First off let me say I am behind Kaep all the way. I supported the switch last year and I think he is an amazing talent. He is a QB that has 1.5 years of playing experience under his belt and any rookie/young QBs who gets that amount of playing time are lucky to get their team to the playoffs in their 1st or 2nd year. I think he has a lot to learn still but at this juncture he is better than all the QBs in the league except for a handful of them and thats an amazing accomplishment for him. NickBradley points out pretty well the stats behind Kaep's play and I think it speaks for itself.
And though Kaep in his own words, "cost us the game." The stats show he was the reason we were in the game to begin with.
With that said I wanted to breakdown the last play which is, I think, very representative of Kaep's flaws that he needs to work on. I would also like to say, although Kaep under threw that last ball slightly, if he put it further back in the endzone making it a TD catch by Crabs or incomplete pass we wouldn't be having this conversation. It was a gutsy decision and had it paid off we would be cheering Kaep for saving that game.
So with out any particular order here were the misreads.
The most obvious. Quinton Patton is wide open on the left. His coverage shifted up at the start of the play to secure Boldin and provide help on Davis. And though it wasn't likely he would have gotten to the endzone, its hard to argue that this wasn't the safer play to go for. You can tie this back to what Montana or other analysts have said that Kaep is not perfect at going through his progressions or reading entirely what the defense gives him. Because on this play the defense gave him an easy 5-10 yard pass completion. I have noticed this on other plays in past games also. Instead of making the safer plays to check downs for 3-5 yards and giving his the receiver/back a chance to make a bigger play, he will gamble on another pass that is for 10-15 yards that is riskier. Now this isn't to say Kaepernick doesn't check down or hit open WRs. In fact, several of the 3rd and 4th conversions we had he utilized these check downs and wide open WRs really well, including last year. Now, Kaepernick made the right read technically. Yes, Crabtree was one on one. But the pass required a pinpoint throw because Sherman also had help coming and was slowing Crabtree with his coverage. And though Kaep's throw was a 50/50 toss up, Crabtree is not the type of player to outmuscle corners for catches. Big physique players like Calvin Johnson or I would even argue Boldin would have been better situated to rip that ball from Sherman. Crabs is an amazing player but jump balls for hanging throws are not his best talent. He is great at creating that separation and making leaping catches off that separation when the ball is thrown near him or if the pass is square in his hands in stride he can make the first defender miss by changing directions quickly. With 53 seconds left in the game and 2 timeouts at the 18 yard line. Kaep has to understand whats at stake, what is the riskier play and what he has available to him post snap.
The second option here also was all that space and field underneath and near Patton. Kaep could have taken off as he was doing all game and run that 5-10 yards himself. And knowing Davis, Boldin, and Patton's blocking skills, he would have had a good chance to getting the endzone or at the least getting the ball within the 5-10 yard line. Again his read on Crabtree was correct but it seemed like he made that decision before the ball was snapped and didn't even check the left side of the field. Also again pointing out with 53 seconds and 2 timeouts, there was time to make shorter safer passes and still save the clock with the timeouts available.
These reads take experience and Kaep is getting it. I think Kaep is trying to be like Manning and read what the defense is showing him pre-snap and make adjustments. And I think he is great at doing that. But with that said, defenses shift really quickly in the first 3 seconds off the snap and though your pre-snap read is right it still might not be the best option to go to as the play develops. He needs to practice and work on applying that reading to what a defense transitions to after the snap.
Unrelated to Kaepernick, a lot of fans will be quick to jump on Greg Roman for the playcalling. Why wasn't a run play called? 53 seconds, 2 timeouts and 18 yards. Why not try? Well our running game did nothing all game. But the offense had a lot of success with boot leg draw plays and would it have been fitting to try and run a read option play on the Seahawks just to see if they could defend it? I share everyones frustration with that. I don't understand why running plays aren't dialed up on the 1st down just to see what they can get. Our passing game got the 49ers down the field for that last drive so one can make that argument that they were sticking with what was working. But maybe a delayed handoff to Hunter or LMJ with Crabs, Boldin, and Davis running downfield as decoys to clear underneath? A lot of hindsight things. Sorry its the only thing I can think of in these rough days following the game.
Still love Kaep, Harbaugh, P-52, and all the 49ers. Excited for all the new additions for next year and also worried about Bowman and all the upcoming 49er decisions. 49ers fan for life. Win, Lose, or Tie.