Colin Kaepernick: Polarizing 49ers QB Will Use Passing Game to Down Falcons

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IJanuary 19, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 12:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Since claiming the starting QB position from Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has lit the NFL on fire with his ability to run the ball from the QB position.

He's gained national and long-lasting fame with his performance against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, rushing for a QB playoff-record 181 yards and two touchdowns in his team's 45-31 win to move on to the NFC Championship.

However, as Kaepernick and the 49ers prepare for Sunday's play-in game for Super Bowl XLVII, don't make light of his abilities as a passer.

We've heard all season about the run, but it's the passing game that will have a bigger hand in downing the Falcons en route to the big game on Feb. 3.

For starters, much has been made about the Falcons' ability to stop the run against QBs that keep the ball out of the backfield. Since the two teams have been matched up against each other, there's one number that stands out in Atlanta's rushing defense—8.9.

It's the amount of yards per play they've given up to rushing QBs this season. Division rival Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, last week's opponent, both had successful days when they pulled down the ball to run, and the general consensus is that Kaep will run wild against a porous defense.

By all accounts, he will run wild. ESPN's Trey Wingo notes that Kaepernick has a chance to break another QB record this weekend with just 100 yards, well within his reach by previous standards:

Keep this # in mind Sunday, 281. That's the most rushing yards ever by a QB in 2 straight games. Colin Kaepernick comes in with 181 vs Pack

— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 18, 2013

He might get to 100, but against this prideful and tough Atlanta defense, it won't be easy. Former Niners boss Mike Nolan is the defensive coordinator in Atlanta, and he seems keen on sending the house to attack this read-option scheme.

Additionally, long-time NFL starters like John Abraham, Sean Weatherspoon and Asante Samuel have the kind of emotion and experience required to hone in on one player and take that aspect out of the game.

Not to worry, Niners. Kaepernick can do it with his arm, too.

In addition to his playoff record, Kaepernick threw for 263 yards and two scores against Green Bay, proving he can get the job done when given the chance. According to ESPN's Stats and Information on Twitter, he's also one of the more accurate passers when it comes to putting the ball in a catchable spot.

Lowest % of overthrown/underthrown passes this season- Colin Kaepernick (13%), Matt Ryan (14%), Drew Brees (14%)

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 18, 2013

Although that stat could be misinterpreted based on Kaepernick's number of games played and what throws the team asks him to make, there's been plenty of throws he's made this season that prove he can do the job at a high level with any NFL throw.

Just look at Michael Crabtree, a man who has reemerged as an elite NFL talent at WR after Kaepernick took the helm. His numbers are way up, and he's become a go-to guy and another offensive weapon this team didn't have at the start of the season.

With the Falcons keen on stopping the run, it also appears Kaepernick will get plenty of chances against man coverage, sometimes with a safety over the top. It will be difficult to stop the run without stuffing the box, and that leads to man coverage.

As noted in this detailed report by Sports Illustrated's Matt Bowen, the 49ers were able to attack through the air against both Cover 1 and zone coverage, a strong indicator for what kind of passing game the Falcons can expect on Sunday.

Bottom line—Kaepernick can run. We all know that. However, with so much emphasis on that side of his game, it's easy to forget that he's been quite the polished passer already.

And when you combine that with Kaepernick's ability to run, it's no secret why San Francisco is the biggest road favorite in an NFC Championship game since 1978.

Stop the run, we'll beat you with the pass. It's a phrase with little prophetic meaning, but that kind of pragmatic approach is feasible when your QB can do both so well.


Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.