When the Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49ers earlier this season on Monday Night Football, Alex Smith started in the 24-3 Niners' win. He also was 18/19 in his passing attempts, which had he attempted one more pass and completed it, would have been the most accurate passing performance in a game ever.
This time around, it won't be Smith starting, but Colin Kaepernick, whom Jim Harbaugh turned to as starter after Smith went down with a concussion, and has stuck with him since that point.
As noted by Darren Urban on the team's official page, preparing for Kaepernick will be different. "It's very different because both buys are athletic but when you have Kaepernick, who can run with his feet and could probably throw the ball a little better than Alex, it's added pressure on us to stop him with his feet," linebacker Daryl Washington said.
As for the Kaepernick experience, 49ers fans are torn on the subject. David Fucillo from Niners Nation wrote to me on the topic in our traditional "5 questions" cross-blog work (more coming on those, by the way).
Perhaps the most intriguing story surrounding the Niners this year is the quarterback situation. How has the reaction been to Colin Kaepernick? Is there any regret for going to him, being that the team has lost twice with him starting. Is there any worry about the pressure of the playoffs and the youth and inexperience of Kaepernick?
"The reaction to Colin Kaepernick has been mixed. When the change first happened, and it became clear that Jim Harbaugh was looking to stick with Kaepernick, fans quickly divided into the two camps. As the season has worn on, the people demanding Alex Smith start have quieted down a bit. At the same time, with every Kaepernick incompletion, it becomes a shouting match once again. Some fans have come out and said, they'll support this if the 49ers win the Super Bowl. So take that how you will.
"There are definitely worries about the playoffs with Kaepernick. He is a second year QB who is still learning the QB position at the NFL level. I am not overly concerned about confidence as Kaepernick appears to have plenty of confidence. It is more just getting used to the various situations, and not trying to force things when situations get ugly. He has had his ups and downs so far, but it'll take actual playoff games to see what it all means when it really matters. That's a bit of a cop-out answer, but this situation is so bizarre and unique, it's hard to have answers."
In some ways, it looks like Kaepernick will make things easier and more difficult. He is a bit more unpredictable, and he is going to push the ball down the field a little more than Smith, but Smith's discipline is part of what makes him so difficult to rattle.
We have seen the Cardinals defense make quarterbacks look silly. The difficult part of San Francisco is the running game.
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