Alex Smith v. Colin Kaepernick: In Whom Do You Trust

Today’s football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs isn’t just another football game. The saga playing out will be the Alex Smith v Colin Kaepernick debate. Did the 49ers keep the right quarterback?? Most 49er fans think they did. Is that because they’re blind loyalists and wanted to move on with the new QB??

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

This has a similar backdrop to the 1994 game between the Chiefs and 49ers. In that one Steve Young brought the 49ers to Arrowhead to face his predecessor Joe Montana, now a Chief. However this one is taking place in San Francisco. Its a shame this game couldn’t happen at Candlestick Park with all the history.

For the record, The Chancellor of Football believes the 49ers kept the wrong quarterback.

Short sighted 49er fans forget that Smith drove Harbaugh’s first team to an NFC best 13-3 record. Then knocked off the Saints with “The Catch III” playoff winner to Vernon Davis in the final seconds. Smith didn’t lose that NFC Championship Game to the Giants. Those two muffed punts by Kyle Williams did them in.

In 2012 the 49ers were an established contender at 7-4, when Harbaugh made the switch to Kapernick. Smith said all the right things as he watched the 49ers make the Super Bowl. They lost that game to a superior team and the game revealed Kaepernick’s fatal flaw that still haunts him.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

He makes splash plays when he runs the football but hasn’t developed as a downfield quarterback. Watch his play. He can’t throw his receiver open to a designated spot in the defense, and relies on a straight path to drill the football to his receivers. In other words, he can only complete passes like a game of catch. He hasn’t shown the ability to throw on time and drop the ball in over the linebackers or the fade routes to Crabtree Richard Sheman was talking about.

This is why you see so many of his interceptions by defenders undercutting his throws. Think back to the Monday Night game against Chicago. Kaepernick hasn’t developed the touch that failed him on that final throw in Super Bowl XLVII, and is still throwing the same way. Relies too much on running and scrambling instead of allowing the specificity of the planned offensive play to take shape.

As these two went on separate paths, the 49ers went 12-4 and did make it back to the NFC Championship Game. Not only did Smith have a better record the year before with the 49ers but went 11-5 with a new team and new offense. Yes the Chiefs lost in the AFC Wildcard 45-44 but it was the most points scored by a team that lost an NFL playoff game ever.

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Last year Kaepernick threw for 3,197 yards 21 TDs to only 8 interceptions. Smith tossed 23 TDs, 7 interceptions and 3,313 yards. So the tale of the tape is close.

Isn’t it ironic that after a week in which the NFL community is questioning whether Harbaugh has lost his locker room, here comes what ultimately could be his demise in San Francisco?? The Chancellor of Football told you before the season, Harbaugh will be out after this year.

Both teams are showing up to today’s game at 2-2 and Smith knows this defense pretty well. If you think this game doesn’t mean a lot to him, look at last week’s footage between the Texans and Bills. Before that game Ryan Fitzpatrick passionately told the Texans what beating his former team meant.

If you thought the buzzards are starting to circle above Harbaugh now, don’t let them lose this football game. By the way…Joe Montana and the Chiefs won that game in 1994 too.

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Super Bowl XLVII Preview:….And The Winner Is??

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII

Three nights from now, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will try to get some sleep knowing their lives will be different by the end of Sunday night. The boy-hood dream of becoming a Super Bowl champion will be realized by one group where the other will be roped off as the trophy presentation begins.  What color will the confetti be as the league assembles the champion’s podium??

For the most part the sporting world wants to know why Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers is not nervous. Its relatively easy, he’s playing the same offense he did in college. Under normal circumstances a young quarterback is spending his time learning a new offense along with learning the pro game. This game will be decided by the read option and the execution of it. Can the Baltimore defense squeeze this play down and minimize it’s effectiveness??

As we told you in the Ray Lewis Super Bowl preview article….this is the key to this game: In the Ravens defense, when they see this play, Lewis needs to stay on Frank Gore and the outside guys in Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and Bernard Pollard have to be there to hit Kaepernick early to get his attention. Lewis out in space would definitely be a liability at this time. He, Haloti Ngata, and Terrence Cody have to take care of Frank Gore at the point of this play.

Dannell Ellerbe, Haloti Ngata, and Paul Kruger are as key as Ray Lewis in Super Bowl XLVII

Dannell Ellerbe, Haloti Ngata, and Paul Kruger are as key as Ray Lewis in Super Bowl XLVII

If the Ravens can prove to use the front 3 to eat up the blockers and limit Gore’s effectiveness on the read option, Lewis will be able to scrape from inside out if Ellerbe and Kruger can keep containment. This will have to be later in the game once the read option has been neutralized up front. This game may be won or lost on this premise. Lewis needs to flow from his Inside Linebacker position to the cut back point of this play with containment. If the 49ers can stretch the outside, Lewis will not be able to make it to that point to stop Kaepernick.

One wild card the 49er offense can play is RB LeMichael James, he lends a cutback ability and a bounce in or out of a running play that might be harder for Lewis to track. However will he be in enough plays to be that effective a decoy and make that much of an impact on this game. One of the 49er’s strengths is their offensive line. The movement they got on BJ Raji of the Packers in the divisional round was embarrassing. They moved him from left to right where RT Anthony Davis, and Guards Mike Iupati, and Alex Boone rooted him out of there playing too high. This group can move and they can block. If ever there was a game where Terrence “Mount” Cody needs to hold ground next to Haloti Ngata, this is it. Our CEO has often said Ngata is the best defensive lineman in the NFL for his ability to take on double team blocks low, defeat them and make the tackle in the backfield, while keeping blockers off Ray Lewis. Even if he doesn’t make the tackle, occupies the double team allowing Lewis to make the tackle, he’s done his job. Anything more is extra. Understand that Ngata had 50 tackles and 5 sacks from the interior. That is down from 2011’s 64 tackle performance but still enough to make his presence felt this Sunday.

The best linebacker on the field for Super Bowl XLVII won't be Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis. It's Navorro Bowman.

The best linebacker on the field for Super Bowl XLVII won’t be Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis. It’s Navorro Bowman.

The San Francisco 49ers front seven is as good as the Super Bowl has seen in the last ten years. Their linebackers are better than that Tampa unit that won Super Bowl XXXVII. Navorro Bowman just may be the best linebacker in the NFL although Patrick Willis gets most of the ink. If you’re not a Taylor Blitz Times regular it may come as a shock to you that Bowman has been  an All Pro now for back to back seasons even though he just made the Pro Bowl for the first time. Coaches and those that know like The Chancellor of football know this tackling machine can play the run (144 tackles) or the pass. It was Bowman that knocked down the 4th and 4 attempted pass to Roddy White at the end of the NFC Championship Game. He is going to be all over Ray Rice in this football game, whether its a flare pass or run. Willis will be there along with DT Justin Smith (64 tackles) to keep Raven rushing attempts to minimal gains. Watch for RB Bernard Pierce #30 to get a series or two as the lead back if Rice is ineffective early. The 49ers front seven is hard to crack.

Which brings us to the passing attack and the way that Super Bowl XLVII will be won. Coming into this game we have two front sevens playing heads up football but what about the back seven?? The 49ers passing game saved the day with the re-emergence of TE Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship Game. The question was was it a new wrinkle in the offense or an aberration. On a whole is the passing game enough to carry the 49ers to victory on a team that just made Peyton Manning and Tom Brady look pedestrian in back to back playoff games on the road?? The Ravens picked off those two Hall of Famers 5 times combined while on the road. Now they face a quarterback in his 10th start with Hall of Fame S Ed Reed lurking back there disguising his coverages. We don’t see it.

Ed Reed's crafty play at safety is a wildcard in Super Bowl XLVII. He will force Kaepernick into one mis-read interception in this game.

Ed Reed’s crafty play at safety is a wildcard in Super Bowl XLVII. He will force Kaepernick into one mis-read interception in this game.

The other hot hand in these playoffs is Joe Flacco. He’s passed for over 800 yards and 8 touchdowns in the three playoff games leading to this one. He has found the most success in the three receiver sets which have simplified his reads. One of the changes to the Ravens offense that no one is talking about is the firing of Cam Cameron and the play calling of former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell. He used to shape the game plan for the Colts also so he knows what to call having participated in Super Bowl XLI & XLIV. Through this play selection, Flacco has been confident and delivered the football to TE Denni Pitta, WR Anquan Boldin, and WR Torrey Smith. Boldin provides a power mismatch on the outside with his experience but it’s his muscle in the slot that showed in the playoffs. He just bullied Patriot DBs when the ball was in the air.

In the end, the Ravens will force Kaepernick to win this game passing, unfortunately the Ravens should have the lead from being successful passing the football first, winning the game 31-27. The Baltimore Ravens will be the winners of Super Bowl XLVII

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Look for the Taylor Blitz Times new website in the near future and this logo.

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

2012 San Francisco 49ers Preview

Alex Smith celebrating with Vernon Davis after “The Catch III”

With all the excitement that Candlestick Park saw last season, it’s hard not to think of the contrast between the ending of their two playoff games. First the frenzied, raucous crowd who witnessed “The Catch III” as the Niners beat New Orleans in the final seconds. Then, the  fans that quietly filed out after Lawrence Tynes overtime field goal sent the Giants on to Super Bowl XLVI. It was a season where the ending was so abrupt, you could feel everyone in the stadium felt the 49ers let a golden opportunity slip away. Then have to watch with abject horror the Giants throttle the Patriots, and San Francisco had an even better defense… Yes, they let a possible sixth Super Bowl trophy vanish like a mirage in the desert. So will they come back baring emotional scars from the NFC Championship meltdown, or will they gain psychological momentum from a triumphant season culminating with the win over the Saints??

Quarterback: Back in 2009, the Packer insider had an article comparing the paths that Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith had taken since they hailed from the NFL ’05 draft. http://packersinsider.com/2009/11/class-of-2005-alex-smith-vs-aaron-rodgers/ Of course it was written because Rodgers, having the better path of the two, was going to face Smith in a regular season game. That was nearly our match up in last year’s NFC Championship. Yet unlike Rodgers, who laid an egg in an upset playoff loss to the Giants, we saw Smith come of age in his first playoff game. Sure Smith still has his detractors, however they were nowhere to be found in the midst of the noisy celebration in the comeback win.

Coach Harbaugh will have his work cut out for him to do better than his 13-3 inaugural season with the club.

Last year Head Coach Jim Harbaugh “Trent Dilfer-ized” the offense. By asking Smith to acquiesce throwing high risk passes downfield, the offense played to it’s strengths. The running game and the defense carried this team through the early part of the season yet he started to mature into his role and started to take shots downfield with TE Vernon Davis. The Chancellor believes Smith has turned a corner. First off he comes into the 2012 season having gone his last 8 games without an interception which includes two playoff games.  You have to go back to the November 24th game with the Ravens when he last threw a pick. If you look at his 7 games going into the NFC Championship, he had gone 111 of 189 for 1,327 yards and 7 TDs. Even in the championship against the Giants he threw 12 completions in 26 attempts for 196 yards and 2 more TDs. He didn’t force the ball downfield into coverage and the 49ers have given him weapons this year. Has the emotional fallout completely healed from Niners brass courting Peyton Manning and letting Smith dangle in free agency?? We’ll have to wait for a rough patch during the season to see if it has… Until then, we have to give the quarterback position a playoff caliber grade.

Frank Gore is a workhorse running back.

Offensive Backfield: Now who can remember all the “I want to be traded” talk from Frank Gore (The [[_]]) as the team came back from the lockout?? Funny how winning cures all that negative talk in the locker room huh?? Not a peep out of Gore as the team stormed to a 9-1 start. Gore bludgeoned his way to 1,211 yards, 8TDs and had an average of 4.3 yards per carry. His 2011 yardage was second highest for his career, and  was his fifth 1,000 yard rushing season in the last six seasons. He is the last of a dying breed…. The big running back that can control the game and the clock.

Kendall Hunter was a good change of pace running back that had a combined 668 yards from scrimmage, 473 of which rushing.  Yet the 49ers drafted speedy LaMichael James out of Oregon. James brings an explosive element to an offense that desperately needs it. We know he’ll play on 3rd downs, passing situations and special teams at least. With his falling to them in the draft, we believe the odd man out will be free agent Brandon Jacobs. His lack of versatility will make him expendable as we reach September. With Hunter and James to take some of the load off, it should keep Gore fresh for the stretch run. Running back is above average or as we say around here, playoff quality.

Receivers: Here is the position that let the team down last year and could be the difference between the 49ers playing in Super Bowl XLVII, or watching it. TE Vernon Davis is one of the emotional leaders of this football team. Last year Davis had 67 receptions for 792 yards and 6 scores. He has been the target most teams try to take away first in the Niners passing game and he still manages to get the football. Davis should return to the Pro Bowl now that he will receive some help on the outside. With the signing of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and the drafting of A.J. Jenkins in the first round, the Michael Crabtree / Ted Ginn Jr experiment is over. Ginn should be cut this summer. These two can’t get open on a consistent basis and neither has been able to get deep. If Randy Moss can provide that element as he did for the 2007 Patriots, this could swing the offense wide open. Three receiver sets may become more prominent which could even open space for James coming out of the backfield. Moss as a veteran, could be a locker room presence since most of these players grew up watching his exploits. If he can still get deep, this is a playoff quality group yet will have to go through some growing pains to start the season and find everyone their role.

Offensive Line: Last year this line was good enough to rank a respectable 8th rushing the football and 10th in rushing first downs with 101. However protecting the passer they were 25th in allowing 44 sacks and ranked 24th in QB hits allowed with 82. Let’s face it,  on some of those plays Smith held the ball too long, yet at times against top defenses this line couldn’t hold up. When rushing the football in obvious power situations, they converted 44% to the strong side and 67% up the gut. Those need to improve on the strong side for a heavy rushing team. They spent two draft picks in G Joe Looney of Wake Forest and they took C Jason Slowey from Western Oregon with the 199th selection. Looney should be able to contribute immediately. Slowey could push journeyman center Jonathon Goodwin who is entering his 10th season. This line will be asked to protect better or they may be relegated to another “Trent Dilfer-ized” season as an offense. They want a vertical passing game with Moss and Manningham which calls for 5 and 7 step drops. They have to get better.  Until we see them improve in the pre-season we have to give them a below average grade.

Ray McDonald making his presence felt in last year’s NFC Championship Game.

Defensive Line: Aside from Patrick Willis on the defense, has there been a steadier performer than Justin Smith?? He’s a complete motor guy who gets by on hard work who plays the run as well as the pass. He just came off his 3rd straight Pro Bowl berth with his best season. With 65 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles he paces a defensive line that was stout against the run. Pass rush specialist Aldon Smith teamed with Smith to form a formidable rush and he tallied 14 sacks. As a team they produced 42 sacks which was 7th best in football.  Keep your eye on Ray McDonald #91. This could be his breakout year. He recorded 43 tackles along with 5.5 sacks, all produced from the lines interior. He was all over the place in the NFC Championship game sacking Eli Manning 2.5 times. He should be in Hawai’i in about 7 months. Mark it down.

The three man line even more so than a four man line is there to keep blockers off the linebackers. This unit didn’t allow a rushing touchdown for the first ten games of the season. Every team in NFL history that was able to do that made it to the conference championship game. Smith (Justin) is going into his 12th season and they may want to sub for him a little more to keep him fresh by seasons end. He did record sacks in each playoff game last year but there is a lot of mileage on his spedometer. Defensive line is Super Bowl quality by the Bay.

Linebackers: Did we say something about the defensive line keeping blockers off of the linebackers?? How about to the tune of 305 tackles by the top three guys… Navarro Bowman with 150, Patrick Willis with 105 although he missed a game, and Ahmad Brooks with 50. Yikes!! That is a lot of scraping into the hole and meeting runners before they can get started. How Bowman was named 1st team All Pro (along with Justin Smith & Patrick Willis) and NOT the Pro Bowl is beyond me. This group is active and instinctive and plays extremely fast. Willis forced 4 of the team’s 20 forced fumbles on the years. In addition, Bowman and Willis produced 2 sacks each during the regular season. This is a Super Bowl quality group who should actually get better given their relative youth.

Rogers has found a home after leaving the Washington Redskins

Secondary: Retaining CB Carlos Rogers was essential in keeping this defense playing at a high level. Last year he went to the Pro Bowl with a 55 tackle, 6 interception season. He can man up against the fastest receivers and turn and run with them. He should make it to Hawai’i again. The quiet secret to this defense is the safety play of safeties Dashon Goldson and Dontae Whitner. At first glance SS Whitner’s 65 tackles don’t impress you until you realize how many were gobbled up by the linebackers. He did intercept two passes and was rarely out of position. Folks, like our CEO still wish he were in Buffalo. Goldson covers serious ground and did make the Pro Bowl thanks to a 69 tackle, 6 interception season. Whitner and Goldson are 26 & 27 respectively and should be stout for another 3 seasons. A veteran secondary that is Super Bowl quality as well.

Overall: This team is returning all of the starters from the 4th best defense in football. One that held opponents to 35% conversion rate on 3rd down (76 of 216) and should have another outstanding season. It’s imperative that they do since they start the 2012 campaign in Green Bay, then host the Lions on Sept 16th. They could be 0-2 to start the season. Hopefully they can keep the same hunger as they did last year. They were 6-2 on the road yet this year bring not only the aforementioned trip to Lambeau, add a trip to New England, and another against the revenge minded Saints. They also host the tough Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl champion Giants, so anticipate a tougher year. They should still win the west but their record will slip to to 11-5. They face some potent offenses from the AFC East which are better than the AFC North offenses of a year ago. In the Chancellor’s crystal ball, the 49ers should return to the NFC Championship Game barring injuries. Games one and two against the Packers & Lions could well decide which team will host it.

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Next up: Green Bay Packers

NFL Week 4 NFC West: Welcome To Bizarro World

Coach Jim Harbaugh and the much beleaguered Alex Smith have enjoyed a good first quarter of the 2011 season.

What else would you expect from the NFC West?? After all this is the division that had a worst to first scenario in sending the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl. They had the worst record ever to qualify for that game and came within 3 minutes of winning it. Then you had the worst to first 2010 division champion Seattle Seahaws. They became the first team in NFL history with a losing record and make the playoffs. What did they do for an encore?? Promptly upset the Super Bowl champion Saints in a wild wild card game 41-36. Why are we bringing it up?? This wacky division is at it again.

Enter the San Francisco 49ers. A team that struggled to find itself under Coach Singletary is suddenly, the scrourge of the division under new commander Jim Harbaugh.  A division where many pundits pointed to St Louis as the best the NFC West had to offer are having to reevaluate. At 3-1 this team has shown flash in being able to move the football.  Alex Smith…who?? Alex Smith has completed 67.7% of his passes for 795 yards  4TDs and only 1 interception. Serious get off the floor those are his real stats. In Harbaugh he got what he desperately needed, a quarterback coach.

The cavalcade of Alex Smith detractors have fallen silent. Of course the season is still young however this team is moving in a direction and a purpose not seen by the bay since Steve Marriucci.

Funny how once you start drinking a winning elixir everyone starts to fly right. Haven’t heard a peep out of Frank Gore about being traded now have we??  He’s rushed for 275 yards so far but his 3.7 yard average needs to improve. They just upset the “Dream Team’ Eagles, who were desperate for a win, 24-23 last Sunday, to move to a 3-1 record. Many folks scoffed that they didn’t play anyone after a week 3 13-8 win in Cincinnati. Until you realize that the number 1 defense in the NFL belongs to those Bengals. Yet what is important is San Fran has been packing a defense also. Right now they are in the middle of the pack at #17, and this team is scrappy and not beating itself. They take on an aspiring heavyweight contender when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. Two 3-1 teams putting the recent past behind them…who ya’ got??  OK, reserve giving your answer for the end of the week. As for the standings…

NFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
San Francisco 3 1 0 .750 1-1-0 2-0-0 1-0-0 2-1-0 94 75 +19 Won 2
Seattle 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 1-1-0 1-2-0 58 97 -39 Lost 1
Arizona 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 0-1-0 1-3-0 86 87 -1 Lost 3
St. Louis 0 4 0 .000 0-3-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-3-0 46 113 -67 Lost 4

Cardinal signal caller has had a moderate start, yet 3/4ths of the season left, he could get hot.

Now why was this division article entitled bizarro world?? Well most of us so called experts had the complete inverse of these standings as our final predictions. Kolb in Arizona was going to bring the long ball back to the desert. He and Larry Fitzgerald were going to bring the offense the glory left behind in the 2008  & 2009 seasons. Now if only Beanie Wells could stay healthy…uh see what we mean?? Right now Chris “Beanie” Wells has rushed for 321 yards and 5 TDs and is averaging a robust 5.4 yards per carry. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/crd/2011.htm Its not that Kolb has underwhelmed, teams are covering his only legitimate threat in Fitzgerald. He’s had to check down or throw the ball away. His stats look just like those that got him “Wally Pipp-ed” by Vick in Philadelphia. That withstanding he is still over 200 yards per game with 1,049 yet he’s thrown 5TDs and 4 ints.

Right now this team is suffering from glaring losses in Steve Breaston and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Breaston to help stretch the field and Cromartie to help out their 24th against the pass rating. Asking rookie CB Patrick Peterson to come in and be a Deion clone was foolish without a mentor. Right now he has 1 int, only 3 passes defensed yet leads the team in tackles with 18. What does that mean?? He’s getting burnt as a rookie yet makes sure to tackle the receiver once the ball is caught. Right now they aren’t forcing any turnovers out of their opponents and are a -6 in the turnover ratio or they might be 3-1 or 2-2. With their upcoming game with the Minnesota Vikings, this could be just what the doctor ordered for a tired pass defense. Funny that’s what Minnesota is saying about Arizona’s pass defense for the betterment of their team’s offensive psyche. If they can get to their bye week at 2-3 they can get back in the race.

The St Louis Rams have been sabotaged by injuries with Stephen Jackson missing several games and thrusting all the pressure on Sam Bradford. With the threat of the run, defenses underestimated Bradford last year and he lit them up. This year he’s been under fire with Cadillac Williams unable to sustain a consistent ground game. Williams is the type of back who’ll gain 0, -1, 1, then a 10 yard burst. So the average looks good but 3 drives like that and they don’t score yet it seems like he’s effective stat wise. However with Jackson back, they fell behind 17-0 to the Redskins and tried to play catch up with an an undermanned receiving corp. The Rams defense isn’t getting any rest during games and they’re getting pushed around. Last week they got shoved off the ball from the get go as the Redskins amassed 196 yards rushing. Not the recipe when you have a big back and downhill runner in Jackson. They need this bye week as they take on the champion Packers upon they’re return. Their season could teeter on that one football game. An upset there to build their confidence could fuel a resurgence. They haven’t played any of their division rivals yet either. We know they are 0-4, yet we remember when an 0-3 Buffalo Bills team in ’98 made the playoffs that same year. The ’92 Chargers started out 0-4 and won a division title back when there was a 5 team division. So it can be done. Can they summon up the strength for that game against Aaron Rodgers & company with two weeks rest??

See what we mean?? If the Rams can turn the tide and get back in the NFC West race, it’s Bizarro World all over again measuring against the first quarter of the season.

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