49ers vs. Bears: If Colin Kaepernick starts, play-calling is key

Ralph Freso

On the big stage of Monday Night Football, Colin Kaepernick may very-well make his first NFL start if Alex Smith isn't cleared from his recent concussion. Managing the play-calls could be a huge key to this game, if so.

With Alex Smith's status up in the air as the 49ers prepare to face a tough Chicago Bears team on Monday Night Football, Colin Kaepernick could see himself the starting QB for the first time in his short career. While the young signal-caller can be electrifying at times, he is also inconsistent and the Bears will surely look to confuse him into making poor decisions. Managing the play-calls will be crucial if Kaepernick is to have any success in relief of Smith.

Granted they didn't have a full week to prepare for it, I didn't think the 49ers did a great job of managing Kaepernick in the game against the Rams in week nine. He seemed to have trouble finding open receivers and often favored taking-off and running. Of course he gained some great yardage on some of those plays, but he was also sacked three times for a loss of 22 yards and had some accuracy issues when he did throw.

I think it's key to get "Kaep" on a roll, so-to-speak, early in the game. Give him the same type of game-plan that Alex Smith used to get: lots of short, quick passes where the match-ups and scheme dictates that the receiver has a high percentage chance of being open on an easy throw. Mix in the run heavily, something else that seemed missing for stretches against the Rams. Just get the chains moving, and stress to Kaep to get rid of the ball early, or find his check-down.

Sure, he can scramble for yards, but work with him this week on identifying when there's a lane and when it's best to throw it away or hit the back. Also, run more read-option but really drill him on making the right choice at the mesh-point (hand-off). It seems like it's incredibly hit-or-miss whether or not he made the right decision on those plays. Still, a 1 yard gain by Frank Gore is better than an interception, sack, or fumble on a QB hit. Plus, Kaep is comfortable in the option package, so it might calm him down and let him settle into a rhythm.

Don't ask too much of him, either. Stress the importance of protecting the football just like you do with Alex Smith. While we've complained at times that Smith doesn't take enough chances, we can all appreciate the value of limiting turnovers. Kaep can really sling the ball deep, but make sure he makes a quick, good decision on whether or not to let it fly.

Josh Freeman was on Mike and Mike this morning and he echoed something our own Alex Smith had said in that he's trying to stay within the framework of the offense, of the play-call, and not trying to make a play that might not be there. This is key for Kaepernick as well. Just go out and execute the offense, only take a shot if you're sure it's there, and live to play another down.

Chicago is going to try hard to bait Kaepernick into throws with guys lurking near the lane, ready to jump in and take one back the other way. The 49ers need to take advantage of that and make them pay for cheating their zones.

A seam route is a great Tampa-2 beater at times, and that's Vernon Davis' bread-and-butter route. The middle linebacker usually runs the seam to help the wide safeties in a Tampa-2. This could be the perfect game for Davis to have a bounce-back on the stat-sheet.

At any rate, I have the utmost confidence in the 49ers coaching staff. The only hard part will be deciding early-on whether or not Alex Smith is going to be able to play, something I suspect they'll know but won't share with the rest of the world until inactives are announced.

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