The life of a backup quarterback in the NFL can be tough. A backup has to go through the daily grind of practice, film review, team meetings, and travel, but rarely gets the chance to enjoy the perk of playing time. If a backup is called upon the situation typically isn’t ideal. Poor team performances and losses are one reason a backup quarterback might get the opportunity to play, but more times than not injury to the starter is the reason behind a backup’s appearance in a game —and nobody ever wants that.
But in a hard hitting league like the NFL injuries are bound to happen. Week 10 was a reminder of that as four starting quarterbacks were forced to leave games with concussions. San Francisco’s Alex Smith was one of those sidelined out of precaution, giving backup Colin Kaepernick his first shot at significant time on the field.
Although neither San Francisco nor St. Luis was able to emerge with victory — as the game was ended with a 24-24 tie — Kaepernick was the real winner of Sunday’s game. After taking over for Smith in the second quarter, Kaepernick came off the bench to complete 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards and rush for 66 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Not only did Kaepernick prove himself to be more than just a gimmick quarterback, he put his team in position to win.
“I think Kap did a very good job,” 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh said at his post-game press conference. “We felt that everything that was in the game plan he was good with, comfortable with and could execute, and he did a very good job. There was no sense of uptightness or tenseness. His demeanor was very good."
Had David Akers made his potentially game winning 41 yard field goal in overtime, the national media’s focus would be on Kaepernick’s performance rather than the need to abolish ties in the NFL.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Kaepernick said during his post-game press conference. “There is obviously a lot of room for improvement and a lot of things I’d like to do differently. I just went out there and just tried to do what I could to help this team.”
Kaepernick is no stranger to stepping in for an injured teammate, after all that’s how he got the job at Nevada State. Still, the second year quarterback took a few drives to find his rhythm as he attempted to overcome a 14-7 Rams lead.
“It did take me awhile to get into the flow of the game,” Kaepernick said. “I mean from there, I felt comfortable with everything that we were doing."
Aided by both his defense and the hard-headed rushing style of Frank Gore, Kaepernick quickly began to lead his offense down field with big time throws to the likes of Randy Moss and Vernon Davis. Kaeprnick’s highlight of the game came in the fourth quarter when he put together an 11 play, 81 yard scoring drive that ended with a seven yard rushing touchdown for the former Pitman High quarterback. The scoring play, which saw the quarterback dive for the corner pile on as defenders pursued him, was a reminder the athletic ability that has served Kaepernick so well up to this point.
Whether or not Smith will be ready to play against the Chicago Bears on Monday night remains to be seen but if Kaepernick is called upon to start in his first NFL game of his career his coaches and teammates have no qualms about it.
“He's talented, so talented,” tight-end Vernon Davis said after Sunday’s game. “He wants to do well. He wants to make plays and help this team. So, I would give him a B+ for going out there and taking care of everything that the coaches gave him. They put some things on his plate that he was able to handle."