Shortly after the 49ers wrapped up their thoroughly dominating 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears, I put together some video to commemorate the occasion. The folks at SB Nation Studios did their usual fine job to clean it up and add some graphics and video, so give it a look when you get a minute.
The 49ers win included a variety of big storylines, but obviously Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith are the two big ones. Kaepernick put together a beastly performance as he thoroughly shredded the Bears defense. Aldon Smith put together his own beastly performance as he thoroughly shredded the Bears offensive line. It was a pretty great day for the 49ers top two draft picks from 2011. It's really quite impressive how that 2011 draft class has shaped up:
1st round: Aldon Smith is one of the best pass rushers in the league
2nd round: Colin Kaepernick shined in his first career start
3rd round: Chris Culliver is developing into arguably the best corner on the team, and could be the No. 1 by the start of next season
4th round: Kendall Hunter is far and away the most effective running back the 49ers have used to back up Frank Gore, and could eventually emerge in a starter role once Gore starts losing more carries.
5th round: Daniel Kilgore is working to become the center of the future
7th round: Bruce Miller has converted from defense to fullback really well
It was a great night all around on both sides of the ball. Give the recap a view and let me know what you think. It was shot fairly late at night, so consider that my built-in excuse for any issues!
Head Coach Jim HarbaughPress Conference - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
At what point did you know that you weren't going to have QB Alex Smith for this game?
"Monday morning, today."
How had the reps been distributed throughout the week to get QB Colin Kaepernick ready?
"We were giving him more reps on Wednesday and Thursday. And then I believe it was Saturday, Sunday he got all the reps."
Is Colin your starting quarterback going forward?
"We'll see. I usually tend to go with the guy who's got the hot hand. And we've got two quarterbacks that have got a hot hand. So, thought Colin did an outstanding job. Thought he did a great job. Poise in the pocket, pushing the ball and throwing with accuracy. Did a nice job running the game plan. Everything he did was exemplar, again. And really acquitted himself great. And very proud of him for that. And there are a lot of guys to highlight. A tremendous effort on our defense. Tremendous effort by our special teams. Thought [TE] Vernon Davis had a big night, [RB] Frank [Gore], [WR] Mario [Manningham], [WR] Michael [Crabtree]. A lot of guys that you could highlight. [LB] Aldon Smith, huge night."
Did Vernon Davis have a big night because Colin was throwing to him? It seems to me that he threw, you're laughing. That Vernon Davis got-
It's nice to see you laugh. I really like that. That Vernon got the ball more tonight than I'm used to seeing him getting the ball?
Is that an answer?
"He got the ball more tonight than you're used to yeah definitely he's gotten the ball more tonight than he's gotten in the last couple games. But, there's been-."
I'm wondering if that's because Colin was the quarterback?
"I think Colin did a great job getting Vernon the ball. And Vernon did a great job getting open. I don't think that those are mutually exclusive or inclusive, however the way to say that is. They both played great. And there's nothing here that you can dig for to get more. I'm not covering up or anything, or hiding anything. Thought Colin played really well. Thought Vernon played really well. And a lot of guys played really well. Aldon Smith had a heck of a night. Our offensive line played very well. Pass protection was outstanding. And just really give a lot of accolades to the players tonight. They played great in a big game and it's a big win for us."
You said you tend to go with the hot hand. Is it possible to have a hotter hand than what Colin had tonight?
"Yeah like I said, well we really have two guys that have a pretty hot hand. But, we'll make that decision as we go forward."
Do you think the league is more attentive this year in health and safety issues than last year?
"I thought they were pretty attentive to it last year as well. I can't say that there's, maybe it's more."
As a coach does it play more in your mind than it might have for coaches in the past?
"I can only speak for myself and just really have always, since I've been a coach, just put that in the hands of the doctors. Sounds simple, but us coaches don't have a medical degree. So, they make those determinations and it's very simple. And that's just the way it works."
There's an unwritten rule that a guy doesn't lose his job because of an injury. Does that hold true? In other words, if Alex is completely healthy next Sunday will he start?
"We'll make that determination as we go. But, there's no rule."
Had you decided before this morning that Colin was going to start?
"Yeah, made the decision Sunday that Colin would start the game. And then we found out Monday that Alex would be out. So, but that decision was made to start Colin on Sunday."
So was the decision to start Colin a health issue of Alex? Or, was Colin going to be your starter?
"Again, not a big mystery here. Just felt that Alex still had some symptoms on Sunday and we were going to make the decision to go with Colin."
What impressed you most tonight about Colin?
"I think several things. The accuracy, the poise in the pocket. Again, you saw the running ability. Playmaking ability. Understanding of the game plan and just executed really well. So, all those things impressed."
How were his pre-snap reads? And how did he manage the game?
"He did good. He did really good. He was on top of it. I can't think of ... maybe one, maybe one thing. But, other than that, that's pretty good. That's operating in the high 90s. That's A-plus operation."
How much did him playing earlier in the year, getting those reps that he did, do you think contributed to his poise and comfort level tonight?
"I think that helped. Most definitely helped. I felt better about it, him starting the game tonight because of those reps and the way he's played when he's gotten in the game."
Given his performance, is it realistic that the dynamic has changed though at the quarterback position since you've seen him now through this game?
Is he outright competing for Alex on an even board, close to even basis right now?
"We'll make that decision as we go forward, yeah. But, like we said earlier, I don't know if you were in here, we've got two quarterbacks that have a hot hand. And we'll make the decision when we have to make it."
On the touchdown pass to Crabtree, it looked like he surveyed the whole end zone before coming back to Michael on the left side, was that his third read on the progression? What did you see on the play?
"Really saw great pass protection. That's where it started. And then cool-headed decision by Colin. And then floated to his left and Michael got separation. Kind of mirrored what Kap was doing, broke off his route. And they both made a heck of a play."
Why did the practice snaps start with Smith and then shift to Kaepernick? Was it something Smith started to show symptoms again later in the week and didn't in the beginning of the week?
"Right, correct. He was having some symptoms later in the week and wanted to make sure that if he didn't get cleared that Colin at least got half the reps or more for the week."
Are those symptoms something concerning long-term issues right now? Or is this something where he can be cleared?
"Yeah, he just wasn't cleared this week. So, again, doctor questions and it's just really in their hands. But, yeah, wanted to get Kap sufficient reps. There's really nothing else to add on that, full disclosure."
A lot of people probably thought you might come out with a more conservative game plan offensively with Colin. Obviously, the first pass was a throw. You threw quite a bit. Was that part of it just to establish him early, get him throwing, and get him into a rhythm?
"Yeah, that was part of it. It felt like two play-action passes to open the game, or at least two out of the first three. We had planned to have two straight play action passes and then we threw a run in between the two of them. But, yeah thought maybe they wouldn't expect that. Think we were going to run with the backup quarterback. That was part of the plan."
QB Colin KaepernickPress Conference - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
When were you told that you were going to be a starter?
"Last night was when they officially told me."
Did you have an inkling that was the way it was going as the week went on?
"I started getting more reps on Friday and Saturday. We really didn't know Alex's [Smith] status until last night."
Can you talk about your performance tonight, how was your first NFL start?
"It just felt good to be back out on the football field playing. I mean, I thought we did a good job as an offense. We put points on the board as an offense, our defense did a great job out there holding them. We came out on top, so that was good."
You're facing a defense that led the league in takeaways and you guys never lost the ball once. Were you particularly protective or were you just playing your game?
"That was something we were very cautious of going through the week. We knew they had a lot of great players that try to strip the ball and try to make some plays on the ball. That was one of the things we emphasized going through the week. At the same time, we had to go out there and just play like we can."
Considering that [QB] Alex [Smith] seems likely to play next week, were you looking at this as your big opportunity, your one shot to show what you can do?
"Definitely, I wanted to come out and show what I'm capable of and show that I can be a starter. That's what I've been trying to prove since I've been in the league."
How much did those reps from earlier in the year help you?
"I think it helped a lot, just being out on the field, seeing the speed of the game, getting a feel for defenses. I think it helped a lot going into tonight."
Coach Harbaugh said he tends to stick with the hot hand. Do you feel that you are the hot hand right now?
"I don't think one game can be called a hot hand."
It felt like the offense opened up tonight, were you surprised that was the plan in your first NFL start?
"That was the game plan we had through the whole week, so I don't think it was surprising for me. I think we had great matchups out there and great receivers making plays."
The second pass was a deep one to [TE] Vernon Davis, did that put you at ease and put you into a rhythm?
"I mean, just being in a rhythm like that feels good, being able to trust your players to make plays. Our offensive line was doing an amazing job up front giving protection so I felt very comfortable out there with it."
Consider your reputation in skills, I think more people expected you to run the ball more and yet you played more by the book. Was that more predetermined?
"Like Coach said, our offense isn't really going to change, no matter who is in there. Our offense is our offense and we're going to run it."
Did [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman give you two plays in the huddle and then the power to choose at the line of scrimmage?
"Yeah, we had a lot of plays where we had different options."
How do you think you did in your reads to choose a play?
"I felt very comfortable with them."
In one of your first plays, it was a run play to [RB] Frank Gore. Do you remember if you changed that play?
"I can't recall off the top of my head."
What was the interplay between you and [QB] Alex [Smith], what was he telling you?
"He was telling me to trust what I was seeing. He thought I was seeing the field well, he was just giving me little reminders here and there."
What were those sideline conversations with Alex like?
"Just different plays, what we saw, what the defense was doing. What his take was on it."
Was it helpful?
Can you compare your comfort level with this week to lasts, and if anything made a difference, what was it?
"I think I was comfortable both weeks. I just got the start tonight."
Can you go over the touchdown pass to [WR Michael] Crabtree?
"Yeah, we had a straight progression read, got through the progression, started to scramble and Michael made a great play to run to the back pylon. And our offensive line did a great job protecting to give us time to let that play develop."
What does it mean to get this kind of win, to lead the team like this?
"It feels amazing. I mean, the biggest thing is being back on the field, it feels good."
LB Ahmad BrooksPost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
Ahmad I am coming in a little late, but the dude next to you was tearing it up tonight and you too on the edge. It seemed like you guys had your way. What do you make of that tonight, your performance was so strong?
"I just think that we had a great game. I think that we just played excellent. We play well together. We feed off each others energy, we feed off of what other guys do on the field, and I just have to tip my hat to the coaching staff, they prepared us all week for this game. The last game that we played against St. Louis we started off sluggish and we didn't come out really ready to play. Luckily we ended up tying and not losing. So I think guys didn't want a tie this game and a win."
WR Michael CrabtreePost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
On QB Colin Kaepernick:
"I'm not worried about Kap. Kap's a baller, he's a gamer, he knows one speed and that's go. We know that and like I said it was a great team win."
Until tonight had he ever told you he was frustrated at not getting to show his stuff?
"Never was frustrated, always been patient, great guy waiting his turn and when it came and they called his number he made something happen."
How is it different than playing for QB Alex Smith?
"Both good quarterbacks. Like I said we just play receiver, go out there and make plays. Whoever is behind the center, we are going out there to make plays."
TE Vernon DavisPress Conference - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
What did you think of QB Colin Kaepernick?
"Colin is the man. I think Colin did a great job. I'm very proud of him. I take my hat off to him because he stepped up today. He did some great things out there to help us win this game."
After your last catch in the first quarter, I saw you walk up to him, put your hands together, and bow to Colin Kaepernick. What was that all about?
"Respect. I respect him. I love him. And I was just so proud of him at that moment because the ball that he threw me, it was one of those balls that you see [Patriots QB] Tom Brady throw. Second window, right on the money. I didn't expect the ball to come because we've ran that play quite a few times and the tight end usually doesn't get the ball on that play. But, he saw it and he just put it there."
Do you think you were open on that play?
"It was a tight window, very, very tight. But, he took the shot. He was very confident in himself. Obviously and he made it happen, made it work."
Do you expect Colin to sort of latch onto the starting job now?
"I don't know. That's up to the coaches. That's their decision. I'll let them decide and they always call the shots. So, it's all up to them."
If he did get the job, how would you feel about that? You've been probably one of the most loyal supporters of Alex Smith to this point. It's got to be tough for you?
"It is. It is. It's tough. Alex, he's a genuine guy. I've been here with him since day one and always supported him. But, Colin, he's the same way. Very humble heart, soft spoken and he wants to be great. But, I can't choose sides. I'm here to support either one of them."
Were you talking to Alex on the sideline? And what was he saying watching Colin put up these kind of numbers?
"Actually I didn't have a chance to talk to Alex. I didn't see him the whole game. I'm sure he was on the sideline somewhere. I was just so focused."
On the touchdown pass against the blitz, what did he show you there? I mean, LB Lance Briggs was right in his face.
"Confident. A player. He's a playmaker. That's what the kid is. He's a true playmaker and he has a bright future."
Does he show this stuff on the practice field? Or has he sort of amped his game when he gets on the big stage?
"No, he does. He makes plays in practice. He's pretty consistent. He'll make it happen in practice. I think he had a good week of practice this past week and he did everything the coaches asked of him. And he made it work."
When did you start to get the sense that he was going to be starting tonight?
"I think last night. Last night coach told us that Kaepernick was going to be the starting quarterback."
What does it mean to you guys to get a win this convincing on a national stage against a good Chicago team?
"It means a lot. It means a lot because we needed this one. Especially after playing the Rams and having a tie game. We needed a win, a true win. And this means a lot to us, the organization. And it also sends out a message that we're for real. We'll play on big games and we'll step up and we'll make plays."
Do you think you caught the Bears by surprise in the first drive when you opened it up so much in the passing game?
"Probably so. I think we probably caught them by surprise. I don't think they expected us to come out and sling the ball around like that. But again, Kaepernick took control. He called the shots. And he took advantage of his opportunities."
How big is it for you just to get so involved with the offense again?
"Felt like somebody took the handcuffs off me. It was great. It was great just contributing to this offense. Because that's all I want to do. I don't care about the statistics and things like that. I just want to contribute and be a factor in winning ball games. And I told the coach, I'll tell coach that I want to help. I want to do more than just block, but, I'm game. We win, it's all good. If I'm blocking and we win, it's cool. I can take that. And he understands. We have that type of relationship where we can talk. And that's what we love about coach Harbaugh, you can talk to him about anything."
When you said this was a message, do you have a message for the United States President Barack Obama after what you wanted to see in this game?
"[Laughs] I would like to ask him, how does it feel to be a San Francisco 49ers fan?"
C Jonathan GoodwinPost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
On QB Colin Kaepernick:
"Like I said, the whole time he's been here he's always gotten reps in practice and I've always snapped to him so it's not a big change for me to have him in the game."
QB Alex Smith's last couple of appearances, he was pretty close to flawless before his injury. Kap, the way he played tonight, the offense as a whole, how efficient is it feeling for you right now?
"Great, especially after kind of being a little sluggish last week. It was good to come out and put a game like that together. Like you said, consistent, executing and now the goal is to do it the rest of the season."
Coming in with the first start for Colin, were you expecting to be so aggressive?
"He's always gotten reps in practice. He's had to learn the same gameplan every week. Early in the week that's kind of what went on, he still got his normal reps in practice. There weren't any changes in the gameplan made just because Colin was starting at quarterback. Hats off to him for studying and keeping up the pace the whole week and coming out and playing well."
How much were their alignments, box sets - were they playing the run?
"They were definitely playing the run, they had a lot of guys in the box. That's something we saw on film. They did what they do and they did what we expected them to do. They were themselves and there's no need for that team to change what they do because they are a good defense."
RB Frank GorePost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
How excited was [QB] Colin Kaepernick getting out there?
"He's used to playing in college, used to being the guy. He gave us an opportunity Monday night, a big game against a great defense, great team and he played great."
What do you think of [LB] Aldon Smith's performance tonight?
"One of the best at the position, if not the best. He works hard every day and he'll go get them."
Did you open things up more for him? Was the game plan any different?
"The same. Coming off that slow start last week, we wanted to start fast. We told ourselves, if we start fast, keep our feet on the gas and that's what happened today."
This was a tough defense you were going up against. What does it say about this offense, what you guys did out there?
"Last week, we told ourselves, ‘We can't let it happen anymore.' We started off sluggish last week, but we told ourselves, ‘We're going to start fast this week and keep our foot on the gas,' and that's what happened."
Do you think Colin Kaepernick made himself a starting job somewhere in his career in tonight's performance?
"I hope we keep him here. We have two good quarterbacks. You need two good quarterbacks, when you see what happened in Pittsburgh, two guys go down who do a great job. I hope he'll be here."
CB Carlos RogersPost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
On the 49ers performance:
"Sometimes we play down to the level of other teams, but if we consistently play how we play each and every week no team is better than us."
On the other side of the football, how do you think that QB Colin Kaepernick did tonight?
"He played real well, played aggressive, had no pressure on him, just had to come out there and play. That's what our offense needs to do to all of these team that are coming in and shutting them down, don't think our offense is as good as some of the other offenses. Just go at them. Just play, play free and that's what he did."
After the week that you guys had with QB Alex Smith, not knowing what his status was going to be and your coach having that minor procedure, what does it say about this team?
"We just stayed focused, stayed focused throughout the week. Our coach told us we were going to be alright. We didn't know the situation with Alex, both quarterbacks kind of switched in and out during the week taking plays. We just found out last night that Alex was going to be out and Kap [QB Colin Kaepernick] was going to be our starter and everybody was just ready. Nothing lost, no play that had to change for him. Just let him get the offense, get the ball in his hands and see what he can do."
LB Aldon SmithPost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
Did you sense, looking at the Bears, that you would have an opportunity to have this kind of game?
"I was hoping to go out there and make some plays. I didn't sense that I was going to go out there and get a bunch of sacks, but I wanted to go out there and make some plays."
You started a lot of bull rushing. Is there something that you figured you could overpower their tackles?
"I really just try to make people respect my power. I don't think I'm one of the bigger linebackers or ends, but I want people to know there's some power in here too."
You've had some big nights on Monday Night Football. Is that something you think about, being on national TV like that?
"I have a thing for night games. I love playing at night. I love the lights."
As good as the 49ers defense has been, do you think the team made a statement with the way they played tonight?
"I'd say so. Coming in, I think there were some questions about who may have been the better defense or just questioning us in general."
[Broncos LB] Von Miller began the night with the most sacks, I think two ahead. Are you going to text or call him?
"I'll probably text him as soon as I leave here."
The third down play on the Bears first series, you got the sack. At that point, did you know you were in line for whatever you wanted to do tonight?
"I think I was catching a rhythm. After that, I was feeling that I had something there. The story tells itself."
What did you think about your quarterback tonight? A pretty good night for the class of 2011?
"Yeah, definitely. [QB Colin] Kaepernick played an amazing game. Before the game, I told him, ‘Just don't worry about the cameras, go play the game,' and he put a good game together."
When they're in obvious passing situations, and you have it going like you did tonight, is it pretty obvious that they're trying to figure out what to do with you?
"You just have to take advantage of what you've got. If you sense a weakness, you've got to take advantage of it."
Were you lobbying to try to get back in the game at the end?
"I was trying. I was trying. They weren't having it."
The safety, were you looking safety all the way? Did you see clearly he was in the end zone and you had a shot at him?
"I thought it was a safety. Yeah."
You and [DT] Justin Smith combined on one sack. How much easier does he make your job?
"A lot. He's a threat. Us working together, we're able to make plays out there."
T Joe StaleyPost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
On QB Colin Kaepernick's 57 yard pass to WR Kyle Williams:
"It was a great throw, a big catch. I was like, hey, here we go."
Was he getting excited?
"Yeah, he's very competitive. The bigger the moment, the more he steps up I think. I didn't think this moment was going to be too big for him. I didn't have any worries with that. We just knew we had to help him out up front. "
Tough time for QB Alex Smith, he was disappointed in not being able to play tonight, wanted to and now I don't know if things are more fluid or in flux? What do you overall make of the quarterback situation?
"I think right now we're in a situation where we have two great quarterbacks. We won tonight with Kaepernick and we've won a lot of games with Alex. And Alex has played great football for us. So it's not my spot to make decisions as far as that goes, who plays. I think we're in a great situation right now because we have two quarterbacks that we can play great football with."
WR Kyle WilliamsPost-Game Quotes - November 19, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
Two of the top defenses going at it, you guys came out on top. What do you have to say about LB Aldon Smith?
"He's the best. I think he's the best in the league, bottom line. To show up like that against a team like this and just continually make plays and really shut a whole offense down. Seemingly he did it by himself, but everybody was making plays out there. When you have a guy on the edge that plays that dominate it's definitely hard to get going as an offense. He came out and he balled today."
Do you guys feel like today was a statement game to the rest of the league?
"You know you never want to make too much of one game as opposed to the next, but we knew we needed to get back on the winning track after last week. It was a bitter sweet feeling. We just came out ready to go. Guys were firing. Guys were ready to rock and we showed it."
I'm sure you were talking about QB Colin Kaepernick already, sorry to come up late and make you repeat, but expecting him to have success is one thing, but the way he came out in the first half did it blow your mind a little bit?
"A little bit. I know the talent that he has, we all know the talent that he has and what he is capable of. But, him just coming out there and just balling like that, making every throw, it's tough to say that you expected him to come in and make every single throw like he did. It seemed as if he couldn't miss. That's what you are looking for, really out of anybody. But, he came in and he looked comfortable. You would have thought he had started the whole time. He played great."