HBT’s Thursday Night Football Week 7 Recap: Why the Heart Left San Francisco

NFL, Peter Curtin

October 22, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (92) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 20-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks got back on track to improve to 3-4 in a must-win NFC West away game in “The Big Bellbottom!” (groan). Russell Wilson’s two interceptions overshadowed an otherwise solid performance (18/24, 9.8 yards/attempt), and Marshawn Lynch got back to his workhorse ways with a 122 yard performance on a healthy 27-carry workload.

The Seahawks atypical start has been covered in this space before. After a so-so start against a brutal schedule, they rediscovered their old winning formula by leaning on Marshawn Lynch and a dominant defensive performance led by Michael Bennett and the ‘Legion of Boom’. Nothing about this Seahawks performance was surprising. If you had slept through the first six weeks of the season, this is exactly the sort of game you would have expected Seattle to play. After all, Seattle won last season by a similar score (19-3) in the The Big Bell… – you know what, Chris Berman? Stop trying to make “The Big Bellbottom” happen. It’s not going to happen. – in Levi’s Stadium’s last season.

What is surprising, though, is just how far the 49ers have fallen and how quickly it’s happened. Two years ago, this was one of the NFL’s model franchises. They could have written the book on how to win in the modern game: get freak athletes on both lines of scrimmage and a Quarterback who can make all the throws. Following a number of unexpected player retirements that rivals the number of digits in Pi, the 49ers look completely over-matched against the NFL’s better offerings. No player mirrors the 49ers descent more than embattled quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

2012 was the Season of the Young Quarterback. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III arrived on the NFL scene sporting unprecedented athletic skill sets for the QB position that caught the entire NFL with their pants down. Watching any of those four Quarterbacks run read-option (in retrospect, accurately described by Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin as “the flavor of the month”), left NFL fans in awe and none more so than Kaepernick.

Kaepernick’s Madden-esque performance in the 2012 Playoffs where he ran and threw the ball wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted was enough to make anyone think, “Jesus … how is anyone going to stop this guy?” There was no ceiling on his career. He could make every throw if you wanted to blitz, and if you wanted to give him time and space, he could bite off 15 yards in an effortless couple of strides. And regrettably for 49ers fans, Kaepernick has been on a steady, downward trajectory ever since:

Completion Percentage Yards/Attempt TDs INTs QBR
2012 62.4 8.32 10 3 75.2
2013 58.4 7.69 21 8 69.0
2014 60.5 7.05 19 10 65.9
2015 61.4 7.19 6 5 53.0

 

The 49ers have not been without impressive performances this year. The beat a pesky Vikings team in Week 1 and there’s certainly no shame in holding the Packers to 17 points at Lambeau Field. But it is jarring to see San Francisco, so recently among the league’s elite, struggling this mightily against good competition at home.

They are currently in the process of re-tooling their squad to compensate for the departure of former Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and an absurd percentage of his best players, but it was unthinkable two seasons ago that a quarterback would be on their wish list. Colin Kaepernick turns 28 years-old in 11 days and few quarterbacks have as much at stake over the rest of the season. It’s doubtful that the Niners have completely abandoned the possibility that Kaepernick could possibly regain some of his old form and return to near-invincibility that he showed back in 2012, but if he keeps trending downward like he has, ‘the next Steve Young’ may find himself out of a job.

Author

Peter Curtin

Peter Curtin is a working professional based in Washington, DC. A life-long sports fan, he has previously written as a contributor for Philadelphia-based sports site, thewoodercooler.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pete_Curtin.

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