade. He received a nice grade in running the ball, scoring a 0.9. But, it was that passing grade that seems a bit disappointing: -0.6. Now, I thought he played a bit better than that, but I think I can explain why PFF graded him this way, and I understand. Two plays stick out in my mind from the first half. In one, Colin pretty badly threw into double coverage while trying to hit Vernon Davis on a corner route. Not a good idea. He was lucky that he didn't throw an interception. On the same drive, Colin also threw an "interception" down the sideline. The 49ers kept the ball because of a personal foul, but PFF still looks at that play and evaluates it as pretty poor. And, frankly, they should. It wasn't a great decision to make that throw. I think it was little things like this that drove down his passing grade. He got lucky quite a few times that game.

In addition to their passing grade, PFF also adjusts the "traditional" QB ranking. They describe it thus: "Offering an alternative to the out-dated standard, we take into account dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and yards in the air and further adjust the old formula so it makes more sense and is a more accurate measure." Kaepernick scored a 93.2 QB ranking in the traditional model, but only an 87.78 ranking on PFF's updated version. This was good for 15th place in Week 7. I think that's pretty fair. Kaepernick had a solid game through the air, and frankly, that is something to celebrate with this receiving corps.

There are a few reasons that we should be pretty excited about this game, despite the apparent average to good (and occasionally great) nature of it. One of my favorite stats in evaluating a QB's performance is Yards per Attempt. This week, Colin had a very good 9.48. This, I think, bodes well for his future. In addition, Colin was doing what he does best: running the ball and throwing it deep. It was nice to see him get into the end zone on a designed run. His 68 yards on 11 attempts was good for 6.1 yards per attempt. More than adequate. And, in passing deep, Colin had an excellent day. When throwing for 10+ yards downfield, Colin was 7-for-11 with 130 yards and a rating of 104.4, according to PFF.

At times, Colin looked great, especially his targets downfield. And the stats bear this out. Going forward, he will need to be more consistent and limit potential mistakes.

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