It was also the return of the type of game plan that the 49ers need to succeed. Colin Kaepernick, for really the first time all year, was reined in. If the Niners want to get back to the Super Bowl, they need to continue to do so.
Kaepernick threw the ball only 23 times against the Rams, his lowest amount on the season. He also only ran the ball three times, again his lowest amount on the year.
He completed 65.2 percent of his passes, a much-needed improvement on his average completion percentage of 47.25 over the previous two weeks.
The Niners didn't ask Kaepernick to do too much because they've realized that he's simply not ready to do too much. Defenses have adjusted to him. They had an offseason to prepare and are following the game plan the Seahawks used to shut down the Niners. The young star's Week 1 performance against the Green Bay Packers is not the norm.
The Niners are better when they stick to the run. Frank Gore was finally unleashed against the Rams, running for 153 yards and a score. He had 142 yards the previous three weeks combined. Gore, like last year, is actually the engine that makes this team go. Without Gore, the read-option isn't as effective.
The read-option only works because there's the potential of two guys running. If Gore isn't getting the ball in more traditional formations, defenses don't really have to worry about him getting the ball in the read-option.
That, in turn, forces Kaepernick to throw the ball more, and it's clear he's not ready for that kind of responsibility. The Colts and Seahawks limited throwing lanes and forced him into four interceptions.
Now, it seems that the Niners are finally getting back to an offensive balance. Gore ran 20 times on Thursday after running just 20 times combined the previous two weeks. The Niners could probably give Gore even more carries than that, but it's a good start.
All the hype surrounding Kaepernick heading into the season—among fantasy players and the football media—was probably justified. He really was fantastic in the postseason. Let's not forget that he threw for 798 yards and four touchdowns while completing 61.3 percent of his passes. He also ran for 264 yards in just three games.
He was amazing—transcendent even—and there was no reason to think that he wouldn't repeat, if not exceed, those numbers this season.
But he's without Michael Crabtree. And while Anquan Boldin has been great, there's a big dropoff between Boldin and the next leading receiver, Vernon Davis. Boldin has 372 receiving yards, while Davis has 136.
Kaepernick, because of the inexplicable abandonment of the running game, has been asked to do too much. In the postseason, Frank Gore rushed for 319 yards on 63 carries. That's 21 carries per game. That is why the Niners were so successful. It is no coincidence that in the 49ers' two wins this season, Gore has carried the ball 21 and 20 times, respectively. When Gore carries the ball a lot, the Niners are a better team.
This is not an indictment of Kaepernick. He is a good quarterback and will continue to mature as a passer.
But right now, the Niners need to do what's best for their team and their season. And the best thing is put the reins on Kaepernick. It will pay off big-time later.
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