Kaepernick: “I cost my team the game”
But it was a different story against Seattle.
Kaepernick helped propel the 49ers to a 10-3 lead at halftime this Sunday, rushing the ball effectively and not giving in to the fierce Seattle defense. Yet as the game went on, Seattle’s rush defense improved and Kaepernick was forced to primarily use his arm. He was decently accurate on the day, completing 14 of his 24 passes, but three crucial mistakes allowed the Seahawks to lock up the NFC Championship with a 23-17 victory.
All three of Kaepernick’s turnovers came in the 4th quarter. After a delay of game penalty converted a 3rd and 1 play to a 3rd and 6 early in the 4th, Kaepernick was chased in the backfield and sacked by Cliff Avril, who also forced the ball out of Kaeprnick’s hand. Michael Bennett scooped it up and put the Seahawks in good position to extend on their 20-17 lead.
Then after an uncharacteristic Marshawn Lynch fumble, the 49ers had another opportunity offense but Kaepernick underthrew a ball to Anquan Boldin and Kam Chancellor leaped in front to pick it off. That led to a 47-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka.
Lastly, and most profoundly, on San Francisco’s final drive, Kaepernick was picked off in the endzone by Malcolm Smith, after Richard Sherman tipped a pass intended for Michael Crabtree.
In a press conference after the game, Kaepernick told the media that he cost the 49ers the game. While his 130 rushing yards provided the fuel for the San Francisco offense throughout the game - Frank Gore only gained 14 yards on 11 carries - the turnovers were undoubtedly the key stat. You can’t expect to win a battle between two solid teams when you turn the ball over three times in the fourth quarter.
Overall, 2013 was a great year for Kaepernick. He threw for 3,197 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for another 524 yards and 4 touchdowns. He only turned the ball over 9 times throughout the season (8 picks, 1 fumble). With three NFC Championship game appearances and one NFC Championship under his belt already, the 26-year old has plenty to be proud of at this early stage of his career, but ball protection will need to be a focus for next year’s playoff run, especially when going up against an opponent like Seattle.