SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Harbaugh watched how Colin Kaepernick handled himself when things didn't go right for the San Francisco 49ers, and that told the coach plenty more about his second-year quarterback with all of three NFL starts to his name.
Enough that Harbaugh is sticking with Kaepernick under center — for now, anyway — as his team gears up for Sunday's home game against the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park.
"Just a winning quarterback performance in tough circumstances," Harbaugh said Monday. "In the evaluation, I thought Colin played well, did a lot of really good things, made some good decisions. ... I thought some real positives to take away from his performance."
Yet Alex Smith isn't out of this mix yet, either. Another sub-par performance by Kaepernick could have Harbaugh going back to the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick for the final December push toward the playoffs. The reigning NFL coach of the year is leaving every option open down the stretch.
A day after a 16-13 overtime loss at St. Louis, Harbaugh accepted the blame for the fourth-quarter pitch that was fumbled by Kaepernick and led to Janoris Jenkins' 2-yard fumble return for a touchdown and ensuing 2-point conversion that tied the game. Harbaugh didn't call the play, but relayed it through the headset to Kaepernick.
"Responsibility-taking starts with me on that option play that resulted in the nightmare scenario," Harbaugh said. "Position of the game that where I should not let that play be called. So I take responsibility for that."
At 8-3-1, the Niners are prepared for a challenge from the Seahawks (7-5) in the NFC West after Seattle won in overtime at Chicago on Sunday. The teams play at Seattle in the second-to-last game on Dec. 23.
The Oakland Raiders put their latest loss in the rearview mirror Monday and began preparations in earnest for the Denver Broncos while coach Dennis Allen tended to a family situation in Texas.
Allen left Sunday night after a 20-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns for the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be with his father, Grady Allen, who has a serious undisclosed illness, and the rest of his immediate family.
A Raiders spokesman said Allen arrived at his destination Sunday night and that the coach plans on being back in time to coach against the Broncos Thursday at O.co Coliseum.
Rex Ryan is in quite the quarterback quandary, undecided on whether it will be Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy or Tim Tebow under center Sunday at Jacksonville.
"Well, I think right now," Ryan said Monday, "I definitely need a little more time to make that decision."
While it was widely thought Tebow would be the guy to eventually take Sanchez's job, McElroy made a strong case for himself in leading the Jets (5-7) to a 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Sanchez was pulled Sunday with 4:48 left in the third quarter, and McElroy came in and led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive. He was 5 of 7 for 29 yards.
Nick Foles is the quarterback of the present for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Coach Andy Reid said Foles will remain the starter for the rest of the season, even when Michael Vick returns from a concussion. The Eagles (3-9) have lost eight straight games, a strong factor in Reid's decision.
"No. 1, I just think he's playing well enough to where I think he can win football games for us," Reid said Monday. "And No. 2, I think where we sit at this position in the season, I think it's the right thing to do."
Reid made the announcement a day after Foles had his best performance in a 38-33 loss at Dallas on Sunday night. Foles, a third-round pick, has started the last three games since Vick was injured on Nov. 11.
Foles was 22 of 34 for 251 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys. He has thrown for 793 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has a passer rating of 73.3.
Vick has struggled this season, committing 14 turnovers in nine games. He has 2,165 yards passing, 11 TDs and nine interceptions for a passer rating of 79.2.