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Colin Kaepernick's ugly fourth quarter costs 49ers, but the future remains bright

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49ers QB Colin Kaepernick stumbled in the fourth quarter, one of several reasons the 49ers lost the NFC Championship Game. And yet, the future remains bright for fans thanks to the young QB.

Christian Petersen

The San Francisco 49ers came up agonizingly short of the Super Bowl, falling to the Seattle Seahawks 23-17. There is plenty of blame to go around, and the officials are the ones that get the early portion of the blame. But, as we saw, Colin Kaepernick made some key mistakes in the fourth quarter. Although he almost drove them into position to win the game, two interceptions and a fumble doomed the comeback effort. And of course, we can't forget the delay of game that turned a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 6. Maybe the 49ers do not convert that 3rd and 1, but it got a whole lot more difficult with five yards added on.

Kap was quick to take the blame in the post-game media session. He said he saw one-on-one coverage, and is comfortable going to Crabtree in one-on-one coverage against any cornerback. Richard Sherman will disagree, as he is wont to do, but Kap has always had a strong confidence in what Crabtree can do for him.

Through the first half, Kap's legs had the 49ers in a strong position. He finished the game with 130 rushing yards, with most of it coming in the first half. The Seahawks seemed to figure out some measure of containment in the second half, but Kap was still able to use his legs to set up some short dump-off passes. We saw it several times, with the most notable coming on 4th and 2 in the fourth quarter. Kap scrambled to his left and was able to lay it in to Frank Gore for a 17-yard catch and run.

On that final drive, it really did seem like the 49ers were going to come away the heroes. After the 4th and 2 conversion, the 49ers secured two more first downs, and found themselves with 1st and 10 at the Seattle 18. The 49ers had two timeouts remaining, and yet they didn't use either of them. They called their first timeout with 55 seconds left, which was followed by an 11-yard pass to Vernon Davis, and then the interception. A timeout would have seemingly made sense, particularly given that they went to Crabtree in the end zone on the next play, but such is life.

Kap showed us pretty much everything that makes watching him such a roller coaster. He had his way with the Seahawks scrambling in the first half, and he made some big passes late. Unfortunately, he had one awful throw on the first interception, and an underthrow on the second interception. He has plenty of room for growth, but his ceiling remains incredibly high. I still think his ceiling is as high as any quarterback in the NFL.

The two interceptions show where he needs to improve, but the touchdown throw to Anquan Boldin showed what he can do when it's all clicking. The upside to Kap is he can complete throws that almost no other quarterback would even think of making. The downside to Kap is that he knows this, and it leads him to make some questionable throws. The upside would appear to far outweigh the downside, but I realize this isn't enough for some folks.

I think part of this comes from 49ers fans getting so used to the conservative, safe play of Alex Smith. They are now watching an incredibly dynamic quarterback like Colin Kaepernick who will make more mistakes in his development process. It is going to remain a roller coaster at times, but I think in the end it will be worth it.

This is a big offseason for Kap. He's got a year and a half of starting under his belt. He's seeing more situations, and getting more experience in the pressure-cooker. He needs to continue to show progress, but a little patience is needed. This is a process, and as we saw this season, there will be hiccups along the way. Kap has the coming offseason to get back to it and improve.

This loss is going to sting for a while, but the future remains bright. The 49ers have their share of question marks, but they have an incredible talent in Colin Kaepernick. I am excited for the future.