The 49ers need Kaepernick to play like Smith on Sunday

Dec 3, 2013 at 9:24 PM

On Sunday the 49ers will try to break a 2 game losing streak to the Seahawks. Looking back over the last two losses one thing became clear, they needed Alex Smith.

Before you think I've lost my marbles, let me say that they don't actually need Smith on the field, just for Colin Kaepernick to play like him. Let me explain further. The Seahawks thrive at forcing opponents to make mistakes by becoming impatient and trying to do to much. Opposing offenses have to protect the ball and meticulously work it down the field if they are to have a chance, and this is something that Smith thrives at doing. And he did it almost flawlessly during three straight victories against Seattle from 2011 to the first half of 2012.

Smith's style of play was boring. He constantly leaned on his defense and his special teams, but most importantly he protected the football and rarely put those units in bad situations. Especially against Seattle. In his three starts against the Seahawks after the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, Smith threw a total of 1 interception. In Kaepernick's two starts against Seattle he has thrown 4 interceptions, and in the 29-3 loss back in September, Seattle's first 5 points and 15 total can be traced directly back to Kaepernick.

Now to be fair, both of Kaepernick's starts against the Seahawks have taken place in Seattle. That's a tall task as we were all reminded of while watcing the Seahawks take apart the Saints. In fact, the Seahawks haven't lost at home since December 24, 2011 when the 49ers defeated them 19-17.

That fact doesn't change what Kaepernick will need to do if the 49ers are going to win on Sunday. The Seahawks defense doesn't give up many big plays in the passing game, something that the 49ers passing game tends to need to be successful. For example, in Sunday's victory over the Rams 167 of Kaepernick's 275 total passing yards came through 6 completions.

The Seahawks defense also comes into the game leading the NFL by allowing the fewest yards after the catch. On Sunday over half of the 49ers passing yards were the result of big yards after the catch plays by the wide receivers, 141 of 275.

Go back to the last time the 49ers defeated Seattle. After trying to take some deep shots in the first half and coming up snake eyes, the 49ers opened the second half with a different approach. On that opening possession the 49ers went 85 yards on 10 plays including 5 completions on 5 attempts for 65 of those yards, Gore for 15, Hunter for 11, Gore for 12, Crabtree for 10, and the money shot to Delanie Walker for 12 yards and the only touchdown of the game. That drive set the Seahawks back and opened up the running lanes for Frank Gore who had runs of 37 and 20 yards on ensuing drives.

During his time in San Francisco, Smith came to be known by some as Captain Checkdown for his propensity to not take chances with the ball and instead make the safe throw underneath. The check down is something we have not seen a lot of from Kaepernick during his time as the starting quarterback, but it is something that he will likely need to do quite a bit this week. If the 49ers are going to beat the Seahawks they will need Kaepernick to play a lot like Smith.

Jack Hammer is the writer for
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Ron
    I agree with some of the things in this article, however... This Seahawks team is a much better team than the team Alex Smith faced. Secondly, I don't think the Seahawks can be beat by relying on a bunch of long drives... Their defense is too good to allow that. We will have to have drives that consist of some big plays to beat this Seahawks team.
    Dec 6, 2013 at 7:32 AM
  • ttime1
    I totally...100%...absolutely....disagree. Kaep is not Alex not should he even try to play like Alex. That dink and dunk strategy will not work against the Seahawks anymore. They are simply to fast and talented to allow a team to march down the field at 3.5 yards per clip. You have to put them on their heels and not let off of the petal until the whistle says game-over. Kaep is a playmaker and he needs to play his game and get the ball to the other playmakers on the basketball break all game!
    Dec 5, 2013 at 5:51 PM
  • Niner
    He needs to watch young and Montana carve up teams with short med passes until they gave up. Everything to hi is a 15 yard dart. But you do t beat Seattle in shoot outs. You have to stop Wilson, like giants did to Montana, and Brady x 2. They have the better qb, we have the better team, let the dogs loose after Wilson. He can't beat us flat on his back.
    Dec 5, 2013 at 5:33 PM
  • Mike
    Comparing Smith's two home victories in S.F to Kaepernicks two road losses in Seattle isn't a reasonable comparison. Smith did win a game in Seattle in 2011 but that was against a Tavaris Jackson Seahawk team and not the Russell Wilson Seahawks. Pity the Chiefs aren't playing in Seattle this season, it would be interesting to put your hypothesis to the test. My guess is the Seahawks would easily beat the Chiefs at home just as they recently did with the Saints
    Dec 5, 2013 at 3:55 PM
    Response: Mike, You're absolutely right and I noted that. Check out these stat lines: 14-23, 140 yards 1 TD 1 int 6.03 yards per attempt 15-29, 175 yards 1 TD 1 int 6.08 yards per attempt The top line is Smith's from the first game against Seattle last season, the bottom line is Kaepernick's from yesterday.
  • Big Al
    Jack Hammer, you are not a sports writer. Get a real job. This one is far too big for you...similar to a pass over 5 yards for Alex during his 8 years here.
    Dec 5, 2013 at 3:46 PM
    Response: You might be right Big Al. Thanks for taking the time to check it out and respond.
  • Jersey9er
    You know I don't mind with the quick Smith analogy. You didn't say we needed him back. You clarified exactly what u meant, then u described the manner from Smith that Kaep may need to help us win. Thats not a bad thing either. I've heard others say he needs to play like Brady, or Manning or Rodgers, etc. Many of us fans have been talking about checking it down, and the short routes all season. This is a statement game, and will tell the niners where they fall in the division and what we should look forward too postseason. Go Niners. All i know is, this offseason, and next year's pre-season, Kaep better be getting plenty of playing time. I really believe that the lack of reps during the pre-season hurt his growth early on this year.
    Dec 5, 2013 at 1:17 PM
  • jkearney
    If Kap plays like Smith, we lose. Seattle is much better than they were in 2011 and the 3 Smith games you site, two were at home. Kap has only played Seattle in Seattle, a little different.
    Dec 5, 2013 at 10:08 AM
  • Lui Regueira
    Beautifully said. I believe harbaugh should of kept alex starting and kept kap seasoning, inserting him here and there like bill did with joe then with Steve.
    Dec 4, 2013 at 8:00 PM
  • Ladale
    That was prior to their starting QB in Seattle. To win Vic Fangio needs to get speed into Seattle's offensive backfield not allowing their mobile QB to duck and dodge big defensive lineman until something opens up. Statement game for both Roman and Fangio.
    Dec 4, 2013 at 3:47 PM
  • Marty Hill
    The 49ers offense has been consistant, part of the problem. You know they will try to pound the rock. Look how many receptionst he RBs have this year. Its not going to happen. Last week they broght in Dixon, everyone knew they plan on running up the middle. They did for one yard. They will not change the offense, they will try other players & hope it might work.
    Dec 4, 2013 at 3:10 PM
  • Gonzola
    Methinks this is an oversimplification. If we had play calling like the Chiefs we would have won EVERY game this year. Do you see how many play action, roll outs, and option plays Kansas City runs on offense? That is what we need. Not Alex Smith, part 2, but plays that allow Kappy to GET OUT OF THE POCKET. Imagination and OPENESS on offense... something that we lack with Roman. So win or lose I am sticking to my guns that the 49ers fundamentally will be cast as losers until they make concrete changes with respect to offensive play calling and upper management. You have to behave and strategize like winners to be winners. And right now win or lose the 49ers are losers as they can only beat teams with losing records. We need to be clutch and we need to win big games. I will say it again -- I said it before the bookmakers. SF by 2 is my call for this Sunday. They MUST win and we must either get rid of Roman or take some power away from him and his horrible play calling if we are ever to return to greatness. Go NINERS!
    Dec 4, 2013 at 3:09 PM
  • Edd
    Jack, you are so wrong. The 49ers dont need an Alex Smith, thats why they got rid of him. In today's NFL, you need a QB to play "to win" the game, not play "to not lose" a game. Case in point, the KC Chiefs. Despite their record, everyone has written them off as not being capable to go deep into the playoffs. Why? Alex Smith. Bottom line, yes you want to play smart and not turn the ball over. But not so smart that it paralyzes your chance of winning.
    Dec 4, 2013 at 6:58 AM
  • Nytalus
    Totally agree. Seattle defense does the same thing our defense does. Take away anything over 10 yards and force the offense to dink and dunk its way down the field. Normal spread offenses get impatient and eventually they make a mistake. Kap has to play conservative and make the slow methodical approach to passing even if it takes 4 yards a pop. Smith was frustrating when he wouldn't take the deep shot, but I had more faith in him against strong defenses than Kap.
    Dec 4, 2013 at 5:39 AM
  • Tom
    So your complaint about Alex Smith was that he was boring. The fact that he came into the season with highest winning percentage of any QB in the league over the past two years is of no consequence because you weren't entertained enough. Geez Louise. Where does this website find you guys.
    Dec 4, 2013 at 1:56 AM
  • Marko
    Ill agree with one point and thats to throw to the rbs more against this d. James against a lb is a mismatch all day, even gore. But no way does kap need to play like smith, because if he does we stand no chance. Smith folds under pressure, and that is what this D does to opposing qbs until they make a mistake (pressure all game long).
    Dec 3, 2013 at 11:38 PM
  • Rob
    Great analysis Jack - it is no coincidence Alex Smith beat the Seahawks playing the disciplined style of football
    Dec 3, 2013 at 10:59 PM

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