The 49ers ran the table in the second quarter of the season to improve their record on the season to 6-2. They feasted on competition with a combined win percentage of .300, and only the Cardinals have won as many as they have lost. As the team begins preparations for the third quarter of the season to begin let’s stay with the quarter theme and take a look at 4 takeaways from the quarter.
1) Kaepernick’s up and down performances in the passing game – Colin Kaepernick had an uneven second quarter, completing only 55% of his passes for a total of 728 yards. 49ers fans should be more concerned with the low completion percentage than the yards total, which was held down by a lack of attempts.
After completing over 62% of his passes in 2012, Kaepernick has struggled a bit with his accuracy in 2013, completing only 57% of his passes through the first 8 games of 2013. Some of this can be attributed to injuries that have taken away Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, the top two receiver targets from a year ago.
The other reason for the decline in completion percentage is on Kaepernick. He has struggled this season to locate his 3rd or 4th options, and on the occasion that he has found them his throws have been off the mark.
During the second quarter, the Tennessee game was his most impressive. Through the first quarter and a half Kaepernick was on fire, completing 13-16 passes for 199 yards and rushing for a 20 yard touchdown while building a 24-0 lead. With the exception of a poor decision that led to an interception that was nullified by a Tennessee penalty, Kaepernick completed throws to 5 different receivers and looked as decisive and confident as he has at any point this season.
2) The running game takes over – In the second quarter of the season the 49ers were able to get their running game going in a big way. They ran the ball on 65% of their offensive snaps and averaged over 4.5 yards per carry.
At first glance one can say that the high percentage of runs was due to them blowing teams out and going with a run centric offense in the second half of games against Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville. Dig a little deeper and you find that this is not the case. In those three games the 49ers ran the ball 64% of the time in the first half, on 56 of their 87 first half snaps.
This is actually a good sign for 49ers fans, as it shows them that the coaching staff recognizes their strengths and have chosen to stick with it. This should bode well for the future.
3) Defense steps up – After giving up 23.75 points per game during the first quarter of the season the 49ers defense stepped up in the second quarter and played close to the level fans became acquainted to in 2011 and for most of 2012 by allowing only 12.5 points per game in the second quarter.
The defense has done this despite playing without Aldon Smith, and with Patrick Willis, Glenn Dorsey, and Ray McDonald having their playing time reduced due to injury. They showed that they are as deep as any team in the league, and this bodes well looking forward to the second half of the season and the postseason when they hope to get Smith back, Willis and Dorsey back to full strength, and recently added 2nd round draft pick Tank Carradine to the defensive line rotation.
4) Injured players begin to return – The second quarter saw the return of injured players to the active roster when the team promoted rookie Quinton Dial to the active roster prior to the Tennessee game. As the third quarter gets ready to start they have already activated another rookie, Tank Carradine to the active roster, and will also add Mario Manningham and Eric Wright in the coming days.
The addition of Manningham should help inject some trust in a receiving corps that has for the most part been ignored to this point. As I pointed out prior to the trade deadline, the 49ers tend to use primarily only 1 or 2 receiver sets, but having a veteran receiver like Manningham in the lineup should still provide a boost.
3rd Quarter Prediction
The third quarter will see a step up in competition for the 49ers as they see the win percentage of their opponents jump from 30% to 53%. The Panthers at home in week 10, followed by a trip to New Orleans in week 11 will give everyone a good indication of where this team stands right away. The Panthers bring with them one of the best defenses in the league, and an improving offense, while playing in the Superdome is never easy. Even last season with their head Coach, Sean Payton serving a suspension the Saints tested the 49ers and 2 defensive touchdowns carried the 49ers to victory.
Throw in an East Coast Monday night contest the week after New Orleans and a home game against St Louis and a 3-1 record is very likely.