Finding fault in a 34-yard run by a quarterback isn't something I typically set out to do, but a reader pointed out a segment on KNBR in which Greg Cosell of NFL Films offered up some of his thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' loss to the Denver Broncos, and on that segment Cosell called out this particular play as an issue.
After looking at the play, a 34-yard run from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had just run 19 yards on the previous play, I have to agree with Cosell. It's an issue.
The play actually developed exactly as the 49ers intended it to develop. Tight end Vernon Davis ran a wheel route, and the 49ers ran verticals up the middle to take the safety out of the play. As a result of the safeties being taken out of it, Davis was glaringly wide open for the entire play, down the left sideline. He's wide open and it's an incredibly easy throw to make -- a quarterback with a pass-first mentality makes that throw and it's a touchdown.
"This is where I'd love to know how a guy was coached, because the play design worked perfectly," Cosell said. You can find the podcast here, it's the Cosell piece from Aug. 31.
He was right, as you can see above. Davis is at the top of your screen and he's open long before Kaepernick decides to run and definitely long before Kaepernick passes the line of scrimmage. You can also see that Kaepernick has adequate pass protection on the play. But Kaepernick sees the lane open and decides to run for it ... which is good, right?
He has the tools to run the ball, but he absolutely shouldn't have, here. Last season, I thought Kaepernick was the worst he's ever looked when it came to going through his progressions and looking over the whole field. He locked onto receivers and threw the ball even when they weren't open, all while completely missing wide open guys on the other side of the field.
It was frustrating, and while he hasn't done much in the preseason I did notice him going through his progressions more (this time around, he's just been missing the guys he identifies as open), which is why this play is so frustrating.
"Now, he ran for 34 yards. I know he did, 34 yards is still 34 yards," Cosell said, "But, to me, as you're really trying to teach a guy next level quarterbacking, that's a throw you have to make."
Below, we've got an example of the previous play, in which Kaepernick ran 19 yards because he absolutely had to:
The Broncos immediately collapse the left side of San Francisco's line, the 49ers have no receivers immediately open -- the routes are still taking too long to develop, in my opinion -- and Kaepernick makes the decision to run for it. He picks up 19 yards and looks good doing it. That's a great play from him, and one of the reasons Kaepernick is a good quarterback.
Sometimes I think people forget that. Keapernick IS a good quarterback. I have been hard on him, especially this offseason, because I thought he was beyond the fundamental mistakes he made with regularity last season. There are definitely factors that contribute to his struggles -- the aforementioned long-developing receiver routes and the abysmal play of the offensive line to name a couple -- but Kaepernick needs to be able to make the throws when plays do work as designed.