Archive for the ‘San Fransisco 49ers’ Category

The more I think about this game, the more I think that I think there will be a poor ending for Atlanta, and it will become very clear, very quickly.

The Falcons were kind enough to play a quarter of their regular-season schedule this year against highly mobile quarterbacks, and generally those meetings ended badly. Earlier this week I looked back on the carnage that was the Atlanta defense during those games, and although there was a glaring exception (holding Robert Griffin III to just seven rushing yards), the read-option offense used by Carolina led to repeatedly watching Cam Newton go for delightful Sunday jogs into wide open green grass. Over those two games, Newton had 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with one of those scores coming on a career long 72-yard run.

Then even if we ignore the success of Newton and to a lesser extent Michael Vick this year against a Falcons front seven that struggled to maintain gap discipline, there’s the matter of John Abraham’s ankle injury, the significance of which can’t be repeated enough during the buildup to this game. A week ago it was the 49ers with a potentially crippling injury in their front four, as Justin Smith was playing through a partially torn triceps (yeah, that still hasn’t healed). Abraham was a limited participant in practice yesterday, and he’ll surely receive minimal work throughout the week before inevitably being slapped with the ol’ questionable/game-time decision tag, and playing a reduced role Sunday.

For the Falcons, that’s downright petrifying, because much of containing — or at least limiting — the damage done by a mobile quarterback in a read-option scheme is done by having a defensive end who can counter with the proper reads, and then react using his quick-footed acceleration, and raw speed. A healthy Abraham can do that, but Abraham won’t really be Abraham at all Sunday. And in truth, Kaepernick has made fools out of some elite edge rushers recently, with Clay Matthews looking like a drunken sailor a week ago when the 49ers QB set the single-game quarterback rushing record.

Now that I’ve ensured no Falcons fan is reading the rest of this post (REMAIN CALM), let’s look at some surface-y numbers, and then do some more ranting and deeper numerical opining.

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When it was announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the 49ers’ starting quarterback for the remainder of the regular season even after Alex Smith recovered from his concussion, water coolers and coffee makers everywhere were pissed. They knew what was coming: endless discussion of a question that had no immediate answer.

Every quarterback decision is colored in only black or white, and those who sided with Team Alex (only slightly less hip than Team Edward) talked at length about fearing the unknown. They warned us of the forthcoming rookie-pocalypse, as Kaepernick was essentially still a rookie in terms of his game experience. They preferred steady over flashy, chill over swag, and reliable over risky.

In truth, there was often a far more basic human element at play. There’s still a timeless battle between people and change.

So, where you at now, Kaepernick haters?

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In a league that’s lacking significantly in quality offensive linemen, San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley stands out. He has a combination of flexibility, length, and quickness that most don’t have at the position. This triumvirate is a big reason why he’s been so successful since being selected No. 28 overall by the 49ers in the 2007 draft. But in Week 1 of 2012, Staley played one of the worst games of his career. He gave up multiple sacks, pressures, and played with sloppy technique against the Packers’ outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

Now 18 weeks have passed and Staley meets Matthews again, and he knows what he did wrong the first time around (h/t Eric Branch):

“After watching the game, there were a lot of technique issues,” Staley said. “When you’re going against a player of that caliber, you have to be on your technique on every single play, every single snap.”

Those technique issues led to 2.5 sacks and many pressures given up, which can be boiled down to three mistakes: over-extension, slow hands, and poor hand placement. There’s also the talent that Matthews possesses. He has the ability to dip his shoulder and turn the corner with relative ease, it seems, and he possesses a couple of the quickest steps off the line of scrimmage. He’s also quite good with his hands,quickly engaging and disengaging from blockers, and he has a couple of moves in his arsenal. In short, it was the absolute worst day for Joe Staley to be sloppy with his fundamentals.

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The Saturday night game this week will feature a highly mobile yet still unproven quarterback against a very proven quarterback who’s won a Super Bowl. Hopefully it goes much better than last Saturday’s game between a highly mobile yet still unproven quarterback and a very proven quarterback who’s won a Super Bowl.

This is one the three games this weekend between teams that met during the regular season, though on one side of the ball it’s difficult to draw anything meaningful from that previous meeting, because during the 49ers’ Week 1 30-22 win over Green Bay Alex Smith was still bringing his safe-mode approach to the San Fransisco offense. Now under Colin Kaepernick, the Niners’ exotic running schemes using multiple rushers (Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and LaMichael James) have grown, as has the read-option offense.

The 49ers’ defense remains daunting in every aspect. But there could be a massive, painful weakness for San Fran due to a throbbing body part.

More on that in a minute. First, some numbers.

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Colin Kaepernick is the reason why I don’t call myself a scout, guru, or expert. I’m a mere pleb writing about football, sometimes logically and rationally, and on occasion, illogically and irrationally; I like to think that’s human nature.

Kaepernick has been outstanding and is one of the league’s fastest-rising talents. And in a league that has a class difference — and it does and always has; read more here — at the quarterback position, he appears to possess the talent to quickly ascend into the upper echelon despite his inexperience. I didn’t always think that, however. I was one of the guys who was not a fan of Kaepernick’s coming out of Nevada because he was far too much of a project, I thought. Now, he looks anything but with the masterful work he’s done at the line of scrimmage, and of course, the throws he’s made.

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In what’s probably the least surprising story of the week, San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh has officially announced that Colin Kaepernick will be the starting quarterback this weekend against the St. Louis Rams.

In three games (two starts) this season, Kaepernick has thrown for 680 yards and 3 touchdowns while leading the 49ers to wins over the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints.

So if Kaepernick is on your fantasy team, you’re good to go.

And if Alex Smith is still on your fantasy roster, you are either an idiot or you’ve already given up

He stands at a towering 6’4″ and a heavy 260 pounds, but he moves lightly like a tight end. He has endless length, with his thick boa constrictor-like arms checking in at nearly 36 inches, and an impressive get-up off the line of scrimmage regardless of his stance; a tilted two-point stance or a coiled three-point stance — it simply doesn’t matter. He’s a very fluid athlete, moving through interior gaps on the famous T-E (tackle-end) stunt that he and the other San Francisco Smith — Justin — have popularized. All these traits are exactly what you look for in a pass rusher, especially an outside linebacker in the multiple 3-4 defense, but they’re not even the best in Aldon Smith’s arsenal.

His best traits are those that aren’t always noticeable because they’re diminished by the rest of his impressive physical abilities. They are the ones that permit him to bend and dip underneath and around the narrowest of edges and jolt the mightiest of blockers; they are his rubber band-like flexibility and overpowering hands.

A pass rusher must have both of those traits because at the end of the day, there are only two directions that a pass rusher can take to get to his prey: through the blocker, or around him. Smith has taken both paths while utilizing both traits, administering a record total of 29 sacks in his first 26 career games.

And the best has yet to come.

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