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Notebook: Kaepernick Answers the Call

Posted Nov 11, 2012

Now the 49ers Faithful knows what a full dose of Colin Kaepernick looks like.

It’s too bad it couldn’t have come in a San Francisco victory, but at least Kaepernick’s effort didn’t come in a loss, either. Yes, there are ties in football. Just ask the 49ers and Rams, who battled for 75 minutes on Sunday afternoon but finished in a 24-24 tie.

There were mutually unsatisfied feelings in both locker rooms following the game, as the two teams were left to wonder what could have been. But one thing is for sure: this Kaepernick kid can play.

The second-year signal-caller filled in for a concussed Alex Smith to close out the first half, using his arms and his legs to drive the 49ers to the brink of victory down the stretch. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, as the two NFC West foes turned in the NFL’s first tie game in nearly four years.

“Little league baseball, basketball, any sport – I don’t remember ever being in a tie,” veteran 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin said. “A lot of guys on the line didn’t even know it really existed.”

If it wasn’t for some fancy footwork by Kaepernick in the game’s final stages, the Rams could have escaped Candlestick Park with a hard-fought victory. As it was, the 49ers moved their record to 6-2-1, while the Rams have to settle with their 3-5-1 mark.

Staring down a 24-21 deficit with 1:09 left in regulation, young Kaepernick didn’t fret. Cool and calm, he started things off with a 19-yard run down the left sideline to stop the clock. Then came another short pass and another first-down quarterback scramble, and the 49ers were in St. Louis territory.

Following a few more effective plays, Kaepernick and Co. marched all the way down to the Rams 15-yard line with just 11 seconds left. While the 49ers couldn’t achieve the desired result – a game-winning touchdown – David Akers nailed a 33-yard field goal with three seconds left to knot the score at 24.

It was a perfect display of the confident demeanor and decision-making ability that makes Kaepernick a valuable member of the 49ers every Sunday.

“I thought I did pretty well,” Kaepernick said. “Obviously, there is a lot of room for improvement and a lot of things I would like to do differently. I just went out there and tried to do what I could to help this team.”

But Kaepernick still had a little bit of magic left in those legs.

After watching his defense force a three-and-out on the opening series in overtime, Kaepernick helped the 49ers march down the field for what could have been the game-winning drive. Unfortunately, Akers pushed his 41-yard attempt wide left to keep the score level. Once Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed his 58-yard attempt on the next drive, neither team had another good chance to put points on the board.

It marked the first NFL game to finish in a tie since the Eagles and Bengals ended in a 13-13 matchup on Nov. 16, 2008. Ironically, Akers also hit a fourth-quarter field goal in that game to send it to overtime.

All told, Kaepernick finished Sunday’s contest 11-of-17 for 117 yards, while adding 66 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

“He was pretty solid,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We just felt that everything that was in the game he was good with, comfortable with and could execute. And he did a very good job. There was no sense of uptightness or tenseness. He was very good.”

The 49ers got caught flat-footed in the opening period, falling behind the Rams 14-0 early. But just when Smith and the offense started to gain their stride, the starting quarterback was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Smith, who went 7 of 8 for 72 yards and a 14-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree second quarter, suffered his head injury on a successful, 4th-and-1 sneak before halftime. Once he returned to the bench, Smith told the team’s medical staff he had blurred vision before exiting to the locker room.

Kaepernick inherited a 14-7 deficit and admittedly took some time to get in a rhythm, but he got the 49ers offense humming in the second half. The dual-threat option led San Francisco on an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive to start the fourth quarter, ending it with a 7-yard touchdown romp by diving for the right pylon as he collided with St. Louis defenders.

“The last quarter or so, we started to get in a little bit of a flow,” Goodwin said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to pull out the win.”

Kaepernick’s run energized the sold out Candlestick crowd and immediately led to more points. Tramaine Brock forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Darcel McBath recovered it in front of the San Francisco sideline. Moments later, Frank Gore was in the end zone after a 20-yard touchdown run, and the 49ers held a 21-17 lead.

Gore, who finished with 21 carries for 97 yards, went untouched to the end zone thanks to some supreme blocking from Delanie Walker and Bruce Miller on the edge, among others.

“That was all Bruce,” Walker said. “Bruce got a great chip (block) on the safety, put him back on me, and Frank got around the corner. There you have it – touchdown.”

Despite all the highlights on the day, the score at the end of the game didn’t settle well with the 49ers.

“It’s like we didn’t even play,” Walker said. “We’re still 6-2.”

Disruptive Outside Linebackers

Another Sunday, another productive outing for Aldon Smith.

San Francisco’s superb sophomore racked up two more sacks against Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, bringing his season total to 9.5, which ranks third in the NFL. In a fitting tribute, Aldon Smith made a salute to recognize the armed forces on Veterans Day following his first sack.

Ahmad Brooks also had a disruptive day on the left edge and nearly changed the game’s outcome during the first drive in overtime. The veteran linebacker batted down a Bradford pass at the line of scrimmage on a 3rd-and-1, but wasn’t able to bring it in for an interception.

“I could have ended the game right there,” Brooks said, “but I didn’t grab onto the ball, dropped it. Sometimes you don’t really expect to get those plays at certain moments. It hit my hand, I should have just palmed onto it, but I just batted it down.”

The Rams would go on to punt the next play, setting up the drive which ultimately resulted with Akers’ missed field goal.

Crabtree Keeps on Catching

Someone better think of a name for Crabtree’s touchdown dance. And fast.

The 49ers wideout had a chance to show it off again on Sunday after using his catch-and-run skills during his 14-yard touchdown catch from Smith.

Crabtree hauled in a quick curl route in the right seam before blowing past St. Louis defenders on his way to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the year. Fittingly, it took place on a third down, a situation where Crabtree has thrived all year.

Crabtree finished with five catches for 70 yards to lead the 49ers, while notching a touchdown for the fifth straight game against St. Louis. Crabtree now has a team-high 44 catches for a team-high 510 yards.

Notes and Quotes

McBath has been a key special teams contributor all year and was pleased to scoop up the key fumble – the first recovery of his career – after Brock stripped it from St. Louis return man Isaiah Pead.

“I know when T-Brock makes the tackle, he’s always going for the ball,” McBath said. “But this is unheard of. I don’t even know if they allow ties in Pee-Wee football.”

Gore, the franchise’s all-time rushing leader, is on the verge of making more history. His touchdown on Sunday marked the 48th of his career, as he only trails Joe Perry and Roger Craig (50) in the 49ers record books.

The 49ers have not lost in 12 consecutive home games against divisional opponents, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.

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