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Colin Kaepernick Shines in The Big Apple

Posted Sep 30, 2012

If Colin Kaepernick really wanted to, he could have scored a second touchdown in the closing moments of Sunday’s contest at the Meadowlands. But in a show of maturity and class, Kaepernick slid to the turf at the 2-yard line of the New York Jets, instead of waltzing in the end zone for a 33-yard score.

Looking at the scoreboard, you can understand Kapernick’s decision. The 49ers led 34-0 and the clock was winding down to zeroes.

Two victory formation kneel downs later and the 49ers were 3-1.

Many were quick to make comparisons of Kaepernick to Tim Tebow, the other fleet-footed, second-string signal-caller in the stadium, but the 49ers quarterback made one thing clear.

“I want to be me,” Kaepernick said.

Sunday marked Kaepernick’s NFL coming out party on the regular season stage.

He made his presence known early in the contest, as he entered during the second 49ers drive of the game and promptly ran a triple option down the left side of the field for 17 yards. Kaepernick faked a handoff to Kendall Hunter and ran in tandem with a trailing Delanie Walker, but kept the ball himself and romped down the field for a big gain.

But his highlight moment came later in the first half, when he took a third-down snap around the left end for a 7-yard touchdown to break a scoreless tie. Kaepernick was shielded by a bevy of 49ers blockers, starting with Bruce Miller sealing off the edge before Frank Gore, Joe Staley, Vernon Davis and Alex Boone led the Kaepernick convoy into the end zone.

“He’s doing a great job in the understudy role,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, “but we felt like it was an opportunity for him to also be a main contributor and he handled it very well.”

It marked the first NFL touchdown for Kaepernick, who received a hearty hug from Harbaugh on the sidelines. He was also helped out by veteran Randy Moss, who scooped up the ball and gave the memento to Kaepernick after the play.

Kaepernick was used in a handful of plays throughout the afternoon, but it was Alex Smith who led the 49ers for the majority of their three touchdown drives. While Kaepernick finished with five carries (two of which were kneel downs for minus-4 yards) and totaled a career-high 50 yards and a score, Smith went 12-of-21 for 143 yards.
Like a true team player, Smith was happy to see his fellow quarterback play an integral role in the impressive victory to wrap up the 10-day road trip.

“It was fun, it was great,” Smith said of watching Kaepernick lead the offense. “It was effective, for sure. That would be an understatement, I mean, three rushes for 50 yards. He’s a good player, I’m happy for him. He works extremely hard, he can help this team so it’s fun to see him go out there and have success.”

Kaepernick was one of three rushers to gain at least 50 yards on the ground, joining Gore (62) and Kendall Hunter (56). In all, the San Francisco racked up 245 yards on 44 carries, the team’s highest total in the Jim Harbaugh era and the most ever recorded on a Rex Ryan-coached Jets team.

Listening to veteran safety Donte Whitner, the 49ers feel lucky to have two quality signal-callers that can control the huddle.

“I think coach wanted to show them that we also have a Wildcat package and our guy’s pretty fast,” Whitner said. “If you know anything about Kaepernick’s history, you know that he’s a 4.4 (second 40-yard dash time) guy and he can roll. ... We look forward to that package throughout the season.”

Kaepernick’s big day could have been even bigger.

In the first half he took a shot downfield to a well-covered Moss in the end zone but it went incomplete. Kaepernick also split out wide to the left on one play in the second quarter and was completely uncovered by the Jets, who were forced called a timeout.

“I’m hoping that they’ll use me more and more as the season goes on,” Kaepernick said. “They haven’t told me, we’ll wait and go week-to-week.”

Kaepernick’s physical skills were on full display all afternoon, but his smarts shined bright in the game’s waning moments.

After taking over at the New York 49-yard line with 4:28 left on the final drive, Kaepernick faced a 3rd and 4 from the Jets 33. He took the snap around the right end and galloped down to the goal line untouched before sliding down at the 2-yard line, sacrificing individual glory to make the smart play and secure his team’s win.

“That’s one less kickoff we have to cover, that’s one less time we have to go out on defense,” Kaepernick said. “We can end the game with no more collisions and no more chances of injury.”

So while the 49ers easily could have a claimed a 41-0 victory on Sunday in the Big Apple, they were happy with the final result.

“Feels real good,” Kaepernick said.

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