49ers Blog and Q&A

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

October 7, 2013
Film review: What's wrong with Kap? (Ans: nothing); Brooks, Wilhoite shine


There was a lot of hand-wringing last night and this morning about Colin Kaepernick's modest outing, despite the 34-3 score. Kaepernick, after all, completed passes to only three different pass catchers, and only one of them, Anquan Boldin, was a wideout. More than half of his 113 yards came on a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis, and Davis gained most of those yards when he pulled away from safety Ed Reed down the sideline.

But it's not as if Kaepernick was inaccurate or if he was foolish with his decisions. On the team's first offensive drive, he hit Davis for 13 yards, Boldin for 12 yards, Davis for 11 yards and Boldin for nine yards. He converted three third downs on the drive. When the drive was over, the 49ers were up 14-0, and frankly did not need Kaepernick to be prolific for the rest of the night. Instead they needed him to be responsible and safe. And he was.

Here's why Tramaine Brock's interception was so important: As sturdy as the 49ers' defense was all evening, the Texans still were able to reliably run the ball. Arian Foster had 47 yards at the half - Frank Gore had 45, by comparison - and finished with 98. If the score had been closer, the Texans could have run the ball more, and as was the case in Weeks 2 and 3, worn down a 49ers defense that, by the end of the game, was missing three starters, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald.

This was a vintage game from Vic Fangio and the 49ers defense. They didn't send very many blitzes at Schaub, choosing instead to drop different players into coverage in an effort to confuse the interception-prone quarterback. (Spoiler alert: it worked).

With Smith out of action, the team's best pass rusher is Ahmad Brooks. Brooks, however, spent a lot of time trailing running backs and tight ends into the flat or downfield. He's taken on a bigger role now that his bookend has taken a leave of absence, and Jim Harbaugh took time to acknowledge that in his post-game press conference.

"There's a guy that he does so many things for our defense," Harbaugh said of Brooks. "Pressure, run game, knocking it down, knocking down the edges which is so important in today's scheme going against a zone running game. He does it with very low fanfare. There's never any, there's no sack dance he has. He just doesn't call a lot of attention to himself. He plays every game, game-in game-out, tough. A lot of energy. Just another guy to highlight."

Speaking of Willis, his replacement, Michael Wilhote, had a very solid game, both as a tackler (11 stops) and in coverage. Wilhoite even added two tackles on special teams. If you saw what Wilhoite makes vs. what Willis makes, you'd be dizzy.

Both of the 49ers' short, rushing touchdowns were to the left side with Alex Boone, the team's most unheralded offensive lineman, pulling from his right guard spot. Boone sealed off the end of the Texans' defensive line on Anthony Dixon's touchdown, giving the tailback an easy jog into the end zone.

But before we heap too much praise on Boone, et alia, none of the 49ers offensive linemen could handle J.J. Watt individually. He was part man, part mythical beast on Sunday night. Anthony Davis had a particularly tough time with Watt, who broke free of the right tackle on several plays to tackle a 49ers runner behind the line of scrimmage.

In the run-up to the game, the 49ers players were careful to mention Justin Smith whenever they were asked about Watt. "We have our own great defensive lineman .... yadda, yadda, yadda). That's true, but Watt is playing so well right now that he's in a class by himself.

Gore's left cleat became pinned in the turf when he was tackled after a short gain, which caused his sprained ankle. He gained 36 yards after the injury, but it will bear watching this week. The 49ers have done a much better job in recent seasons of managing Gore's workload, and Kendall Hunter could see more action against the Cardinals.

Carlos Rogers usually is, to be polite, a modest tackler. Whenever he had a chance to hit Foster on Sunday, however, he turned into the second coming of Dick Butkus. The two exchanged unpleasantries after every encounter. I'd love to know the history there. It can't merely be that they both played in the SEC (Auburn vs. Tennessee), can it?

One of the key plays in the second half came courtesy of punter Andy Lee. After the Texans scored a field goal on their opening possession and started showing some semblance of life, the 49ers had their second straight three-and-out and had to punt. Lee's boot from his own 24-yard line went 60 yards and a holding penalty against Houston was added as well. The Texans took over at their own 10, and the field-position advantage had been flipped.

NFL officials should watch Mike Carey's crew in action. It was the rare game these days in which the fans actually watched the action on the field instead of officials dither over calls. There were no - praise the Lord! - annoying booth reviews. Carey and his crew called 10 penalties on the evening, and the game was over in 2:50. The 49ers, who entered the game committing an average of 10 penalties, had only three. And one of them was an intentional delay of game to give Phil Dawson more room for a field goal.

More of that, please.

-- 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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