Fooch's Note: This is some solid work from mighty.joe, so I thought I'd bump it up to the front page.
Last night I re-watched this game (the tv broadcast, more could certainly be gleaned from the all 22). It's interesting how my perception of it is different from the reality. In the rose tinted glasses of memory I thought that we played nearly perfectly after the interception. That's not quite right- the 1st half was rough in particular. Colin Kaepernick left a few passes on the field and made some iffy reads forcing the ball a few times. Delanie had maybe his worst game as a Niner. I'll divide my observations on our offense up and then end with 2 questions for the board.
1- We won't be missing Delanie Walker as a receiver. He made 1 sliding catch in the 4th qtr and on that play he was wide open b/c the coverage bit heavily on Vernon Davis. It really is true: Vernon was attracting a crowd for most of this game. I don't think Vance McDonald will have to work hard to get open if other teams play us the way the Packers were. Delanie dropped two catch-able balls in the 1st half. He did nearly make a spectacular grab but couldn't quite control the ball while staying in bounds. His catching radius is very short. He seems to try to catch everything right by his body. There's a remarkable difference between how Crabtree snatches the ball out of the air and how Delanie short arms it. Crab reaches out and snags it with his hands, Delanie lets the ball come into his pads.
Drop the 1st comes on a 1st down (0:32:40) Delanie was split out wide. Coverage literally lines up a full 9 yds away, CK does a good job going through his progressions, moves away from the pass rush and delivers a strike to Delanie's hands for a 4 yd gain. Whoops. Drop the 2nd comes on a 2nd down (1:07:14) at the end of the half with Walker split out wide again. The Packers are playing a very soft coverage, CK delivers a nice pass in rhythm away from the corner for an easy 5 yd gain, the ball dinks off both of Walker's hands. Colin looks annoyed.
2- This was a pretty decent game by Randy Moss. Kaep failed to see him or Alex Smith 'd it on the 2nd offensive possession when Randy beat 1 on 1 coverage for what could have been a td. Kaep missed him on another deep throw where there was some separation. Randy converted a 2nd and 11 with a nice catch followed by some solid YAC. The very next play Kaep goes back to him and Randy makes life hard on himself by bobbling it before coming down with the ball for his only other reception. Does Kaep get fixated on 1 receiver during parts of a game? (Later in the game Kaep goes to Vernon on two consecutive passes and it reminds me of the 3 consecutive passes to MC in the superbowl)-Randy does fail to even attempt to block on a read option play that comes his way. Could have been a fair sized gain if Randy would have engaged his defender.
3- Kaep wasn't making good reads in the 1st half at all. He forced several passes to the wrong guy. MC drew a pass interference on a play where he was totally blanketed when Gore was a few yds away with decent separation and room to run for the 1st down. A few plays later he forces the ball to Vernon- Woodson was reading this the entire way and easily broke it up. On that play Ted Ginn ran a quick out completely uncovered on the same side of the field. On the read option there were a few cases where it appeared Kaep made the wrong read handing it off when the end was crashing down and keeping it when he didn't. We also wasted at least 1 timeout which is at least partially Colin's fault.
4- LaMichael James had a great game. He did a bit of everything. On a read option in the 1st qtr he explodes through the line (this was a good read by Kaep, too). He was split out wide twice, including the play where Kaep tried to get it to Randy deep. He picked up a big block on Clay Matthews to spring Kaep for a long run. He also had a ten yard run called back b/c Bruce Miller held Matthews. The hold shouldn't have happened- Miller was in position to seal that block, Matthews went right through him. To people that don't think LMJ could be a featured back I ask them to watch this game. He runs effectively up the middle, he beats defenders around the end, he picks up blitzers and he makes receptions. In one game he does everything a rb is asked to do and he does it out of a number of formations.
5- Frank Gore quietly had a great great game behind an offensive line that just took over in the 2nd half. I think the time of possession advantage doomed the Packers defense as much as their bad scheme (and failure to adjust). Their D was exhausted by the 3rd qtr and our O line was dominate. Joe Staley played through pain and negated Clay Matthews for the most part. Michael Crabtree was an absolute monster. I'm not going to analyze what he did beyond that. Davis had a relatively quiet game but attracted lots of coverage, helping Walker and Crabtree get open. He had one cute double move where he did a little pirouette- it could have been a long td but he was held mid spin (1:35:49- small play in the game but it's nifty footwork from Vernon). Of course he had the long reception demonstrating his game changing speed, leaving a linebacker in the dust (1:37:22). It's worth pointing out that this fanpost is dedicated to nitpicking our offense in a game where we had 579 yds. You could write an entire fanpost about what Crabtree did.
Kaepernick played a great game overall. He makes several perfect throws. The long pass to Vernon and the 2nd td to Crabtree were pinpoint passes. The floater to Gore was a perfect lead and showed great touch. He also isn't afraid to throw people open (for instance a back shoulder laser for Crab. early in the 3rd). This is an upgrade over Smith although I think Smith might be more consistently accurate sometimes. Of course the major story line is Kaep's speed. When he breaks out of the pocket he is 5 yds past the line of scrimmage before anyone seems to realize he's gone and flat footed defenders look like they're standing still in the secondary. This really is a game changer. In one instance Delanie Walker (a very fast te) is lead blocking for Kaep on a designed qb keeper where Kaep seems to be running 30% faster than Walker.
Kaep makes NFL players who are considered fast look slow and lumbering. He also has a good sense of when to break the pocket. You simply can't defend against Colin without either leaning on zone (defenders in the secondary then keep their eyes toward the qb) or having some sort of spy. It was shocking to everyone that the Pack failed to make an adjustment at the half to attempt to keep Kaep from taking off. They never used a spy and they kept going back to a straight man to man. But if you do use a spy that gives the Niners a numerical advantage in the passing game. It's one less guy in coverage. I also think that most teams' safeties would not be fast enough to contain Colin. What good does it do to have a guy reserved to stop Kaep from running if Kaep can easily run away from him? An obvious solution is to stay in a zone and I think this is how the Rams handled us (plus they were reading our tips). Also Kaepernick seems to be a better qb against man coverage to me. Or maybe our receivers aren't good at finding the seams in the zone?
So my big questions to the board are: how would you defend the Kaepernick led offense and on the flip side how do Kaepernick and Roman evolve to the adjustments the league will make?
extra observations: Patrick Willis played lights out in this game. He seemed to be everywhere playing at a hundered miles an hour, getting pressures on Rodgers along with the sack. Whitner was a liability, whiffing on the long td run and Goldson didn't exactly distinguish himself although he did break up one pass.