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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is not having the year we all expected.
He has failed to reach 200 yards passing in four-straight games, and his attempts have incrementally decreased from the 39 he had to Week One to the 15 he had last Sunday.
To understand why, you have to consider the nature of the 49ers offense dating all the way back to 2011.
To put this in the most concise possible terms: The 49ers were a boring power-running team for a year and half before Kaepernick took the starting job from an injured Alex Smith in the middle of 2012. They opened up the offense for a handful of games at the end of last season. Then, after getting off to a shaky start in the first three games this year, they returned to the game-control running game that defined their offensive identity in the Smith era.
Kaepernick's late-2012 breakout was an exception — a conservative team having a brief dalliance with progressivism before returning to what they're comfortable with. He's having a disappointing season because San Francisco has gone back to their power-running game, which was really the team's bread-and-butter all along.
Here's the breakdown of the 49ers offense this year:
- First three games: 55% passing plays, 45% running plays, 18.5 rushes per game for Frank Gore
- Last two games: 33% passing plays, 66% running plays, 13.6 rushes per game for Frank Gore
The 49ers won with Alex Smith because they controlled the ball on the ground and had a fantastic defense. After outscoring teams with Kaepernick at the end of last year and trying to do the same to start 2013, San Francisco has gone back to basics.
It's working. The 49ers have won two straight in convincing fashion. But it's coming at the expense of what made Kaepernick so fun to watch.
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