Kaepernick plagued by inconsistencies

Colin Kaepernick has been anything but consistent in 2014. If the 49ers are going to make the playoffs, they will need better play from their quarterback, who signed a lucrative six-year extension over the summer.

As the San Francisco 49ers currently sit outside of the top six in the NFC playoff picture with a 7-5 record, many have begun to wonder why exactly the 49ers don’t have a better record this season.

The 49ers are absolutely still in the hunt, but these next two games will be crucial for them. First, the 49ers will have to beat the Oakland Raiders, which should not be a problem. But in the following week, the 49ers play a vital game against the Seattle Seahawks, and all things being equal, the winner of that game will likely have a shot at a wildcard spot or even the division title.

Inconsistent play from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is one of the main reasons why the 49ers aren’t sitting in a better position in the NFC at the moment. Poor showings against the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants are irrelevant because the 49ers still won those games, but Kaepernick’s questionable play against the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, and St. Louis Rams this season has many wondering what’s wrong with the 49ers offense.

Pressure on Kaepernick

This season, Kaepernick has been sacked a total of 38 times, which is an astronomical number, and the 49ers still have four games left to play. The offensive line has been shaky all season long, and they have failed to protect Kaepernick at crucial points in games. This lack of protection has led to Kaepernick wanting to run more, and the fear of getting hit has also led to some avoidable interceptions and fumbles, although his eight interceptions this season haven’t huge mistakes. Of course, offensive lines inevitably have ups and downs, but Kaepernick has not looked as comfortable in the pocket this season, and this was especially evident in the Week 2 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Lack of anticipation

In the running game, Kaepernick has a great ability to decide whether or not to take off and run, and it is exactly this ability that has led to the 49ers success on offense. But opposing teams catch on eventually and focus on Kaepernick’s running ability, which is where the passing game comes in.

When breaking down the film, it becomes evident that Kaepernick does not have the same anticipation ability when it comes to throwing the ball and taking risks downfield. Going back to the Week 2 matchup against the Bears, a game the 49ers should have won, there were times when Kaepernick lacked the discipline to stay in the pocket and anticipate the routes of his receivers. Some of that is inevitable when you have a dual-threat quarterback, but Kaepernick’s running ability will almost certainly decline before his passing ability.

At times, Kaepernick fails to anticipate where his receivers will be and as a result, he doesn’t pull the trigger on throws that are there, but instead decides to either take the sack or tuck the ball and run. This strategy has worked so far in his career, but again, opposing defenses catch on to tendencies pretty quickly.

In past seasons, the rest of San Francisco’s offense has been strong and Kaepernick’s mistakes haven’t been as glaring. But this season, things are different, and Kaepernick has shown that he still doesn’t understand some of the nuances of playing from the pocket. His ability to run has covered for him up to this point, but no one knows if he’ll be able to continue to make up for his mistakes in the passing game by making great plays with his legs in the future.

[Related: Harbaugh sticks up for quiet Kaepernick]

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