USA TODAY Sports
In paying attention to the run threats in the 49ers read-option attack, it would be unwise to forget about Colin Kaepernick's arm.
I've been watching a bit of NFL Network on my computer this week while "working", or as close to working as I've been able to muster during the week leading up to my team playing in the Super Bowl, that is. The biggest story-line discussed regarding the 49ers seems to be the read-option plays, often improperly titled "the Pistol offense".
As we know, the Pistol is a formation, not an offense. The 49ers not only use the Pistol, but they use the I-Formation, Pro sets, empty backfield, etc. Moreover, they don't always run the read-option from the Pistol...so to call them the same thing is inaccurate.
Now that we've cleared that up...
The main thing you hear over and over again is "how to stop the read-option". Nearly every time there are analysts talking about how if you take the QB out of the play then the RB can have a big day inside, or vice versa. There are diagrams of how to try and take both run-threats out of the equation, followed by a presumptuous sentiment that the Ravens can win the game if they do that.
It's been rare that I've heard anyone mention what happens if you put all of your focus on the run portions of the option...if you leave Colin Kaepernick with single coverage or a deep shell zone. It seems that everybody's forgot about the kid's arm and what it accomplished this season...so let's remind them.
Most hardcore 49ers fans know that Kaepernick really didn't run the ball all that often during the regular season or in the NFC Championship game. There were moments here and there, but it certainly wasn't the main thing the offense went out and ran from week-to-week. In fact, the most rushing attempts he had in a game since he took over the starting job was nine (9).
- In two of his starts he averaged only 2.5 and 1.7 yards per carry.
- He wasn't ever that close to the 100 yard rushing-mark until the Green Bay game, previously having a single-game high of 84 yards. In six of his nine starts he rushed for less than 50 yards, in fact.
Now let's look at his stats throwing the ball:
- Kaepernick finished with a completion percentage of 62.4% in the regular season, 63.5% in the post-season (including 76.2% vs. Atlanta) and 62.5% overall in his nine starts.
- He averaged 229 yards per game in the regular season, 248 yards in the post-season.
- He's thrown just 4 INTs in 9 starts, including post-season...so much for making inexperienced mistakes...
- Maybe the biggest stat: CK is averaging over 8.5 yards per attempt.
Now let's look at Joe Flacco's stats, for a minute:
- Completion % of 59.7 reg season, 54.8 post-season.
- 238 yards per game reg season, 284 post-season
- 10 INTs in 19 games (higher INT percentage per attempt than Kaep by 8%)
- YPA of 7.48 including post-season.
Anyone who saw the Chicago game, the Atlanta game, and a few others knows that Kaepernick can slice up a defense with his arm. Speaking of the Bears game, Kap rushed for 10 yards during that game while throwing for 243 with nearly 70% completions. Against the Cardinals he threw for 276 yards, 2 touchdowns, while only rushing for 5 yards on 3 attempts.
And oh, by the way...didn't you know that Kaep can use his legs during passing plays, too?? It's a tool that he has, but it's not the focus of the offense, nor are runs required in order to beat opponents.
The point here is that you can't "simply" stop the run-threats of the read-option and act like that sews things up for the Ravens' victory. The 49ers and Kaepernick have proven over and over that they're just as happy to beat you with the pass, and are more than capable of doing just that.
So don't sleep on Kaepernick's arm...actually...please do!
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