The value of Colin Kaepernick's 17-yard run
October, 2, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireColin Kaepernick rushed five times for 50 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's win over New York.The play San Francisco used to spring Colin Kaepernick for a 17-yard gain against the New York Jets carries value beyond the playing field.
These are the sorts of plays that energize a team. They keep backup players such as Kaepernick engaged in the game plan. They promote camaraderie.
Think how much it must have meant to Joe Staley last season when the 49ers drew up a play for him resulting in a 17-yard reception for the veteran left tackle. Most linemen never get to experience anything along those lines. The time San Francisco got the ball to nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga for an 18-yard catch also comes to mind.
These unconventional plays have to work some of the time for a team to justify using them. The 49ers have shown a knack for converting them. That's a sign of good coaching. It also shows the 49ers' players have put in the work to make them succeed.
On Sunday, Kaepernick subbed into the game for Alex Smith at quarterback. The Jets had to respect his running ability. They knew he had run the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. They had seen him score on a 78-yard run during preseason.
Despite all this, the 49ers fooled the Jets into thinking Kendall Hunter got the ball on an inside handoff.
The 49ers aligned in a passing formation featuring no in-line tight end. But because the 49ers had two tight ends on the field -- Vernon Davis was slot left, Delanie Walker slot right -- the Jets kept their base personnel on the field. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was wide to the left. Wide receiver Mario Manningham was wide to the right.
Kaepernick stood in the shotgun formation with Hunter flanking him on the left. The 49ers had handed off to Frank Gore for inside runs on the two previous plays. Those plays gained 5 and 6 yards. Was another inside run coming?
Walker motioned into the backfield behind Kaepernick right before the snap. Kaepernick and Hunter sold the handoff well. Davis let safety LaRon Landry flow to the inside toward Hunter.
Outside linebacker Calvin Pace had a shot at Kaepernick as the quarterback ran outside to the left. Kaepernick sunk his body just enough to sell a possible pitch to Walker along the left sideline. Pace froze. Kaepernick darted upfield and into the clear, freed in part by Crabtree's block on cornerback Kyle Wilson.
This play was only the sixth-longest for the 49ers in a game they won 34-0. It was the one fans and players figure to remember the most.