What a massive week it's been for the 49ers and their fan base. After salvaging a tie from the flotsam and jetsam that was the Rams debacle, a game in which Alex Smith, our working-class hero of a quarterback, was sent to the sideline with a concussion, we played wait and see throughout the week. I for one, having been raised Catholic, went out and bought candles and rosary beads to light and rub (guess which one I did what to). I didn't know if Colin Kaepernick was ready to be the starting quarterback of a Super Bowl contender. It's not that I didn't have faith in the man, or the front office's decision to draft him, I just didn't know.
When it was announced that Alex Smith would not play, despite most information, common sense and written word indicating otherwise, I was worried. This was a game that the 49ers needed. We were half a game behind the Bears (cursed tie!) in the dash for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. No. 2 means a first round bye with a home playoff game in the divisional round. Luckily for us, unluckily for the city of Chicago, they were without their starting quarterback, as Jay Cutler suffered the same fate as our fair Alex, although it appears his concussion is a lot more serious. A battle of the backups seemed like a reasonable way to settle this dispute (duelling fell out of favor by the 19th century and a coin-flip seems arbitrary). Jason Campbell, whom the Raiders traded the future of time and space to replace, was trotted out there to face our highly-touted defense. Colin Kaepernick, green as Popeye's spinach, would be under center for the 49ers against the Bears' ball-hawks.
I'm assuming you know what happened next, or else you wouldn't be here as a dedicated 49ers fan. Kaep destroyed the Bears on offense, with 70% passing and two touchdowns, and his 2011 draft-mate, Aldon Smith exploited the entire Chicago Bears offensive line on his way to 5.5 sacks and a Defensive Player of the Week award. The results were instant and irreversible. Aldon Smith had his name thrown into the Defensive Player of the Year discussion and that topic, along with the debate that surrounds it, will be the focus of this week TWiNN.
Seriously, we have a QB debate going on. I'm still not sold one way or the other. There are so many factors at work here. On a purely physical level, we've known from day one that Colin Kaepernick is the better athlete with the better arm. Alex Smith has the experience, dedication, and team-first mentality to lead us. It would appear that both are capable of leading the team, though we would have two different, nearly unrecognizable offenses. Getting this question wrong with the New York Jets is the difference between going 5-11 and 7-9. For the 49ers, however, a Super Bowl is the goal, and getting the decision right is the difference between a chance at glory and this season ending the same way as last season.
There are two questions to be answered? Who should start this week against the Saints? Who should be at the helm for the long term? Against the Saints, it would appear that Alex Smith would be the better option. The Bears don't show a lot of variety on defense and clearly designed and executed a poor gameplan. The Saints, on the other hand, show so many variations and looks on defense that Alex's experience, as well as last season's playoff triumph, should carry him a long way. In the long term, we all know that this will be Kaepernick's team, but when? The composition of the team will begin to change as some of our modestly priced defensive players become pricier than what our cap limitations will allow. With a defense-first philosophy, allowing Smith to finish out the season, when healthy, of course, makes sense. We're winning with him. Mistake-free play on offense compliments a dominant defense. If we don't win the Super Bowl, you can hand the team over to Kaepernick with a full offseason of planning and scheming and taylor the team around him. We're amassing the weapons to spread the field, but this year's identity is still power running, defense and special teams. Let it run its course. And from a political and emotional standpoint, you can't anoint Kaepernick as the starter and go back to Smith and hope there was no damage done. You can always choose to go with Kaepernick if and when Smith cools off. Still, it's a tough, tough call. If Smith isn't cleared, having one more game to judge Kaep by could make the decision obvious one way or the other. Sigh....what a predicament. A good one...
Week 11: 49ers 32, Bears 7
Fooch steps in as the leadoff hitter with his weekly postgame post. It's got tons of quotes from player and coaches interviews. It highlights how successful the 2011 draft has turned out to this point. Kaepernick was still the wild card from that draft, having seen so little playing time, but I think he answered any questions any of us might have had. | 49ers vs Bears video recap with postgame notes and quotes (Fooch)
Anthony Ly's 'Booth Review' chimes in with more on the Bears blowout victory. Enough has been written about CK7, and Anthony covers that, so I'll let Aldon Smith get some deserved time in the spotlight. 29 sacks in 26 career games is pretty impressive. Let's hope he doesn't get attacked with a chainsaw or something if we get the first-round bye in the playoffs. Basically, that's the only worry with Aldon right now. | The booth review - 49ers vs Bears: "Bear down" (Ly)
As a devoted fan of hip-hop music I have to love the title of this piece. It'd be great if it could be continued with 'and a Smith ain't one'. Unfortunately for Jason Campbell, he had 99 problems and they all came in the form of a Smith. Liberty_JAC breaks down some of Aldon's sacks for us with the help of 'All-22'. Aldon had some help as well, in the form of another Smith, Justin Smith. | All-22: Jason Campbell has 99 problems (Liberty_JAC)
"Liberty_JAC is back." I'm not just a wannabe sportswriter, I'm also a wannabe rapper. This time, again using All-22, he breaks down some of the plays that Colin made during the blowout. It's noted that the 49ers gameplan was near perfect, while the Bears defensive scheming needs to be called into question. All of Kaep's long completions were against man-to-man coverage and the Bears stacked the box frequently, even after the 49ers showed they were more than willing and capable to throw the ball long. | All-22: Colin Kaepernick is our future? (Liberty_JAC)
Week 12: 49ers at Saints
Having two good quarterbacks is a pretty good predicament to be in in the modern, pass-happy NFL. Having a Hall of Fame caliber QB with a Super Bowl victory on his resume is even better. That's what we'll be up against when we travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. I'm pretty sure the Saints hate us after last season's playoff game and the 'bounty-gate' scandal. "There Will Be Blood II", starring Jim Harbaugh as Daniel Day-Lewis as that crazy oil baron guy. | 49ers vs Saints: Drew Brees by the numbers (Tre9er)
So I could have just named this section the 'quarterback controversy' section. There really isn't any other topic to discuss right now. Since I started here at Niners Nation this is the most polarizing issue since the 'should we draft Coby Fleener?' debate. How many of you wanted Fleener? Hands up!
Fooch leads off the discussion with his post on the situation. We must figure out who starts against the Saints first and foremost and a lot of that hinges on the health of Alex Smith. After that we can begin to examine who'll be holding the reigns for the rest of the year. | Alex Smith vs Colin Kaepernick: Now it really begins (Fooch)
Vernon Davis had his best game since his three-game run of excellence to start the season. Colin Kaepernick may have had a part in it. Vernon chimed in with thoughts on both sides of the 'Great QB Debate'. I have to think that the ability to complete passes beyond 20 yards is going to benefit our two oldest contributors on offense, VD and Frank Gore. Defenses leaning back helps the running game, and teams being forced to cover the entire field frees Davis up to exploit slower linebackers and smaller safeties. | Vernon Davis 'can't choose sides' in QB controversy (DeSimone)
Here's the announcement, via Niners Nation, via Jim Trotter's Twitter feed that Colin Kaepernick would start against the Saints. At this point, there's just as much controversy here at NN about what the tweet means and its validity as there is about who should start. I especially like the first comment, with some quotes from worried Seahawks' fans. | Colin Kaepernick to start Sunday vs Saints according to Jim Trotter (Fooch)
What about Alex Smith, the man who has completed 25 of his last 27 passes for four touchdowns? Wally Pipp, anyone? OK, that's going a bit far. You have to feel sorry for him. Coach Harbaugh did him no favors by stating to the media after the Bears game that he'd go with the 'hot hand'. It's hard for him to lose his job after playing so well. He is ranked 5th in QBR right now, and that's only after Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III passed him with Thanksgiving fireworks. | Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers show us that the NFL is a business (DeSimone)
Before I move on...I wanted to highlight a play from the Bears game. Here are the highlights at NFL.com. Kendall Hunter's 14-yard TD run is starts at about 1:00 in. Watch how out of position he is on this one. Kaepernick gives the ball to Hunter and then feigns a QB keeper. Jennings follows Kaep and Hunter is off to the races. This play is made by a great design and call from the coaching staff and the 49ers exploiting the Bears preconceptions about what the 49ers would do. I love it!
Dylan's back again with a little number on the 2011 draft class. Remember when the Giants won the Super Bowl against New England the first time? Remember that draft they had and how every pick played some part in their run to glory. That's what I'm hoping for here. Obviously that's a best case scenario, but when you've got production coming from your seventh-rounder, you're over the moon with joy. | How about the 49ers' 2011 draft class? (DeSimone)
It really is a testament to how much of a revelation Kaepernick's play was that Aldon Smith, having perhaps the best game by a defender all season (does it count against the Bears offensive line, though?), is forced to play second fiddle. Luckily for Aldon, the league saw fit to give him a participation trophy inscribed with the words NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Thanks for coming out and trying, kid. | Aldon Smith named NFC Defensive Player of the Week (Fooch)
Ah, the FanPosts. Everyone's favorite section of TWiNN. Will I make the top three? Will I? Well, I've got to say, there wasn't a ton of action on the FanPost front. I guess some of you value family and turkey more than the 49ers and my weekly post. I've taken notes on each and every one of you that didn't write a FanPost and you're all on my Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison 'list of people to kill' list.
Leading off the FanPosts as the winner with the most rec's is Gold Company. He notes that Colin Kaepernick's game, while more exciting, didn't really equate to better stats. The stat line actually reads like a typical Alex Smith performance in a standard 49ers victory. | Similar stats (Gold Company)
Here's a post that weighs in on the QB controversy (notice a pattern here?). It appears I'm not the only one making Wally Pipp comparisons. If you don't like the baseball analogy, marinfrs gives you the story of his '92 Toyota truck that, well....read on and find out. There's also a scientific poll! | Alex, meet Wally Pipp. He has a story to tell you (marinfrs)
Last but not least, fireroad01 has a post on, you guessed it, the QB controversy! The title says it all, and it's well-written prose about the value of victory over loyalty. | This game is about winning, not loyalty (fireroad01)
Whew! That's it. A big edition of TWiNN for a big week. I'm exhausted.
Being a Sheep
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