How the Rams contained Colin Kaepernick

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
11:46
AM ET
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesColin Kaepernick was kept in check against the Rams.
Colin Kaepernick was conservative and at times overwhelmed by pressure in Week 13.

His average pass length was 5.8 yards downfield against the St. Louis Rams, a substantial decrease from how he aired it out in his first two starts.

Kaepernick had one pass gain more than 30 yards in the game after five such plays in his first two starts.

A deeper dive into the game using coaches’ film (which shows all 22 players on the field) reveals how the Rams’ defensive strategy dictated the 49ers’ conservative passing attack.

How the Rams took away Kaepernick’s arm

Kaepernick faced at least five pass rushers on 24 of 40 (60 percent) dropbacks against the Rams. That is the highest percentage of pressure the Rams have sent in a game over the last two seasons.

With fewer defenders in coverage because of additional pass rushers, the Rams provided the 49ers with plenty of cushion to sacrifice underneath throws rather than big plays. Specifically, their cornerbacks gave 49ers wide receivers at least five yards of space with no jam coverage on 33 of Kaepernick’s 40 dropbacks.

The 49ers adjusted to the Rams’ strategy by getting the ball out of Kaepernick’s hands quicker and keeping their routes short to avoid pressure and take what was open.

In the first quarter, the 49ers ran multiple routes further than 15 yards downfield on five of seven passing plays. After realizing they would not find the same downfield success as in Kaepernicks’ previous two starts, the 49ers had multiple receivers running such deep routes on six of 27 passing plays the rest of the game (excludes passing plays inside 10 yard line).

On average, Kaepernick released his pass 3.2 seconds after the snap, compared with 4.2 seconds in Week 12 against the Saints.

The Rams also bottled Kaepernick up when he escaped pressure and left the pocket (excluding his 50-yard scramble in the fourth quarter).

When outside the pocket, Kaepernick failed to complete any of his three passes, was sacked twice and was flagged for intentional grounding that resulted in a safety.

How will the Dolphins fare on Sunday in containing Kaepernick?

The Dolphins have allowed the second-highest completion percentage and Total QBR to quarterbacks on plays outside of the pocket this season.

Russell Wilson exposed the Dolphins’ problems against athletic quarterbacks in Week 12, completing 8-of-9 passes outside the pocket with a touchdown. Earlier this season, Andrew Luck completed all six of this passes outside the pocket for 89 yards against Miami.

While the Dolphins may struggle containing Kaepernick, he will have to make adjustments as defenses continue to adapt to his strengths.

The pressure isn’t going away, as no quarterback has seen a higher percentage of dropbacks against at least five pass rushers this season. Kaepernick hasn’t handled the pressure as well as Alex Smith, who has completed a league-best 72.2 percent of his passes against such pressure.

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