On a bone-chillingly cold and rainy Foxborough night, the San Francisco 49ers withstood one of the all-time great comeback attempts from the New England Patriots—a feat that would have never been possible with Alex Smith under center.
The Niners made the highly controversial decision to switch quarterbacks back in Week 11, after Smith was knocked out of what turned out to be a 24-24 tie with the St. Louis Rams one game prior.
At the time, Colin Kaepernick was an unproven second-year QB that played a more exciting brand of football and held more promise than Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick now in his eighth season in the league and reduced to nothing more than a glorified game manager by coach Jim Harbaugh.
Since Harbaugh elected to start the youthful, speedy, strong-armed signal-caller, the team has gone 4-1 and the bold gamble has paid dividends. Sunday night’s victory removed any lingering doubts that the NFC favorites would be better off with Smith running the show.
In a game that the 49ers came into as five-point underdogs, Kaepernick completed 14-of-25 passes for 216 yards, four touchdowns and a single interception. He also ran seven times for 28 yards, while using his elusiveness to avoid the pass rush multiple times per drive.
When the Pats, led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, mounted a crazy fourth-quarter comeback that tied it up at 31 apiece, Kaepernick wasn’t fazed. He calmly answered on the next possession (after LaMichael James returned it to the New England 38-yard line) with a quick TD strike to Michael Crabtree.
It showed poise, bravado and every other positive adjective you could use to describe a quarterback. Kaepernick displayed the same kind of confidence that Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the elite NFL quarterbacks project.
Smith wasn’t able to find that within himself at the professional level, and it’s no question that Kaepernick is already leaps and bounds better for this franchise in his second year. It was proven true when the Niners held on for a 41-34 victory in a primetime Sunday Night Football matchup.
We expect the 25-year-old to take the Niners deep into the playoffs and further prove that Harbaugh’s decision to swap QBs was absolutely genius.