49ers Blog and Q&A

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

December 10, 2013
Film review: A more Kaepernick-y outing; Miller shines; Rice TEs in the spotlight


He didn't crack the 200-yard mark, he threw an interception at the goal line and he finished with a poorer passer rating, 67.5, than his opponent. But Colin Kaepernick had a very solid afternoon against the best defense in the league.

It was a more Kaepernick-y performance than what he'd been having earlier in the year. What do I mean by that? After Kaepernick took over at quarterback last year, it seemed like the 49ers never were out of a game. Whether with his arm - or often with his feet - Kaepernick was terrific at the end of games and almost seemed to will the team down field. In that regard, it was very much like the way he played quarterback at Nevada.

That end-of-game and end-of-half magic largely was missing this season until Sunday. Kaepernick led the 49ers to a touchdown at the end of the half, including a nicely placed pass at the goal line to a well-covered Vernon Davis. His eight-yard run also helped set up the game-winning field goal.

It certainly wasn't a perfect performance. But 49ers observers are watching for signs that the stars are aligning for the team at season's end, and the fact that Kaepernick of 2013 is starting to look more like Kaepernick of 2012 is a good sign.

Fullback Bruce Miller had more carries - three - than in any other game in his three-year career. The reason, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said afterward, was because the Seattle defensive linemen are so quick, the 49ers wanted to hit the hole on third-and-short situations as quickly as possible.

Indeed, the 49ers interior linemen, particularly right guard Alex Boone, seemed to have trouble with the Seahawks linemen. Boone was uncharacteristically flagged for two penalties while left guard Adam Snyder gave up a big sack in the fourth quarter. Both players, however, redeemed themselves with big blocks on the 49ers' game-winning drive.

Back to Miller ... He had to pick up a lot of the slack from Delanie Walker's absence at the start of the season, and that really hasn't changed as we head into the final three games. Miller played a lot of snaps, made several key blocks and had one of his best games of the season. I don't follow the NFL's other fullbacks, but I imagine that Miller should be a favorite for a Pro Bowl spot.

This is bound to infuriate fans. The Seahawks have gotten a lot more from their No. 2 tight end, Luke Willson, than the 49ers have received from their's, Vance McDonald. Both are rookies and both played at Rice. McDonald was a second-round pick; Willson was a fifth rounder.

Willson has 16 catches for 242 yards this season, and he scored his first touchdown - 39 yards - on Sunday. That was one of the two long passes he caught against Patrick Willis, who was guilty of peeking into the backfield in anticipation of a Marshawn Lynch run instead of covering the tight end.

Both Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith had quiet games. That was partly due to how effective the Seahawks are at running play-action. That is, both outside linebackers had to make sure the ball hadn't been handed off to Lynch before committing to the pass rush. Smith's only statistic of the game? He was credited with one tackle. (Brooks was credited with five).

That being said, it was Smith who helped flush Russell Wilson from the pocket on the opening-possession play in which the quarterback was hammered by linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who had another excellent game. That's as big a hit as the slippery Wilson has absorbed this season.

Speaking of speedy linebackers, the Seahawks have their own Bowman-Willis clone in Bobby Wagner. He had a very good game, including a shoestring tackle on Kaepernick in the opening quarter that saved a touchdown. He also had a hard tackle on Frank Gore on the first play of the game. Gore immediately signaled to the sideline, then missed the next three 49ers' offensive plays, including the first play of their next series.

If you thought the batted-blocked-punt sequence on Sunday was odd, you're not alone. Jim Harbaugh thought so, too. To recap, the 49ers blocked a Seahawks punt at the 17-yard line and it was batted forward to the 34-yard line by a Seahawks player. That's a penalty, but not a loss-of-downs penalty. That is, the 49ers' only choices were to accept the penalty and allow Seattle to punt again or take the ball at the 34. They chose the latter.

"It does (seem odd)," Harbaugh said Monday. "That you could benefit from a foul. I don't think anybody wants that. So, the solution possibly is you treat it like the ball was kicked. Kicking and batting would be the same. It would be a loss of down. But, that's for the competition committee to decide."

LaMichael James bounced back from a couple of off efforts against Washington and St. Louis with a solid game, including some very difficult catches of punts. Not only was it cold on Sunday, the wind started to whip up after halftime.

Join me for a 49ers chat at 11 a.m. Www.sacbee.com/live.

-- 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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