(By Daisy Barringer)
For the record, I stand by my opinion that it was both uncool and unnecessary of 49ers’ Coach Harbaugh to start Colin Kaepernick in yesterday’s road game against the Saints; however, there’s no denying that Kaepernick came out and played well enough to likely maintain the starting spot next week against the Rams. Of course, he didn’t do it all on his own; I hope he busted out his stationery and fountain pen on the plane ride home and wrote each defensive player a thank you note because without their stellar play, that game is an undeniable loss and Kaepernick doesn’t come across as nearly as amazing.
What was amazing, though, was listening to the boys in the bar wax poetic about Kaepernick’s play on Sunday. When he escaped the pass rush and slid down field, he was compared to Steve Young. When he ran in for the first touchdown of the game, he was compared to RGIII. When he made long passes down the field, he was compared to Brett Favre. And when he threw the ball with such velocity that it bounced off of Vernon Davis’ chest (for a drop), he was compared to John Elway.
Just about every dude in that bar was ready to go home, turn on SportsCenter, and masturbate to Kaepernick highlights. Just like that: Alex Smith was a thing of the past. “Kaepernick is our future.” This, despite the fact that Alex Smith has done nothing but overcome adversity and remain as loyal as a sad, abused puppy.
But the truth is: There is something special about the way Kaepernick plays. He looks like he’s having fun. And he makes big plays. And as I pointed out last Tuesday, that’s what the NFL audience wants. They don’t want slant passes and short runs. They want Tom Brady and Joe Montana. They want excitement in the form of deep balls and long passes. And that’s most likely what they’re going to get as long as Kaepernick has “hot hands” anyway.
Listen, Kaepernick is not perfect by any means. That interception at the end of the half intended for Kyle Williams? Alex Smith does not make that mistake. Lucky for Kaepernick, Ahmad Brook stepped up in a huge way, intercepting Drew Brees on the next drive for a pick six to end the half in a tie and also completely change the momentum of the game. In this case, Kaepernick, a 'thank you' note will not suffice. You owe Brooks a spa day or whatever it is boys like. Meat or whisky or something.
In addition, I’m not a huge fan of how Kaepernick throws every single pass so incredibly hard. Are there times when that's the right call? Absolutely. Especially when throwing into tight coverage. But, while he’s still getting in sync with his receivers, he needs to chill out. Last week he hurt Randy Moss' finger. This week he had (as mentioned) a dropped pass to V.D. because of the same issue.
Shockingly (not really), I was bitching about this to my friend at the bar. “He just needs to figure out that not every pass needs to be so hard,” I explained. “Sometimes it’s okay to float it in there.”
“I dunno,” my friend refuted. “I think it’s fine to drill it hard into the hole every single time.” I just sighed, feeling extreme sympathy for his girlfriend’s vagina.
Regardless, yes, Kaepernick had a good game—16 for 25 for 231 yards, 1 interception and 1 TD—and many people will argue that the majority of his incomplete passes weren’t even his fault. However, I feel like we’ve had enough of a Kaepernick love fest here, especially, again, since without our defense, the Niners totally lose that game.
I’ve already mentioned Ahmad Brooks had a pick six near the end of the half as a result of dropping into coverage instead of rushing Drew Brees. But as if one pick six weren’t glorious enough, Donte Whitner (with an assist from Dashon Goldson) returned an interception 42 yards in the third to give San Francisco a 28-14 lead. (Gore scored on a short pass at the beginning of the 3rd to put the Niners up 21-14.)
And it wasn’t just the two interception returns for touchdowns for the first time since 1995; our defense totally wrecked the Saints six ways to Sunday. Hard hits, five sacks (Saints had only allowed 16 all season), and dominating play all around. I’m pretty sure every single member of the Saints’ offense needs a concussion test today and that pouty look on Drew Brees’ face when he came off of the field at the end of the game? Priceless.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though. Waaaaay too many penalties on the Niners. (A few of which were complete and utter bull excrement, but most of which we earned fair and square.) I can’t even really talk about Ted Ginn, Jr.’s muffed punt because SERIOUSLY WHAT WAS HE THINKING? I’m also not sure what happened with Gore. He was up against the NFL’s worst run defense and yet only had four carries in the first half. (That’s obviously a coaching decision, but one that baffles me.)
Also, sorry Akers but your two missed field goals have pretty much sealed the deal for me and I’m officially over you. It’s time for the Niners to start figuring out your replacement. We can’t risk losing the game by three points because you’re suddenly incapable of doing the one thing you’re paid to do.
But the biggest travesty of all? Watching Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter get injured on Hunter’s 2-yard run in the third. It’s not often you see two of your players have to share a cart to head back to the locker room, but all one could do was cross her fingers and hope they’d be okay. Unfortunately, the reports coming in are that Williams tore ligaments in his knee. If Hunter and Williams are both unable to play next week, there’s a good chance we’ll see rookies LaMichael James (RB) and A.J.
Jenkins (WR) get a shot That will be interesting, of course, but I’d much rather have Hunter and Williams healthy.
Delanie Walker also left the game with an injury. Ted Ginn apparently also has one that is something more than his propensity to make terrible decisions. And Anthony Davis played the entire second half with a broken finger. (Ouch.)
All in all it was a wild ride and a fun game to watch. I know I continue to gush, but our defense was just so good. Not only does a good defense make games more exciting to watch, but I’ve heard once or twice that it’s what wins championships. The way we played yesterday, I can actually see us heading back to New Orleans in the not-so-distant future.
Which leaves one last question. Is Kaepernick part of that immediate future? As always, we’ll have to wait and see. Harbaugh claimed yesterday that he didn’t start Kaepernick because of his play against the Bears but rather because of Alex Smith’s health saying, “The fact that [Alex] had symptoms seven to eight days later, I’m not going to put [him] back out there,” but it may be too late. That one concussion may have cost Smith his starting spot. Is it fair? No. Is it football? Yeah.
Also, why did this have to happen the same week I finally decided, after SEVEN years, that Alex Smith is good looking? Sigh.
In short? Niners win 31-21 against the struggling Saints. Our defense dominates. Drew Brees pouts. And the world waits to see who Harbaugh will name the starting quarterback. It’s going to be another fun week.