The end result may have been a fourth-straight loss for the San Francisco 49ers, but last Sunday’s game was undoubtedly a personal win for QB Colin Kaepernick.
After three consecutive poor outings — in which the fifth-year veteran threw five interceptions and just two touchdowns — Sunday night’s game against the New York Giants seemed like a make-or-break game for Kaepernick’s future with the team.
But with the pressure of pundits everywhere, and the lights of Sunday Night Football shining on him, the 49ers signal caller came through with his best outing of the year, throwing for 262 yards on an efficient 23-of-35 pass attempts for two touchdowns — and most importantly, no interceptions.
The aerial outburst from Kaepernick failed to snap the 49ers three-game skid, but it showed that, amid all the dysfunction and offensive discord, Kaepernick can still lead his team down the field.
But most importantly following Sunday night’s offensive turnaround, Kaepernick said he has something perhaps more crucial to his success than any amount of physical work or film sessions — he has confidence:
“I have confidence in what I’m able to do on this field and what I can do to help this team win. For me, it was an opportunity to really show leadership and try to lead this team and make sure everyone has the right mindset. As this week is another opportunity to make sure everyone’s focused on the right things.”
Perhaps taking on the NFL’s last-place passing defense came just at the right time for the struggling Kaepernick. He certainly seemed more apt to test the New York cornerbacks than he was against Green Bay, where he looked timid throwing anything farther than 10 yards.
But during Wednesday’s media session, Kaepernick said Sunday’s success was less to do with a complimentary matchup and more with his team’s continuing progress toward finding chemistry in this new offensive system:
“I would say the biggest improvement was just chemistry. Being able to let balls go and trust our receivers, and our receivers made big plays. It was a confidence-building thing for both sides, for the receivers, for us, for the offensive line. It was something that we can build on moving forward and improve on.”
And for Kaepernick, just one game removed from throwing passes so far out of bounds that the first-row of Levi’s Stadium had a better chance at catching the ball than a 49ers receiver did, maybe chemistry and confidence is all he really needs to turn around his season.
Luckily for him, Sunday’s game against Baltimore will offer him a good opportunity to continue to grow in both of those categories, as a 25th-ranked Ravens passing defense should allow both Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith to do damage against their former team.