The San Francisco 49ers seem to be getting better at this whole "protect the quarterback" thing. One of the biggest issues surrounding quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- who has been under fire for his poor play of late -- has been his tendency to panic and get happy feet in the pocket. He'll take his dropbacks too far, he'll abandon a play too quickly and he doesn't give himself time to go through his progressions
That didn't necessarily improve too much against the Houston Texans, despite better offensive line play, but Keapernick was also used differently in this game. It's clear the 49ers wanted to use Kaepernick as a game manager, and in that role, he was effective. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't necessarily ugly, either.
All we know is that the offensive line looked pretty good. It help up well against J.J. Watt. In all, they only gave up one sack. Each week, we break down the sacks relinquished, and this week is no different, even if it is only one. Let's examine the play below:
Third Quarter: 3rd and 5 at SF 30: Colin Kaepernick sacked at SF 24 for -6 yards (Whitney Mercilus)
A lot of things go wrong on this play. Kaepernick is in the shotgun, and Frank Gore is staying in to block, at least initially. The play breaks down in three key spots that eventually leads to Kaepernick being sacked. The most obvious breakdown is the fact that Joe Staley's man is the one that gets to Kaepernick and brings him down. At the start of the play, Staley is holding his man.
But mid-way through said play, Mike Iupati loses his man, who breaks around the outside, and Staley disengages his blocker. It's unclear to me if Staley's man just finally beats him, or if the left tackle is jut unaware of where Kaepernick is and felt that switching to Iupati's man on the outside was the right thing to do.
It's also possible that Staley knew Gore was to his left and that Gore would chip his man if he let him go, allowing him to assist with Iupati's man. However, Gore bit on a fifth defender faking a blitz and decided to pursue him ... while said defender stayed put to potentially defend the dumpoff to Gore.
Jonathan Goodwin holds his man just fine in the center, and Alex Boone is basically useless on the play thanks to the fact that he's trying to double team with Goodwin. Anthony Davis has the man outside, and he's forced to go far, far outside, which is where Boone should probably be assisting.
Here's the coaches film of the play:
You can find an alternate view of the coaches film here. Now, the question is, was Kaepernick supposed to take another dropback when receiving the ball? Obviously, shotgun snaps don't always involve dropbacks, and we've suggested that Kaepernick has taken too long with said dropbacks this season. Had he not went back as far, Davis may have effectively sealed his man on the outside, and Kaepernick may have been able to deliver the ball or even scramble up to his right side.
I personally think he did go to far back, but too many things went wrong on that play to really fault Kaepernick. Chalk it up to multiple factors, with Goodwin being the only player there who really kept his man and did his job. Good job, Goodwin.