Earlier this season, I went on record as being critical of Jim Harbaugh's decision to bench Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick. For all his faults, Smith had directed the 49'ers to the NFC Championship game last year, and if not for a botched special teams play, would have taken them to the Super Bowl. I thought Jim was ditching the pretty attractive date he brought to the dance for something flashy, but couldn't last.
I was wrong.
Colin Kaepernick turned in one of the more impressive playoff performances I've ever seen in his first playoff start. He ran the ball extremely well, which should come as no surprise. It was his passing, however, that caught my eye.
It looked like I would be right when he threw the early pick six, but to Kaepernick's credit he bounced back and absolutely dominated the rest of the game. He ran when the opportunity presented itself, and when he had to make a tough throw, he made them. He leaned pretty heavily on Michael Crabtree, but no more than Andrew Luck leans on Reggie Wayne. Kaepernick has enough weapons and spread the ball between them enough to keep Green Bay's defense on their heels.
Jim Harbaugh is hardly a coach who plays it by the book. I owe him an apology for doubting his judgment on Kaepernick. This time, it was time to dance with a different partner.
Other observations from the playoff weekend:
Colts fans who dissed the Indianapolis secondary for their performance against Baltimore owe them an apology as well after what Baltimore did to Champ Bailey and the Broncos. Joe Flacco has always had a great arm. Now he's got Anquan Boldin playing at an elite level, some speed outside with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, two very good tight ends in Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson and of course, Ray Rice in the backfield. The Colts' defense actually acquitted themselves quite well in hindsight.
Love him or hate him, Bill Belichick has a machine going in New England. Early in the second half, ESPN writer Paul Kuharsky tweeted that Wade Phillips just didn't have the horses to match up with New England. Well, if the Texans defense can't slow down the Patriots' attack, exactly who can? I'm not sure any team is going to hold New England under 30 (remember what they did to that Niners defense?). Somebody's going to have to match Brady and company score for score to beat them. Baltimore just did that to Peyton Manning. Could they do the same to Brady a week later?
Russell Wilson is something else. I still think Andrew Luck deserves Rookie of the Year honors for what he was able to do with far less around him than Wilson or RGIII, but the kid is amazing. Like Kaepernick, he combines tremendous running ability with a surprisingly accurate arm. More than anything, he's a "winner." There are certain players, particularly quarterbacks, who just have that look in their eyes that they won't be denied. Wilson has that. I admire his aggressive running style, but he's going to need to learn to slide though if he's going to last very long in the NFL.
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