49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 10, 2012
Film review: What makes Aldon Smith's achievement even more remarkable


I have to admit to a preconceived notion as I sat down and re-watched the 49ers-Dolphins. My sense after the game was that Colin Kaepernick's 50-yard touchdown run at the end masked what was at best a disjointed offensive effort. I thought the 49ers were saved by the botched Dolphins punt that gave San Francisco the ball at the Miami 9-yard line in the third quarter.

There certainly were some mistakes, especially in the first half. And the muffed punt definitely marked the turning point in the game. But Kaepernick and the 49ers were much better in the second half than they were in the first, and the quarterback only threw two incompletions after halftime as the offense got on a roll.

The second half also included two well-conceived plays that went for naught. The first was the flea flicker from Kaepernick to Randy Moss that was on the money but fell from the receiver's grasp. On the next play, offensive coordinator Greg Roman called a change-of-direction run for LaMichael James that gained 14 yards but was called back on a Mike Iupati holding call. Iupati leads the 49ers with eight penalties this season.

Kaepernick attempted 27 passes (including four sacks). Eighteen of them were out of the shotgun, nine were from under center. The 49ers, of course, mainly threw the ball out of the shotgun, but there were some runs mixed in, notably Frank Gore's 19-yard up-the-middle run at the beginning of the fourth quarter that set up Anthony Dixon's touchdown.

The 49ers ran the read-option three times on the final scoring drive. Of course, the play that everyone will remember is Kaepernick's 50-yard score. He tied his own franchise record (set last week) for longest run by a 49ers quarterback.

On the play before it, however, Kaepernick gained two yards and absorbed a hard hit as he was gang-tackled by the Dolphins. That's the flipside to having the option be a large component of your offense - it exposes your quarterback to big hits. The Redskins are dealing with that now with Robert Griffin III. The Eagles' scrambling quarterback, Michael Vick, seems to get hurt every season.

The 49ers don't run the option as much as the Redskins, and therefore they don't expose Kaepernick as much as Washington exposes Griffin. But it's something to think about. If you'll recall, Kaepernick took a vicious blow on a run earlier this year against Buffalo.

Aldon Smith is now three sacks from tying Michael Strahan's single-season record. What's noteworthy is that, as an outside linebacker in the 49ers 3-4 scheme, he doesn't rush the passer on every pass play. In fact, Smith dropped into coverage on eight of the Dolphins' 33 pass plays on Sunday. He even covered receiver Devon Bess in the slot a few times.

Smith also whiffed on a potential sack in the third quarter as he blew around the edge and brushed past Ryan Tannehill. If he comes up short on the hunt for Strahan's record, that opportunity will loom large.

A lot was written about LaMichael James' debut yesterday - including by me - and deservedly so. I thought the 49ers were decidedly one-note in the running game against the Rams last week. With James, the 49ers had some speed and outside running to go along with the power game.

Dixon, however, also deserves recognition. His outside run and dive in the third quarter set up Gore's one-yard touchdown run. (Good block by Joe Staley on the score). Gore returned the favor in the fourth quarter, setting up Dixon's one-yard plunge. Again, the Dolphins were well-blocked on the play, but Dixon still had to beat an unblocked defender, and he did.

Michael Crabtree led all receivers with nine catches for 93 yards and once again showed real grit and toughness in fighting for extra yards after the catch. Crabtree is averaging just short of 59 yards a game this season. He's on pace to have his most prolific season yet, but to still fall shy of 1,000 yards. (He's on pace for 937).

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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