Lowell Cohn: Jim Harbaugh unleashes the full Colin Kaepernick effect

  • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) scrambles away from Tennessee Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers (56) in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. The 49ers won 31-17. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It is important to point out that Harbaugh called the read-option against Tennessee, let Kaepernick run, invited him to run. Kaepernick ran for 68 yards on 11 carries. He averaged a ton more yards per carry than Frank Gore. He saved the 49ers.

"Save" is too strong. The 49ers were playing the Titans, after all. Let's just say Kaepernick helped his team immensely by running, one time for a touchdown, sprinting to his left, his knees high, his legs pumping. Such a beautiful running style.

And he passed from under center and he passed on the run. He passed any way you want. And if he didn't go through his progressions — I have no idea one way or another — I can only imagine how fantastic he'll be when he does learn to go through his progressions.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Tennessee Titans


When he ran, he took some shots. He's a football player. What do you expect? But you'll notice one thing. He never takes a full-on hit. He's sliding or turning to the side or simply outrunning amazed defenders. He is a shot deflector. And that in itself is a talent. Talking of Kapernick taking big hits, Harbaugh said with a grin on his face, "You've got to catch him first."

So, yes, this was Kaepernick's game. He was the story of the game and the hero of the game and the star. He may have been in a slump. But he isn't now. Repeat after me. "Goodbye, slump."

Kaepernick has reached a point in his young career, a point Steve Young reached after a while. The 49ers never can be a big underdog — can't be any kind of underdog — as long as Kaepernick wears their uniform. It doesn't matter who is hurt. It doesn't matter who is out.

Kaepernick has one wide legit receiver — Anquan Boldin. He can work with that. He has one legit running back — Frank Gore. He can work with that, too. One tight end — Vernon Davis. Workable. He has one thing that atones for all the Niners' offensive deficiencies. He has himself. For a quarterback to be 5-2 with this little talent around him is unheard of. Kaepernick makes the 49ers' offense better than it has a right to be.

After the game, I asked Harbaugh what thrills him about Kaepernick. Harbaugh sometimes limits his answers to a grunt. Not so on the subject of his quarterback. Harbaugh loves Kaepernick.

"I can tell you a lot of things," Harbaugh said, preparing to be loquacious. "He's has a wonderful competitive heart. He is very talented both from a physical standpoint and from a mental standpoint. He's extremely smart, quick thinker, reacts to things. He can juggle many concepts in his mind, memorizes things extremely well. It's a pretty long list."


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