It's been a peculiar start to the 2014 season for Kaepernick and his 49ers. After both sides of the football punished the Cowboys in the opening game, a pair of fringe playoff contenders in Chicago and Arizona forced second half comebacks, toppling the 49ers, while Kaepernick's offense failed to score a single touchdown in either of the final two quarters.
In those losses to the Bears and Cardinals, Kaepernick's second-half passer rating sinks to 72.54, going 26 of 34 for 255 yards and two picks, as well as five sacks (four of which came in fourth quarter). With the sacks considered, Kaepernick is averaging a mere 5.90 passing yards per dropback in the second halves of those losses.
Kaepernick's found himself under pressure on just over 30 percent of his dropbacks, but is still completing more than half of his passes under duress (52.6%, 10 of 19). The only other quarterbacks with more than 30 percent pressure with better completion percentages are Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, and amazingly Austin Davis.
Kaepernick makes the most of a deep receiving tree, with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Johnson each catching at least 13 passes and over 160 yards. Tight end extraordinaire Vernon Davis missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury, and is questionable to play against the Eagles.
To date, the 49ers have allowed 26 quarterback pressures in three games, tied for 13th most in the NFL. Much of that pressure goes through the middle, with Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, and others struggling to keep defenders out of Kaepernick's face.
The Eagles haven't been able to create much of a pass rush, one of several glaring hindrances the team has. Mychal Kendricks sitting out against the Redskins only accentuated the difficulty they have of getting to the quarterback. Kendricks, at least, creates havoc in the middle, which aids the all-around pressure.
The Eagles defense has brought 16 hurries and 15 quarterback hits to the table, against only three sacks. That translates to an impressive 34.14 third-down percentage, although the Redskins went eight of 15 on the money down.
The secondary has had it rough outside of Malcolm Jenkins. Bradley Fletcher inexplicably gave too much cushion against the Redskins, while Cary Williams has been getting toasted deep. Williams has allowed 14 catches for 214 yards in his direction, while Fletcher concedes 15 balls for 170 yards. Neither player has an interception, but as a silver lining, less than 56 percent of passes have been completed against them.
Jenkins has been an absolute upgrade over Patrick Chung, allowing only two completions on five targets in 127 snaps. He also has the only picks on the team, a pair of fourth-quarter nabs to help win the last two games.
As I noted days ago, Kaepernick's running game has diminished in the early stages of 2014, with the speedy QB averaging only 4.78 YPA on 27 carries. That drops about two yards per run from his breakout 2012 season, and may be an indication of teams figuring out his tendencies.
Gore's currently averaging a shade under four yards a carry, while rookie Hyde averages 4.5 a run on his mere 14 carries. As a team, San Francisco averages a surprisingly-low 4.15 yards a run, with a multitude of factors weighing heavily on the run struggles.
Jonathan Martin, he of the old-news Dolphin hazing scandal, has held up in outside pass protection, but is the weakest run-blocking link on the team. The best runs go through the middle behind Daniel Kilgore. Of Gore and Hyde's nine combined carries of 7+ yards, all but one have gone either through the middle or around top-notch left tackle Joe Staley.
The run defense of the Eagles has been their defensive savior, with their 3.48 YPA allowed ranking as the seventh least in the league. Much of that has to do with the play of Fletcher Cox, who has come up with nine defensive stops against the run this season, and notably forced a fumble of Trent Richardson that turned the Monday nighter around.
Brandon Graham, off the bench, has accounted for six defensive stops on 28 running plays, looking sharp against Toby Gerhart in Week One. Conversely, the runs seem to go away from Connor Barwin, who has not been credited with a single run-stop this season. Trent Cole, who had to convert deep into his career to a linebacker spot, has four to his credit.
Kendricks' disruption against both pass and run seems to have opened up the game for DeMeco Ryans to make nine run stops of his own. Even Jenkins has gotten in on the running act, making two stops for losses, tied only with Fletcher for most among the entire secondary.
Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.
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