FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) -- Colin Kaepernick is giving the New England Patriots some extra things to think about this week.
As if defending perennial Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore wasn't
enough of a concern, the Patriots (10-3) now must focus on curtailing
San Francisco's shifty quarterback in front of a national audience
''Our job is to contain him, running and passing,'' New England
defensive end Chandler Jones said Friday. ''Kaepernick's a good
athlete. He can throw the ball and he can run as well. It's our job to
Easier said than done.
The Miami Dolphins last week discovered first-hand how difficult that
task can be.
Trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins' defense
surrendered a 50-yard touchdown run to Kaepernick, who deftly deceived
the defensive line with a perfect play-action fake, bounced outside and
darted untouched up the left sideline for the clinching score for the
''Everybody came to me and Mr. Everything did his thing,'' Gore said
after the win.
The highlight-reel run also served noticed to the rest of the league -
there is no quarterback controversy in the Bay Area.
''He's a guy that can do a lot. Just that last run he had against Miami
last week where he's able to just hit the sideline and pull away from
everybody and he has a very strong arm,'' Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. ''So, another young quarterback that we're playing that
we're going to just try to make things tough on him, do different
things, but he's really grasped onto the offense fast. He hasn't played
in many games, but he's been very productive.''
Kaepernick's primary numbers don't jump out at you - three passing
touchdowns, five touchdown runs and a 67.4 completion percentage. Yet
the 25-year-old has just one interception in 129 pass attempts, has
eclipsed 200 yards passing in three of his four starts and is averaging
7.6 yards per carry.
''He has one interception. As a young guy to be playing football and
playing at a high level like he's doing, he's not making many mistakes
at all and he's not throwing into coverage where guys are just dropping
balls,'' McCourty said. ''I think because of his arm strength, he's
able to even throw in some tight windows and get the throw in there and
it's the right read. So it's going to be tough for us.''
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh earlier this week highlighted
Kaepernick's top qualities, saying he's fast, powerful, smart and reads
the field extremely well.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick sees similar talents.
''I think the two most important things for a quarterback are his
decision making and accuracy. I could probably go out there and read
the field decently but I don't think you'd want me playing
quarterback,'' Belichick joked. ''There are other guys that can thread
a needle but maybe not see as well, but I think the combination of
seeing the field, making good decisions and accuracy is really what it
comes down to more than some other qualities.
''I think he's done it to a degree,'' he added. ''He's a young,
improving quarterback. It looks like he gets better each week and
probably plays with more confidence and does things a little bit better
each week. But, I wouldn't disagree with (Harbaugh).''
Kaepernick started the season as the backup to Alex Smith, who just
last season led San Francisco to within one victory of the Super Bowl
and had the 49ers at 6-2 and atop the NFC West before going down with a
concussion in the first half against St. Louis on Nov. 11.
The 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft then calmly stepped under
center and inherited the starting role even with Smith healthy enough
''This guy, he can throw the football, he has a strong arm, he's pretty
accurate. For the most part, he makes pretty good decisions,'' said New
England nose tackle Vince Wilfork. ''To be playing only a couple of
weeks, he makes some good plays for this team.''
The Patriots defense, however, poses perhaps the most formidable test
yet for the mobile quarterback.
Their run defense is eighth in the league, surrendering just more than
100 yards a game. And while the unit still ranks 29th against the pass,
it has vastly improved since the acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib,
who has played in four games for the AFC East champions. New England
has won seven straight, including a dominating 42-14 victory over the
first-place Houston Texans on Monday.
''Defensively, turnovers and points allowed, that's really what decides
the game,'' McCourty said. ''We can pull up a bunch of different stats,
but how many points have you given up and try to take the ball away. So
for us, it stays the same throughout the season.
''We'll have our work cut out for us this week. This team and this
offense, they do a good job of taking care of the ball, so we're really
going to have to try to go out there and make our own plays in the
passing game and running game.''
For the 49ers to win, so will Kaepernick.