49ers' Gutty Win Proof Jim Harbaugh Made Right Call Turning to Colin Kaepernick

Jeremy SickelContributor IIIDecember 17, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 16:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers feels the pressure of Rob Ninkovich #50 of the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In one of the more entertaining games all season, the San Francisco 49ers finished off the New England Patriots on Sunday night by the score of 41-34.

San Francisco's defense is what ultimately allowed the team to lead 31-3 early in the third quarter. However, the 49ers' ability to put up that many points is something that should not go unnoticed.

While the 49ers were certainly one of the better teams in the NFL with Alex Smith under center, second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick provides San Francisco with an extra dynamic to its offense.

Smith was able to shed his bust label with a breakout performance last year, becoming one of the league's best game managers. The 49ers thrive with this type of quarterback, leaning primarily on a strong defense and a running game that controls the ball.

After Kaepernick's performance against the Patriots on Sunday night, head coach Jim Harbaugh's decision to bench Smith upon his return from a concussion should no longer be an issue in San Francisco.

Kaepernick threw a career-high four touchdown passes, including a 38-yarder to Michael Crabtree in the fourth quarter that put the game away for the 49ers. Through five starts and parts of four other games, the quarterback is completing almost 66 percent of his passes for 1,289 yards and seven touchdowns to only two interceptions.

Similar to the current NFC playoff picture—just behind the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons—San Francisco entered the 2011 postseason as the No. 2 seed. However, the New York Giants stopped the 49ers in the conference championship game, with some blaming Smith's inability to make plays when the team needed him most.

Harbaugh is banking on the same recipe—great defense and solid running game—to at least get the 49ers to the same point in 2012. But he is also banking on Kaepernick to be the missing piece in returning this franchise back to glory.

While Smith may be the safer option for the 49ers, Kaepernick proved on Sunday night that he is the guy who could get this team to the next level by beating the rest of the NFL's elite.


Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.