Upon Further Review, Week 15: Readers’ Questions Answered, Plus our Picks for the Week

Dec 13, 2012 at 3:13 AM

Welcome to a very special installment of Upon Further Review. For Week 14, AJ and Diego put this space in the hands of our readers...heaven help us. In order to address as many of your questions as possible, we'll be departing from our usual format. In today's installment, we'll be covering everything from the explosiveness (or lack thereof) of the 49er offense to the possible destinations for Alex Smith in 2013 and everything in between (or as much as we can fit into one column, anyway). Bet before we begin, thanks for submitting your questions (yes…even you, Terry and Ken…even you).

Where is the "explosiveness" in the 49er offense that we've been hearing so much about? - submitted by multiple readers, including Mouse, Mike and Ceadderman

AJ: For the purposes of this discussion, we're going to assume that explosiveness means "chunk plays" or plays that go for more than 20 yards.

Since his first start, Kaepernick has flashed the ability to go deep almost effortlessly, and to do so with surprising accuracy. But since his first start, Kaep has had fewer chunk plays with each game…and hasn't thrown a TD pass in 9 quarters. Most troubling about this trend is that he's faced some fairly average defenses along the way (including his matchup last week...Miami is ranked 26th against the pass).

So what's the deal? Has Kaep forgotten how to throw deep? Is he hurt? Is he just unable to consistently beat deep coverage? The answer to the aforementioned is no. Kaep is the exact same player that he was against Chicago. He is a lights out athlete with a huge arm, minimal experience and a boatload of upside. And that's part of the problem.

A few weeks back, some random guy wrote that given Kaepernick's success against man coverage in the Chicago game, it was highly likely that upcoming opponents would try to confuse him with more complicated coverage schemes. It turns out that guy was right. Kaep isn't throwing deep because he's seeing a lot more complex deep coverage than he did against the Bears (who went with a single safety deep over man coverage or with 2 deep over man coverage almost exclusively).

Now teams that face the 49ers are hiding coverage schemes pre snap, then shifting when the play starts. To his credit, Kaep only thrown one pick, but the shift in strategy is forcing him to hold the ball longer in order to read what the defense is doing which throws off the timing of the passing game…which is why Kaep will often go short. It's the safest pass, the easiest to read, and the least likely to result in a negative play.

Explosion will come. More chunk plays will come. Even against zone coverage. But they will come with time. Kaep has shown the ability to create big plays...but those big plays will only come consistently once he has enough experience to read what the defense is hiding pre snap so he can better exploit it.

Are the Niners going to unleash a hidden reserve of explosiveness this weekend? Probably not. But all is not lost…there is a viable quick fix to kick start the offense: The Pistol.

Going to the Pistol will increase Kaepernick's effectiveness...and decrease the number of reads he'll need to make on a given play, allowing him to get rid of the ball more quickly. The Pistol offense will allow him a measure of comfort, provide the threat of the run (in order to better set up the read option), and if necessary, maximum protection on passing downs. In short, it will allow Kaep to be Kaep.

Look for the 49ers to exploit the Pistol going forward to a larger degree in Foxboro this Sunday night in order to tailor the offense to Kaepernick. While it may not be explosive, it can be effective...and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. How effective? We'll see on Sunday night.

Where the hell is Vernon Davis? –submitted by Mike, Gonzola

AJ: Since his starring role in the evisceration of the Bears, Vernon Davis has all but disappeared on game day...in the passing game anyway.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, Davis isn't hurt, blocking more often than he has in the past or out of sync with Colin Kaepernick. The fact is, Vernon is the player most focused on by opposing defenses.

The Bears played Vernon with single coverage...usually with Major Wright or Lance Briggs...and that is the textbook definition of a mismatch. Hence, it is hardly surprising that Vernon was the 49ers leading receiver against the Bears.

Needless to say, the Rams, Saints and Dolphins took notice, and adjusted to take Vernon out of the 49er passing game. Over the last 3 games, Vernon has been almost always either double covered, or bracketed by two defenders playing zone. The net result: not very much offensive production from number 85.

Given the attention that he's seen and the 49ers' penchant for avoiding risky throws downfield, it is no wonder that Davis has been a virtual non-factor as it pertains to passing offense over the past 3 weeks.

Astute fans will note that the 49ers have countered by placing Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis on the field together...and Walker has faced a TON of single coverage...and as a result has seen a dramatic increase in the number of passes thrown his way.

I am curious to see how the Patriots decide to defend Davis. He is a complete mismatch for any of their defenders in single coverage. My guess is that they'll double him up and roll the dice with single coverage on whomever else the 49ers run out on passing downs.

Dude…what's with all the f*#$ing timeouts? – submitted by Montman

AJ: Over the past few weeks, the 49ers have been going through time outs like Lindsey Lohan goes through second chances. Many (including Montman, who submitted this question), are wondering what the hell is going on. What's going on is pretty simple…a team with a very complex offense installed a second year quarterback as its starter.

There are some who think that the QB just takes the snap and throws the ball…but nothing could be further from the truth. The QB's job is extensive…from managing the clock to calling the plays, to calling audibles to modifying protection schemes, the QB is responsible for A LOT.

The timeouts aren't indicative of a broken team, a clueless coach or a busted headset…they are indicative of a young quarterback who still needs to adjust to the speed of the game at the NFL level.

By all accounts, Kapernick is a bright, studious young player. He'll get there. But don't be surprised if we burn though a few more timeouts before he does.

Where will Alex Smith play next year? –submitted by Chris DeMarco

Diego: It seems like the majority of people keeping an eye on this topic have set their minds on the idea that the former 49ers starting QB will play for the Arizona Cardinals next season. I don't think so.

Smith is just smarter than that. He has gone through a gauntlet throughout his career to achieve some kind of success, and I think he would realize that playing for the Cardinals would definitely not result on the kind of success he would strive for, and would significantly be hazardous to his health. Look, the Cardinals have the worst offensive line in the NFL – the eye tells you this, but just in case you were wondering if we were wrong about this, Pro Football Focus agrees. Alex Smith knows firsthand that playing behind a mediocre offensive line is a recipe for disaster. Moreover, Arizona has a very little promise on the running game with Beanie Wells being as injury-prone as it was feared he would be coming out of Ohio State and Ryan Williams following a similar pattern. Larry Fitzgerald is a stud, and Michael Floyd will break out eventually, but the passing game will never get going behind a mediocre front-five and underwhelming running production. Again, Smith is smarer than that.

If the Kansas City Chiefs work out an extension with Branden Albert (and they should), Alex Smith and his agents should make Arrowhead their number one priority. You may not believe this, but the Chiefs possess one of the best offensive lines in the league, and should they be able to bring Albert back (franchise-tag him, at least) they should remain among the best units in the league next season. You see all the reasons I list when saying going to Arizona wouldn't be a good decision for Smith? Well, it's the opposite in Kansas City. Besides possible playing behind a great offensive line, the Chiefs also possess one of the league's top running backs in Jamaal Charles, who is currently 5th in the NFL in rushing yards and boasts a 5.1 yard/carry average. Their pass-catchers have been a disappointment this season, and Dwayne Bowe will probably not be there next season, but by the same token this unit was considered a strength going into the season and I find it unfair to really judge their performance based on the pathetic QB play. The struggles in rush defense should be aided by high draft picks as well as improved offensive performance which will keep the defensive unit fresher. Alex Smith could possibly help the Chiefs return to the playoffs next season. I wouldn't be ready to say that they would take the throne from the Broncos in the AFC West, but they would have a definite shot at earning a wild card berth.

But wait, you didn't want me to correctly predict where Alex Smith will play next year, did you?

Can you please talk about how the offense has actually regressed with Kaep in at center. Kaep has not thrown a consistent deep ball, or a TD to a WR or TE in about 2 straight games now. The kid definitely has talent, but it seems more like people wanna make him ready now, when he still has a little growing to do. That his "hot hand" is now cold, and besides a run here or there, no consistent Td's and like yesterday horrible 3rd down percentage. – submitted by Jersey9er

Diego: That was a handful.

I would like to believe avid readers of Upon Further Review and Straight Out of the Rabbit's Hole know my stand on the Smith/Kaepernick debate by now. That being said, let's get this out on the open: Colin Kaepernick may not be making this offense more "explosive", but he is certainly not making it regress either.

Has his performance declined since the Bears' game? Ah, yes, what did you expect? Defenses have been adapting, and Kaepernick has been trying his best to adapt on the go. The regression you are referring cannot be placed mainly on the new young starting QB, the offensive line deserves as much blame as they deserved praise after the games against the Bears and Saints. Let's not nitpick at his touchdown production: rushing touchdowns count the same as passing touchdowns, and so long as he's helping the offense score while he continues to develop as a starter for this team is definitely a positive thing. Much like with regression, blaming Kaepernick for the increase in penalties lately just wouldn't be fair.

I can understand being upset at Jim Harbaugh for making this QB change at a questionable time, but a decision has been made and it is difficult to expect a well-oiled machine on offense when there is a new guy behind center. Contrary to your statements, Kaepernick is taking fewer sacks per game than Alex Smith and has just three turnovers in nearly five games. Inconsistency in the team's offensive performance (which let's be honest, has been present the whole season), and bumps on the road such as getting the right play called in and breaking the huddle on time aren't all that shocking. If we don't see an improvement with those issues over the next few games then there might be more founded reason to be concerned, but understand that is a risk Harbaugh seems willing to take.

I was at the Niners game this Sunday. Colin looked great. He moves great when in pressure.... but the play calling looks too safe in the red zone. Do you guys think they should open the play book some more to use his abilities in a better way? – submitted by German

Diego: Do I think they should open the playbook? Yes. Will they? I'm not so sure.

As my colleague Oscar Aparicio pointed out in his December 5th Podcast, Jim Harbaugh is conservative in nature. Even while having Andrew Luck as a QB at Stanford, Harbaugh still chose to run the ball over 50% of the time and his offense used many of the same formations that the 49ers use today. I have to believe that the goal at the moment isn't to "experiment" different plays with Kaepernick while the 49ers look to remain among the top two teams in the standings and earn a bye week in the playoffs, but instead to just continue to do enough to win football games. Subtle changes are being made (see Pistol-Diamond formations last week vs the Dolphins) and will continue to be made, but I wouldn't expect to see any drastic changes be made these next three weeks. If the 49ers are able to clinch a bye week in the playoffs, that will give them time to implement some different kinks to their offense. Until then - don't hold your breath.

I do not think that "tatooed wonder" can get us to the playoffs and beyond. Don't you think it was too late in the season to make such a drastic change? Kap has not done anything to amaze me- he can run that's it. Where did the "hot hand " go ?? –submitted by Charles

Diego: Whether you are referring to that awful piece criticizing Kaepernick's tattoes or not, the name calling is simply distasteful. That being said - yes, I do believe it wasn't the right time to make such a drastic change.

The 49ers offense has more potential with Kaepernick on the field, but that potential is not being reached at this moment. In the meantime the offense continues to produce at about the same rate it was while Alex Smith was the quarterback, and the variant in the offense is whether the young, potentially explosive QB will make a boneheaded play such as what he did a couple of weeks ago vs St. Louis, or if he will flash what separates him from Smith on a play such as the 50-yard TD run against Miami last week. Thing is, this is a debate that doesn't really have a set answer: would you rather have the potential for an explosive play or the feeling of security that your signal caller will not turn the ball over? The back-and-forth on this could be endless, and has been endless (have you read our forums?).

Personally, I rather have the veteran quarterback who has been getting the job done over the last year and a half, especially after watching the offense continue to perform at the same level with the new young quarterback. I guess I too am conservative. Then again, so is Harbaugh, and I am inclined to say he knows A LOT more about this business than I do, and he has a track record to support his decisions, so he continues to deserve the benefit of the doubt, especially because you and I disagree on Kap's performance - he HAS done some things to amaze me. The flashes are there: the arm strength, the improved accuracy, the knowledge of the offense and the respect he has earned from his teammates, and his RG3-like ability to be a difference maker with his legs.

My advice to you: forget about the "hot hand". Harbaugh will give Kaepernick as big an opportunity as he feels he can to allow the young QB to, hopefully, prove him right.

Two Minute Drill:
  • Lucky Phil: in answer to your inquiries, even though she was amused, Ms. Sinn has declined to give you her phone number. Sorry bro. And yes, she is quite enamored with the Jumbo Package…which is part of the reason why she declined to give you her number.
  • Terry B: Yes…we'd be more than happy to get rid of our logo…just as soon as you get a reverse mohawk, paint yourself neon purple and streak down Market Street from the Ferry Building to Union Square, screaming "I LOVE Alex Smith!" at the top of your lungs. And post it on YouTube. With subtitles in Italian and Spanish so Diego and I can share it with our friends and family overseas.
  • In the gospel according to Harbaugh, thou shalt not put thyself before "the team, the team, the team." Because if you do, you'll get suspended. Apparently, Brandon Jacobs didn't get the memo…or pay any attention to what happened to Braylon Edwards last season.
  • Over the course of the next two weeks, the 49ers will play their two toughest games of the season…and given how those games play out, the 49ers could have the inside track to the #2 seed in the playoffs…or the wildcard. If you've been waiting to see what the 49ers will look like in the playoffs with Kaepernick under center, you're about to get your wish…because for the 49ers, the playoffs start this Sunday night in Foxboro.

  • Assuming he won't have a meltdown against the Patriots this week, Colin Kaepernick will get a bit of a break when he faces the Seahawks on week 16. Starting cornerback, Brandon Browner, will not play while in the midst of a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Browner and Seattle's other starting CB, Richard Sherman, received the same suspensions shortly after their week 12 loss in Miami against the Dolphins. They both immediately appealed the suspensions, however Browner dropped his appeal as of last week. Walter Thurmond, a third year player out of Oregon, is starting alongside Sherman in the meantime.
  • Love it or hate it, the 49ers' "Jumbo Package" is not going anywhere. This particular package is arguably the most used by San Francisco during Harbaugh's tenure here, and the teams' record during that time speaks for itself. The package is multidimensional in that it allows the offense to give opponents different looks with basically the same players. This is due to the versatility of tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker as well as Bruce Miller, arguably the best fullback in the game today. The formation also features added beef from time to time with appearances by Leonard Davis, Daniel Kilgore, and Will Tukuafu, and yes when they come on the field it pretty much tells the defense that the 49ers are about to run, but if the 49ers want to be the dominant running team they are perceived as around the league then they need to be able to muscle out yards when they put extra beef onto the field. The package needs to work on execution, but it should definitely not go away.

Week 15 Picks
In Week 14, we saw the Panthers beat the Falcons (no that is not a misprint…and no, Alessandra Ambrosio didn't show up at my front door in licorice lingerie). For those of us in 49erland, its time to start SERIOUSLY paying attention…with 3 games left, the Seahawks are only a game and a half off the pace for the NFC West Division crown...and after this week's matchup with the Pats, the 49ers will be headed to Seattle for a game that could decide the NFC West. Here are our picks for week 15:

Bengals at Eagles:
AJ: The Bengals finish the season against the Steelers and Ravens…so for all intents and purposes, this is their first playoff game. Look for them to come out on fire. Bengals.

Diego: a team with a new young quarterback that doesn't have much to lose can be really dangerous. But 1) I've committed to no longer picking Philadelphia, and 2) Cincinnati should come into this one with an added sense of urgency following last week's loss against Dallas. Bengals

Bucs at Saints:
AJ: The Bucs are a team on the rise…but I just don't think that they'll be able to pull out a win in the Superdome. Saints.

Diego: ok so Drew Brees didn't really bounce back from his career worst performance against Tampa Bay two weeks ago. I believe he'll bounce back against that same team this time around. Saints.

Giants at Falcons:
AJ: The Falcons were badly exposed by the Panthers last week….and the Giants looked really good. This one probably won't end well for the home team. Giants.

Diego: I am 57.83% sure that I will pick the losing team on this one, but I think Atlanta's pass rush will make the difference at home, whether sacking Eli Manning or forcing him into some errant throws. Falcons.

Packers at Bears:
AJ: The Bears defense has begun to fall off…and Aaron Rodgers is back to being Aaron Rodgers. Packers.

Diego: Chicago hasn't beat Green Bay since week 3 of the 2010 season. The current performances by both teams tells me the losing streak will continue. Packers.

Vikings at Rams:
AJ: The universe delivers a karmic bitch-slap to Cortland Finnegan and co, as Purple Jesus runs for about 15 miles. Vikings.

Diego: St. Louis is on a three-game winning streak playing solid football as of late. Minnesota, on the other hand, continues to be really inconsistent except for Adrian Peterson, who is determined to break the single-season record for rushing yards. Vikings.

Panthers at Chargers:
AJ: Nothing inspires good play (okay…satisfactory play) in San Diego like a desperate team, desperate head coach and a desperate GM. Chargers.

Diego: even though Carolina won't make the playoffs, Cam Newton is playing to prove to the league that he's a force to be reckoned with, and I believe San Diego's win last week was a fluke. Panthers.

Chiefs at Raiders:
AJ: If the Raiders are the Yugo of the NFL, then the Chiefs are the Daihatsu of the NFL. Raiders.

Diego: If there was ever a game I would pick for a 0-0 tie, this would be the one, but I need to pick a winner, so I'm going to flip a coin. Seriously. Heads = Chiefs, Tails = Raiders ... Raiders.

Broncos at Ravens:
AJ: There is no way that I can look at this game without wondering how in the name of all that's holy is a reeling Ravens defense going to stop Peyton Manning. Broncos.

Diego: the wild card here is the change at offensive coordinator for Baltimore, where Jim Caldwell replaces Cam Cameron. Nonetheless, I like Denver's defense in this matchup, therefore ... Broncos.

Colts at Texans:
AJ: Can you think of anything more terrifying than JJ Watt pissed off ? Neither can I. Texans.

Diego: Suddenly Indianapolis controls their own destiny in the division. That's going to end real quick. Texans.

Jags at Dolphins:
AJ: The Jags have used up their allotment of decent football for the season…and Tannehill looks like he could develop into a pretty good NFL QB. Dolphins.

Diego: Neither team is very good, but Miami is certainly better. Chad Henne's mind-blowing performance against Houston four weeks ago is a distant memory now. Dolphins.

Redskins at Browns:
AJ: The Browns have managed to grow as an organization…and the product on the field is improving dramatically. Add to that the fact that RGIII has a little hitch in his giddy up, and that seals this one for the home team. Browns.

Diego: my gut tells me Robert Griffin III will play in this one, and if so ... Redskins.

Lions at Cardinals:
AJ: The Cardinals might be the worst team I have ever seen…especially after last week's beat down at the hands of the Seahawks. Lions.

Diego: I'm not even going to pick on Arizona anymore. Just ... Lions.

Seahawks at Bills:
AJ: As much as I'd love to see the Seahawks stumble on the road, it probably won't happen…especially against Buffalo. Seahawks.

Diego: sure, they suffered a tough loss last week, but Buffalo continues to play the type of run defense that is expected of them given their lineup. Plus, with Fred Jackson done for the season, Chan Gailey can't find many more ways to keep CJ Spiller off the field, can he? Bills.

Steelers at Cowboys:
AJ: Ben was not himself last week, and it showed. If the Steelers couldn't get it together against the Chargers, I can't see how they can manage a win in Dallas. Cowboys.

Diego: A healthier Ben Roethlisberger will have a bounce back game, and Pittsburgh will keep pace with Cincinnati as they go into a deciding match-up next week. Steelers.

Jets at Titans:
AJ: The Titans are a pretty bad team with a good running back…and a god awful QB. Even though the Jets are almost incapable of stringing together two plays, let alone two games, I think they'll fall into a victory here. Jets.

Diego: Did Mark Sanchez really say the Jets are "catching fire"? I'm still laughing. Titans.

49ers at Patriots:
AJ: I would love nothing more than to see the 49ers go to Foxboro and upset the Patriots…but I don't think it will happen. The 49ers are bringing a young inexperienced QB into what may be the most hostile venue in the NFL to face the best QB of his generation. I hope I'm wrong…but I don't know if the 49er offense wis going to be able to keep pace with the Patriots on their home turf. Patriots.

Diego: The New York Giants lost against the Patriots in the regular season finale in 2007. They lost that battle, but eventually they won the war. Patriots.

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  • Terry B
    Real mature, AJ. Under your own standard, shouldn't you be banned from your own column?
    Dec 18, 2012 at 12:04 PM
    Response: (AJ) Negative, ghost rider.
  • Terry B.
    Ceadderman, yes I do think Kaepernick is better (because he is), but that's not the point. Harbaugh thinks he's better too, and Harbaugh has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt from us. And we have not been in this position before with previous backups. Kaepernick was a high second round pick who was the head coach's handicked choice to be the franchise QB. What other QB are you comparing him to? And there won't be a competition in the offseason because Alex won't be here next year.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 12:02 PM
  • Terry B.
    My POINT, AJ, is that despite your having subjected Kaepernick, a second-year player, to withering nitpicking the likes of which you'd never dared to subject Smith, an eight-year veteran, Kaepernick has thoroughly refuted your contention that Smith should've been starting. You were wrong, and it's time to admit it. Here's another history question for you: how many QBs have gone into Foxboro and beaten the Patriots in December in the past 10 years? Don't bother looking it up; I'll give you the answer: one. Colin Kaepernick. But you, Diego, and Ceadderman want someone else leading our team.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 8:09 AM
    Response: (AJ) Wabbit season! Duck season! Wabbit season! Duck season! (Diego) F that, Duck season!
  • Ceadderman
    Terry don's address me. Nothing I say will change your mind so its pointless to nitpick what I say especially after I've stated that I'm going to try to avoid replying to you. You seem to get off on picking fights when I never stated that I didn't like Kappy. You think that he's better. That's your opinion. Kappy is a decent enough QB but I do not believe that he's better. Smith had a 600yd Day. It was an NFL record. No other Starter ever had it. I will not hold Kappy to that standard. Just like you shouldn't hold Smith to your ridiculous Standard. You seem to have forgotten all the issues that plagued this team before and during Smith's time as the Starter. But whatever. Don't address me again cause I'm done with you. Not because I don't wish to debate you but because Diego asked me not to use this blog in that way. You're entitled to your opinion, but we've been here before with previous backups. This is nothing new. Let's see what happens next year when Defenses have adjusted to the QB. Right now he's shiny and new and as with all things shiny and new people are smitten with it. We do have a solid OLine now so make em both compete for the job in the Offseason.
    Dec 17, 2012 at 2:57 PM
  • Terry B.
    Ceadderman, so a QB is supposed to throw 4 TDs when his defense is playing great? Then why did Alex never do it? Didn't he play with some great defenses? And do you think, since he never had problems fumbling the snap before, that the driving rain might have had something to do with it? And I never said that you didn't like Kappy. I said that you think Alex should still be starting. As for what I thought in the second half, I thought, "thank God Alex isn't our QB. At least now we have a chance."
    Dec 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM
    Response: (AJ) Duck season! Wabbit season! Duck season! Wabbit season!
  • Terry B.
    AJ, you are correct that there has never been any contention about who IS starting, since only Harbaugh has control over that. But there most certainly has been contention over who SHOULD be starting, which was my point. I assume you read your own column, correct? Did I just imagine all of the arguments from you, Diego, and Ceadderman about how Alex should still be the starter?
    Dec 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM
    Response: (AJ) Yes, we both argued that Smith should have been reinstalled as the starter after he was healthy. We've also maintained that Kaep has more upside, a bigger arm and is more athletic, though his lack of experience would cause him to make some mistakes, which it has. So your point is what, exactly? Arguing just to argue?
  • Ceadderman
    Smith never threw a 4 TD game. Big whup. That's what a Starter is SUPPOSED to do when their Defense sets them on the short porch. Kappy played very well despite the Interception and the miscues under Center. But let's be honest, were you inspired that he wouldn't cost the team the Win in the 2nd half when the Defense was on its heels for much of the 2nd Half. I completely agree that this falls on the Coaching too but if I see Kappy taking the exchange under Center for the rest of the season it will be too soon. This is Brady. You don't fool around with an obvious shortcoming if you can help it. Some people need to stop this insane pontification about what I think. I never said I didn't like Kappy. Critiquing a player honestly is how I roll. You don't like it well you're entitled to your opinion as I am mine.
    Dec 17, 2012 at 9:54 AM
    Response: (Diego) FYI I'm holding off on any back-and-forth until I watch the game again and post the next UFR with AJ.
  • Terry B.
    Why do I keep bringing up Alex Smith? Why do YOU keep bringing up Alex Smith? The reason I mention him is that you and Diego and Ceadderman can't stop writing about how he should still be the starter. If he runs for a TD, you complain that he didn't throw for one. If he throws 4, you complain that he also fumbled snaps. When you complete your research into the last time Alex threw 4 TD's, be sure to let me know.
    Dec 17, 2012 at 8:05 AM
    Response: (AJ) Colin played a very good game, and made some mistakes. Fortunately, the team was able to overcome them and win in a very tough environment. As an aside, there is not (nor has there been) any contention about who's starting. Colin is growing, and did very well in a big game last night. Roman had a great gameplan and the team has begun to tailor the offense to Kaepernick (in the same way that the Redskins and Panthers have tailored theirs to Cam and RGIII).
  • Terry B.
    AJ, so this was all about defense and the running game? Can you do me a favor and look up when the last time was that Alex Smith threw four TD passes? Thanks!
    Dec 17, 2012 at 4:16 AM
    Response: (AJ) Hm. Well, since I'm a 49er fan, let me start by saying I'm stoked about the win. The 49ers really evolved last night. Next, why are you bringing up Alex Smith? Finally, Kaep did well...and the TEAM won this game. Kaep threw 4 TDs. He also threw a pick (into a " lurk" or "robber" coverage) fumbled 4 snaps from under center, and missed a few open receivers. He is the starter, and he's on his way to being very good (thank you, G-Ro...the Pistol helped a lot!), but if you are attempting to intone that the defense and running game had nothing to do with this win, you're way off base. Gore, LMJ and the entire defense played a HUGE part in this win.
  • Gonzola
    Sorry Diego, but a "drop" implies that the receiver first catches or at least craddles the ball. If his fingers graze or his elbow touches the ball it is not recorded as a drop, is it? I count receptions versus catchable balls and if the ball is catchable (i.e. hits hands, bounces off chest, grazes elbow, hits helmet) then as a NFL player you NEED to catch the ball -- that is what you are PAID to do. That is what others do. VD has not lately and when Harbaugh was asked about VD he said, "ball goes to the open player". Case closed. ;o) I love you Diego.
    Dec 16, 2012 at 9:29 PM
    Response: (AJ) VD is not a "dropper". You are wrong, and no amount of word twisting will change that. But we still like you. (Diego) I'm actually about to put a restraining order on Gonzo.
  • Gonzola
    VD stats 1 catch 1 drop ZERO touchdowns 50% reception rate. VD analysis 4 missed blocks, no effort to be the open man, slow to adjust, and slow to do just about anything. If you want the ball you have to play like you want the ball. Don't walk around during the play, don't miss blocks, and at least ACT like you love the game. Oh, AJ and Diego you might want to check your picks this week?! SF wins and had the play calling not went to h^&L in the last quarter-and-a-half they would have won big. If you are able to HIT Tom Brady then he loses PERIOD. My dream came true, if not for the final score.
    Dec 16, 2012 at 9:23 PM
    Response: (AJ) One of the only times VD was singled up, Kaep missed him deep for a TD. And he was a MONSTER blocking today. He was double covered for most of the night.
  • Gonzola
    No more please. Kappy haters please pick some other team to follow. Please read prior comments. Had the defense continued punishment of Brady score would of been 42-13 or 56-13, but alas HORRIBLE play calling on both sides of the ball almost cost us this one. 3rd and 7 and you run the ball at the end of the game to give it back to the Pats with over 2 minutes?! What. TRY TO SCORE. Again, dropping back on defense and playing it cool and allowing 28 unanswered points?! What is wrong with the COACHING staff? Go Niners.
    Dec 16, 2012 at 9:16 PM
    Response: (AJ) Kaep did well. But he fumbled 4 snaps from under center, and threw an ill advised pick in the end zone. Kaep grew big time tonight, but he still has things to work on. This game was won by the team...hands down. And that coaching staff you seem to dislike so much set Kaepernick up with man to man single coverage on three of his TD passes. Roman called one hell of a game. Using the Pistol (and shifting to jumbo out of the pistol) kept the Pats on their heels. But when it mattered most, LMJ came up big, Crabtree was lights out, Gore SAVED THE GAME, and the D got the stop they had to at the end.
  • Ceadderman
    ^_^ No I didn't Diego. "Nobody is going to trade for a player who will not make it past the optimal release period"... so essentially if the 9ers let Smith go(which would be the most likely scenario) he's a Free Agent and available to anybody. His only problem with the Cards would be that they would have to either draft a Line or put some effort into fixing theirs. They may draft a Franchise QB, but why do that when they can get Smith and draft a Franchise OLine to surround him with? I'm not saying they will get Smith but they have as good a chance as anybody especially if Smith is released after the draft and they've shown the capacity to identify and address their issues. Cutting both of their flawed QBs' would also clear room for signing solid FA Linemen. So while I do agree that it's unlikely, I wouldn't bet against it either. ;)
    Dec 16, 2012 at 11:19 AM
  • Ceadderman
    Aight Diego, I will try to keep my comments article based. I really am bad about that I guess, but I do keep them topic related whenever possible. I do have to say that the Cardinals aren't a bad team. At least not when our team saw em on the road. They're just showing everyone what a team looks like when they don't have an actual QB and overpay to get one year in and year out. I bet their Coach would kill his own mother to get Alex Smith right about now. There is something to be said about having a "Game Manager" QB. Which brings me full circle back to Smith. I think this team should pay him the money in the Offseason and make him and Kappy fight for the position and carry him into 2013 regardless of who wins the competition. No need to release a solid QB and allow Division rivals access to him. Nobody is going to trade to get a player when they believe that player will be on the market. Taking Smith into 2013 gives this team better trade leverage should they wish to part with him.
    Dec 16, 2012 at 5:49 AM
    Response: (Diego) But you completely dismissed my argument for Smith not going to 'Zona, and I didn't even mention playing against the Niners defense twice a year ...
  • Gonzola
    Me thinks there is a misunderstanding. There is a difference between reception % and receptions total. % is what matters. You can catch 10 passes but if you are dropping 15 along the way you are not a very good receiver. If you are dropping 3 of every 5 passes that hit your hands then you should not be playing in the NFL. Overall the entire Niner offense has a problem with dropped balls (not a counted statistic) and lack of YAC. These past few games I have seen improvement (especially Manningham and Crabtree) in all but VD. Despite coverage, the ball is there many a time -- but it seems his head/heart is not in the game. Like you say maybe this is because VD is double and triple covered, but if I made millions in the NFL and my sole job on certain plays was to catch a ball -- then I am going to catch that ball more than at least 50% of the time when it hits me in the hands/chest/shoulder/etc. Should be closer to 90 % when the ball hits me in the hands. I mean the best quarterback complete at least 2 of 3 passes so the receivers should be able to catch at least 2 of 3 passes that are indeed catchable. GO NINERS!
    Dec 15, 2012 at 8:55 PM
    Response: (Diego) You're killing me Gonzo, Vernon has 38 catches and less than 5 drops http://scores.nbcsports.msnbc.com/fb/leaders.asp?range=NFC&type=Receiving&rank=232&year=
  • Mike
    Roman definitely has the ability & talent to be creative here too IMO. Fantastic read here by Teddy Bruschi. Smart football guy who I have big respect for even though he's a Patriot. Hope you don't mind me leaving a link here....the Pod Cast is awesome. The odds are against us bigtime in this game. Whichever way it goes it should be a huge learning experience for the Kap. http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/page/bruschibreakdown-1213/patriots-go-kaepernick-experience
    Dec 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM
    Response: (AJ) Really good read. Thanks for posting it, Mike. It's the venue that has me worried. The Pats don't lose much in December... Especially at home. This game will be good for the 49ers, regardless of the outcome. For the 49ers to become a truly upper echelon team, they need to win games like this one.
  • Mike
    That's good fundamental coaching Diego but I think you could make a few exceptions on pick plays that's set up to beat the double team in those instances. When their game planning to shut down Davis & he's headed for those 1-3 touch Sundays that's when you pull these certain plays out of the hat is what I'm suggesting. If you can come up with say a couple to maybe a 3rd that are well executed & look great on the drawing board & practice you could aim them towards a specific game situation (3rd down conversion, a mid-field intermediate strike, or RZ play). This is what I'm suggesting that their could be a few creative plays set up for Davis when the D is aimed to shutting him down. You shouldn't let them allow it the entire game. I'm not saying VD is Jerry Rice but it would be a sin to only give your best player only 1-3 touches per game & allow the D to get away with that. That's my point. I agree with you on that basic fundamental that you generally avoid throwing to double coverage but on a pick play you'd only have 1 guy on him & after the block their should be ample to good separation there is what I'm envisioning. LOVE Roman but BW would create plays here.
    Dec 14, 2012 at 11:12 PM
  • Ol fairhful
    Jersey niner, r u serious!!! Kaep has thrown 2 dropped touchdown passes, one to walker which he straight up missed and the deep ball to moss was pass interference and no call. I can't believe u said kaep has made this team regress. Look at the numbers kaep is doing better than smitty on every level. Watch the games fool and stop talking out of ur ass! Yes the clock management needs to improve but this is his time to iron out kinks before we go on our 6th Super Bowl run! Ol faithful OUT!!!!!
    Dec 14, 2012 at 9:26 PM
    Response: (AJ) OI, I posted this comment as a courtesy, because this is your first time posting here. There will be no personal attacks against other posters here. Clean it up, or you won't be posting here any longer.
  • Gonzola
    Vernon Davis is a "good" player. The 49ers this year are a "good" team. The Niner Nation demands GREATNESS. If we are great on Sunday then we win hands down. We need not depend on how the other team plays. We need not depend on their greatness or lack thereof. Regardless of how great the Patriots are on Sunday if the 49ers play their "GREAT" game then they will record a win. Under the circumstances, Kappy has been GREAT consistently. I can not same the same for Vernon Davis... but maybe he and a few other members of the team will rise to the occasion THIS Sunday -- and if they do, then the 49ers win hands down. I am keeping my eye on you, Vernon... do your THANG, and do it RIGHT!
    Dec 14, 2012 at 6:35 PM
    Response: (AJ)To be fair Gonzo, defenses have paid an inordinate amount of attention to Vernon over the past few weeks, and more often than not, he is the first player most teams gameplan for when it comes to the Niner offense. Some defenses go so far as to key their coverages based on where he lines up. The fact is, he's the biggest mismatch for most defenses. As Kaep gets better at exploiting zone coverage, Vernon will see more opportunities.
  • Ceadderman
    First of all what is with Terry B? I would get banned for less and in fact have been. ... ...secondly the Offense last season was WCO based. Smith ran it very well. The Offense at the start of the Season was the WCO and again Smith ran it very well despite the lack of continuity in Play Calling. Roman does implement the Pistol and did implement it when Smith was on the field and Smith ran the plays fairly well but we've seen Opposing Defenses defend against it by shadowing the coverage against the Deep play, making Kappy have to adjust to it. The Offense isn't what we should expect at this stage of the Season with a Super Bowl run hanging in the balance. Apologies if I didn't make it clearer. Terry bruh, you need to chill.
    Dec 14, 2012 at 2:13 PM
    Response: (Diego) I would love it if you two could stop jawing at each other in the comments section and just comment on what we write instead of each other. That would be just great.
  • Mike
    Great read guys. Nice breakdown AJ. I'm still frustrated about Davis. OK he's dbl-teamed but to be practically shut out the past few games..I just would like to see more effort/creativeness to get him more plays per game. How about say a couple/few pick plays? For ex - run some crossing routes where maybe Walker could block out the primary man covering him? Or on a TE screen or short route have Miller motion out then block Davis' first man. (I'm thinking a LB is primarily covering VD so a big has to take the LB out..wait, he does get covered also by CB's & Safeties. Still Walker or Miller could block all options who are on VD. Just an idea.) I 1000% support JH but I do agree with the majority (?) that the timing of the switch is very risky. The more logical transition was to stay with Smith's steadiness & experience & keep Kap as the backup ready to step in if Smith gets injured then let him challenge in the offseason. It is what it is now. Kap's the man. Vs Belichick/Brady/& the Pats? Maybe the smartest team in football? Smith's continuing growth reading D's & Offnsv mastery would be solid for this one. I'm with my boys all the way. Can't miss game..NINERS!!
    Dec 13, 2012 at 7:42 PM
    Response: (Diego) I just don't think Harbaugh/Roman are coaching QB's to force it to a double-covered receiver when that coverage is opening someone/something elsewhere. (AJ) Thanks for reading Mike. I think the Niners are looking to go where the defense isn't. I'd love to see VD get more opportunities...and I think he will, especially when Crabtree, Walker and others begin to demand more attention from opposing defenses.
  • Gonzola
    Vernon Davis made a few negative comments about our quarterback after the Bears game... and then he dropped more than half the passes that hit his hands -- probably closer to 3 out of every 5 passes were dropped. Vernon Davis does not get the ball because he fails to catch the ball. Regardless of coverage if the ball hits your hands then you should catch the ball. Vernon Davis will get more opportunities when he starts catching balls that are thrown within his reach. I like Vernon Davis, but he has to catch the ball 99% of the time it hits his hands and at least 80% of the time it is within one step from him in any direction. I would rather had you two answer my questions about the post-season - while I predict no superbowl this year, I do think it is quite possible the niners pull off a W in New England.
    Dec 13, 2012 at 6:04 PM
    Response: (Diego) The continuing criticism of Vernon, who has been everything you could ask for from the highest TE ever drafted, still baffles me ....
  • Lucky Phil
    LOL. Nice article guys, especially liked the two minute drill, AJ. Kudos to Diego, I believe he came up with the idea for reader questions last year, great idea. As for you Miss Sinn I have not given up on you. Its just not our time, there's always next season? And just between the both of us, I know when you yell "Jumbo Package" AJ rolls off the couch and takes out the trash. He's not fooling anybody.
    Dec 13, 2012 at 5:07 PM
    Response: (Diego) Thanks. (AJ) Thanks for reading, and for the laugh amigo. Go Niners!
  • Jersey9er
    First, thanks for answering my question was real cool to reach out to the fans in this nature. So i commend both of you guys for that. Yeah I think I used the wrong word in regress, i think its more of the terms of not looking drastically different. I for one, as i said will take nothing away from Kaep. However, the same D and Special Teams that many said helped Smith win, are helping Kaep win. My point is like this i guess. We have both QB's that lets say play two separate weeks, one Smith, one Kaep. They both pass for 235yds. Smith 2td's (passing) Kaep 2td's (1 rushing, 1 passing). Smith 2 passes over 20yards, Kaep 5 passes over 20yds. But the end result is still the same but from two different standpoints. And it seems that some say the element of run is great, but if the output which is a win, and one adds a run more, and the other a pass more. Which one is really the better QB. (For now of course) I agreed with Young, Mooch, even the Goat, in saying, now's not the time to experiment. Why worry about going thru growing pains when you shouldnt have too this late in the season.
    Dec 13, 2012 at 12:16 PM
    Response: (Diego) My pleasure, it's fun to mix it up from time to time. And again, unless you don't like Harbaugh as the coach, then you have to live with his decisions regardless of they turn out. Take the good with the bad, and hope there won't be much bad if at all.
  • Bomber
    Do you see this being a trap game for the niners?This game means so much for the patriots for a bye.Don't see them losing final two games.The weather is supposed to be nasty for the game.The patriots are the best bad weather teams.I have seen teams wilt.
    Dec 13, 2012 at 9:08 AM
    Response: (AJ) I'm not sure that I'd call this a trap game. The 49ers are just as hungry for the 2 seed in the NFC. That doesn't mean that I think they'll win though. This is going to be the toughest game the 49ers have played all season, in the least favorable venue imaginable. In stead of a trap game, I look at this as the 49ers first playoff game. If they win, they secure a berth in the post season, and they've proven that they match up to a top tier NFL franchise. If they lose, it turns next week's game against Seattle into a must win scenario. (Diego) Trap games come vs opponents you underestimate while looking ahead. That's not the case here.
  • Terry B.
    Do we really have to talk about AJ's nether regions again? I thought that we were going to stick to football from now on.
    Dec 13, 2012 at 8:52 AM
    Response: (AJ) Nether regions? I have no idea what you're talking about. Miss Sinn is a fan of power football...but I'm not sure what that has to do with my Bolino Supreme. Mind out of the gutter, please. (Diego) Yeah I have no clue what he's talking about
  • Ceadderman
    I don't see implementing the Pistol except in a handful of options where the Offense is needing to convert on 3rd down and playing from behind. Harbaugh and Roman have their Offense, and there are a limited number of personnel in the Offense that have any experience with the formation. Unlike a few years ago when Singletary implemented more of a spread Offense as a result of the personnel making the request to do so. We had 7 or 8 Starters who had run the Spread. We're now down to 4 players with that kind of experience and only one of them have run the Pistol. It makes no sense to implement more of that Offense than necessary. Not to mention this team is not at the stage where they have to change the Offense to get the most out of the personnel.
    Dec 13, 2012 at 7:01 AM
    Response: (AJ) Actually, the 17 of the 49ers 33 snaps (pretty sure that's the number) on passing downs were out of the Pistol...primarily in the 2nd half. I don't think it's coincidence that Kaep played better as a result. The net result is that Kaepernick will have to read less, play action out of the pistol will force defenses to set for the read option, and that could create intermediate and deep opportunities for Kaep against man coverage. It isn't ideal...but it could maximize Kaepernick's skill set...and if this team is going to have a chance of success against the top tier franchises in the NFL, he'll need to be at his best.

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