Jim Harbaugh has made it official as the 49ers head into Week 13—Colin Kaepernick will get the green light against the St. Louis Rams. Kaepernick will make his third consecutive start of the season and second consecutive start on the road.
The last time the Rams and 49ers squared off, they ended in a tie. As I mentioned multiple times before, no NFL game should ever end in a tie. The NFL should be implementing the playoff rule to reflect the regular season rule, or they should adopt the same overtime rules as college football.
Regardless, that's a topic for another day. Currently, San Francisco holds the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff race and will need to win Sunday if it wants to keep that spot. Chicago will be looking to knock off the Seahawks in an effort to grab that No. 2 spot.
But before we move full-speed ahead into Week 13, let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between from Week 12.
There are plenty of impressive individual performances that can be taken away from the 49ers' Week 12 contest against the Saints. However, it would be silly of me to single out a single player when the 49ers defense played magnificent as a whole.
More specifically, San Francisco's pass rush was as potent as I have seen it all season long. Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and Ray McDonald all made Drew Brees' day unpleasant. As a team, the 49ers finished with five sacks, seven quarterback hits and 16 hurries.
Not a bad day at the office for Vic Fangio's defense. Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Brooks put together the three most impressive performances. Each player had 1.5 sacks, and Brooks added a pick-six of his own.
Justin Smith's performance marked his first back-to-back sack game since the 2011 NFC Championship game. Hard to believe considering the type of season he had last year, yet for whatever reason, his sack numbers are way down this year. Last year, he ended the season with nine sacks; this year, he only has 2.5.
Fortunately for the 49ers, Aldon Smith is picking up the slack for everyone. After a mind-blowing rookie campaign in 2011, it was hard to fathom him having an even better year in 2012. For one, he would be a full-time outside linebacker, which meant taking on more snaps and more double teams.
Yet Smith is so well-conditioned that the increased workload has actually made him a better player. His pass rushing skills were phenomenal as a package player last year, but with more opportunities this year, it has made him a better pass-rusher.
Early on in the season, the 49ers defense didn't appear as it had that same juice it had last year, yet they have made it a point over the last five weeks to prove everyone wrong. Their last loss in Week 6 served as a wake-up call when the Giants owned them in every way.
Heading into Week 13, Aldon Smith needs to register 1.5 sacks to keep pace with the single-season sack record.
Through 12 weeks of the season, Coach Harbaugh's club is the sixth-most penalized team in the NFL, which raises plenty of eyebrows considering it was the eighth-most penalized team in the league last year.
It hasn't really hurt it at any point this season considering it is 8-2-1 on the season. Although, against New Orleans, things seemed to get a tad bit out of control. As a team, it was flagged a total of 13 times—luckily enough, the Saints declined three of the 13, but 10 is still way too many.
On average, San Francisco is flagged a total of seven times per game, and over the course of its last three games, that number jumps up to 7.3 flags per game.
So, I begged the question: Who is the most penalty ridden player on the team? Here's what I found out.
The most penalty-ridden player Harbaugh has to deal with, according to Pro Football Focus, is left guard Mike Iupati. It comes as a surprise that Iupati has already been flagged seven times this year by the officials. In comparison, he was only penalized five times all season long last year.
He started the season off strong by not drawing a flag through the first four games of the season, but the last seven games haven't been as kind to him. Over the last seven games, he has two games with multiple penalties and three other games where he has been flagged once.
When compared to other players at his position, he is the fourth-most penalized guard in the NFL and third-most penalized left guard. Not to mention only one of the seven yellow flags directed at Iupati have been declined.
The two other most penalized players on Greg Roman's offense are right tackle Anthony Davis and left tackle Joe Staley—each player has been flagged four times. Between the offense and the defense, the penalty numbers are fairly close.
San Francisco's defense has 32 penalties to its name, and its offense has 35 penalties to its name. If the 49ers don't make the high number of flags a priority, it will end up costing them a game at some point down the road.
Stock Watch (Week-By-Week Evaluation)
Rising: Colin Kaepernick
On Wednesday, Coach Harbaugh announced that the second-year player out of Nevada would get the start heading into Week 13. He's currently 2-0 as a starter and completed 32-of-48 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns in Week's 11 and 12.
Falling: Anthony Davis
Rough game in pass protection for the right tackle. He surrendered four quarterback pressures and was penalized twice. Davis will look to have a bounce-back week this week against Chris Long, yet it's unlikely it will happen.
Rising: Ray McDonald
McDonald is quietly having another fantastic season at left defensive end. He recorded eight pressures against the Saints and is on pace to record 39 pressures by season's end. It's not quite as productive as his 2011 season, but it will be hard for him to ever eclipse the numbers from 2011.
Falling: Isaac Sopoaga
Another week, another poor performance from Isaac Sopoaga. It's hard to tell what has happened to his game this season. He hasn't been able to stop the run or rush the passer, and according to PFF, he only has three positively graded games this season.
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