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December 16, 2012
Poise under pressure: Harbaugh likes Kaepernick's bounce-back ability

KapnTom.jpg

FOXBORO, Mass. - Minutes after Sunday's game, Colin Kaepernick was asked about his touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.

"Which one?" the quarterback asked earnestly.

Indeed, Kaepernick threw two scores to Crabtree under a cold and steady New England rain. The second of which was most prominent because it wrestled the lead back for the 49ers with 6:25 remaining. Crabtree wasn't the primary read on the play, but when Kaepernick saw the Patriots in man-to-man coverage, he didn't hesitate. "He wins a lot of one-on-one matchups, and he did it on that play," Kaepernick said.

Jim Harbaugh, meanwhile, may have been even more impressed with the first Kaepernick-to-Crabtree touchdown, which came in the third quarter.

On an earlier drive in the quarter, Kaepernick tried to force a throw in the end zone to Randy Moss. Safety Devin McCourty, however, cut in front of the receiver for the interception, Kaepernick's only turnover of the contest.

Harbaugh said one of the most difficult tasks for a quarterback is to make a big pass following such a mistake. But that's exactly what Kaepernick did on his next attempt, which was set up by an interception by Aldon Smith. His pass from 27 yards away threaded three defenders and put the 49ers ahead 31-3. The bounce back was similar to one Kaepernick made two weeks ago when he followed a critical fumble against the Rams with a 50-yard run and a potential go-ahead touchdown pass.

Indeed, the young quarterback seemed unfazed by the magnitude of Sunday's game. He hit four of his first five passes - all them to either Crabtree or Moss - on the opening drive, including a 24-yard touchdown to Moss on the sixth play of the possession.

"It was a tough game to play quarterback," Harbaugh said. "You saw both quarterbacks at times - you're not going to hit every pass. You're not going to make every throw There's going to be fumbles You saw turnovers on both sides it was a heck of a football game. I think Kaepernick definitely (acquitted) himself well. He's got poise that's beyond his years."

Slippery when wet - Harbaugh said Kaepernick required a little in-game coaching to fix a stream of botched exchanges between the quarterback and center Jonathan Goodwin.

There were five bad snaps on the evening for the 49ers, including four fumbles. One of them came on fourth-and-one situation deep in New England territory, resulting in the 49ers turning the ball over on downs. Kaepernick started using a glove midway through the game and adjusted his technique.

"The ball was hitting and squirting off his hand," Harbaugh said. "He moved his guide hand a little further to the right and his top hand a little further to the right. That helped."

Moss no. 3 - With his 24-yard touchdown catch on the 49ers' opening drive, Moss passed former Ram and 49er Isaac Bruce for all-time receiving yards. Moss finished the game with 15,220 career yards.

Moss spent 3 1/2 seasons in New England and had one of the most prolific years of his career in 2007. He caught 98 passes for 1,493 touchdowns yards, averaging 15.2 yards per catch. Last week, Moss said he credited Patriots coach Bill Belichick for increasing his NFL education after he arrived in New England as a nine-year veteran.

Et cetera - Frank Gore entered Sunday's game trailing former 49ers Joe Perry by 30 yards on the team's all-time rushing list, including the yards Perry accumulated when the 49ers were in the All-American Football Conference in 1948 and '49. Gore finished with 83 yards and a touchdown, putting him in first place all time.

* Guard Mike Iupati briefly left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Leonard Davis on the drive but returned in the second half. Linebacker Clark Haggans left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return.

* After missing last week's coin toss, Alex Smith was on hand for the pre-game ritual against the Patriots. As one of the team captains elected by his peers, Smith mostly has been a part of the coin toss even after losing his starting job to Kaepernick.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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