So far in my posts published here on Niners Nation, I've presented passing charts with Colin Kaepernick's 2013 regular and postseason targets. Hopefully, the visualizations of the collected passing splits data answered questions with regard to quarterback's pass distribution and efficiency in certain areas of the field. This time I'll introduce new graphics to answer the following question: from where on the field Kaepernick attempted passes in the 2013 playoffs. To be more specific, the graphic presentations should also answer the question where on the field Kaepernick took a sack during three playoff games.
The 49ers' signal-caller did scramble on a handful of plays, but we'll focus solely on 82 pass attempts and six sacks that he took in the playoffs. Before we take a look at the charts, a few words about one of the basic passing stat–Net Yards gained per pass Attempt (NY/A). We can calculate NY/A with pass attempts, passing yards, times sacked and sack yards lost.
NY/A = (Passing Yards - Sack Yards) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks)
Although it doesn't take into account all pass plays–scrambles are left out, NY/A is a good stat with which passing game can be measured. Kaepernick ended up with 6.3 NY/A in three playoffs games; for reference, league-wide NY/A for 2013 regular season was at 6.2 yards. Kaepernick certainly faced much tougher competition during 2013 playoffs than an average NFL quarterback did during regular season. Separately for each 49ers' playoff opponent, I looked at how many NY/A defenses allowed before they faced San Francisco in the playoffs and compared that number with the NY/A allowed in the playoff game vs 49ers. I added that information on the charts for each playoff game.
First in line, the chart for Wild Card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.
What we see on the chart are all Kaepernick's pass attempts and sacks in Wild Card game mapped out by location of the throw or sack. Gold circles indicate inside-pocket throws, with red circles in place for outside-pocket passes. X's signify the spot of a sack and are color-coded the same way as circles for pass attempts. To determine plays which occurred within the pocket area, I followed the definition from the official playing rules provided by the NFL:
The Pocket Area applies from the normal tackle position on each side of the center and extends backward to the offensive team's end line.
The vast majority of the plays happened within the pocket. The quarterback completed only 1-of-4 passes for 17 yards and took two out of three sacks when he was out of the pocket. Of the four outside attempts, three came on designed rollouts to the right. Altogether, Kaepernick gained 6.5 net pass yards per attempt which is slightly less than the Packers allowed (6.8) prior to the Wild Card game (Week 1 game at San Francisco included). Back in Week 1 of 2013 Kaepernick finished with 9.9 NY/A; extreme game conditions with low temperature and strong wind gusts in the rematch at Lambeau Field surely had something to do with considerable drop-off in the Kaepernick's passing game.
The black dashed line on the chart represents average "pass line" for Kaepernick, which in case of the Packers game, was eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. Kaepernick operated from the shotgun or pistol on 20 plays (60.6%) so the average pass line 8 yards deep in the backfield should not come as big surprise.
Next is the chart for Divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers.
If anything, this chart shows that Kaepernick's throwing locations against Carolina were a lot more scattered around the backfield. The 2013 Panthers were of course in a different league than the Packers were in terms of applying pressure on opposing quarterback. One other thing this chart reveals is that Kaepernick was a lot more successful when attempting a pass outside the pocket. He completed 6-of-9 pass attempts out of the tackle box. With those six completed passes Kaepernick gained 47 yards with one touchdown. Three plays were designed for quarterback to roll out to his right. The lone sack that he took was so-called pocket-sack. Kaepernick gained 6.5 net yards per attempt, which is one full yard above what the Panthers allowed (5.5) in the regular season (Week 10 game at San Francisco included). Just like in the Wild Card game, his average "pass line" was 8 yards behind LOS. Again, to no surprise, with majority of plays from the shotgun and pistol formation (69.0%).
Here too we can see a lot more out of the pocket passes for Colin Kaepernick compared to Wild Card game against the Packers. Although the locations of the throws are not as scattered as in the Panthers game, Kaepernick did attempt seven passes when on the move, which is 29.2 percent of the total pass attempts. Only one play was a designed rollout. He completed five for 77 yards and a touchdown. For example, in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seahawks, Peyton Manning attempted just two passes (4.1%) out of the tackle box and finished the game with 5.6 NY/A. In the NFC title game Kaepernick gained 5.7 NY/A; prior to the game, the Seahawks, who had the best pass defense in the league, allowed 5.0 NY/A (two regular season games against San Francisco and Divisional playoff game vs New Orleans included). On average, Kaepernick attempted a pass against the Seahawks 7.5 yards deep in the backfield.
In three playoff games combined, Kaepernick completed 33-of-62 passes with 435 yards one touchdown and three interceptions when attempting a pass from the pocket. He was far more efficient working his way outside and throwing on the move. Kaepernick attempted 20 outside-pocket passes and completed 12 for 141 yards and two touchdowns with 114.8 passer rating. Only seven of the 20 throws were designed rollouts, all to the right side. There's no doubt Kaepernick has great ability to escape the pressure. His mobility allows him to extend plays and find receivers downfield. But I have to agree with what the great Joe Montana had to say in his interview with USA Today before the NFC title game:
The game is changing. Nobody wants to throw with pressure anymore. But the guys who can win in this league are the ones who can make throws from the pocket.
In order to elevate his game to the next level, Colin Kaepernick will have to become more consistent in making plays from the pocket.