The New Orleans Saints are beating the San Francisco 49ers on both sides of the ball after one half of play in New Orleans. The score is tied 14-14 at halftime, but the lead could easily be well in the Saints' favor.
How are the 5-5 Saints so easily keeping up with the 7-2-1 juggernaut that is the 49ers? The answer is simple: This is what happens when you make an unnecessary quarterback change.
Quarterback Alex Smith—having the best season of his career—was concussed in Week 10 and had to sit in Week 11 for medical reasons. After a quality game by rookie backup Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers had a knee-jerk reaction and changed quarterbacks.
Now they are seeing the consequences of that. Instead of having Smith—a reliable quarterback with a historically high completion percentage—they have Kaepernick, who makes a few exciting plays but also a lot of mistakes.
At the half, Kaepernick is 7-of-12 with an interception and a 54.9 rating. He had a pair of entertaining runs but has also missed far too many open receivers. The result is that the 49ers offense is looking worse than it has in a long time. The only reason the game is close is because of an interception returned for a touchdown by Ahmad Brooks.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has a choice to make: He can stick with his initial reaction and stay with Kaepernick, or he can go back to the rock-solid leader who is 19-5-1 n his last 25 regular season games.
Smith is completing more than 70 percent of his passes for the season and has a 104.1 quarterback rating. It is painful to watch him sit on the bench and cheer for his less experienced backup.
These types of experiments should happen in the preseason, not when you are battling for a playoff bye and for playoff home-field advantage. Hopefully Harbaugh will recognize this as he makes his halftime adjustments.