Niners need another gear for Seahawks
Somebody get Colin Kaepernick some Skittles.
So for his next touchdown celebration, he can chew them before Kaepernicking. Or pour them on the end zone turf in Seattle and stomp on them while kissing his biceps. You know, a "shout out" to Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
Call it what you want, but such an antic would let you know Kaepernick is in that against-all-odds mode. It's his preferred way to gloat after being bombarded with doubt. And you want him with that mindset because that's what gets him to another gear.
To beat Seattle in Sunday's NFC Championship game, another gear will be required.
He was in that mindset when the 49ers put the host Carolina Panthers in their place. He let you know when he scored and mimicked the celebration of Cam Newton, who was drafted 35 spots ahead of Kaepernick. You know he planned all along to pull that off. Which means he planned to score a touchdown. Which means he really wanted to score.
And when Kap really wants to do something, he has shown a propensity for getting it done.
It's no coincidence that he turned his play around so drastically after playing so poorly in the early stages Sunday. It's like he could hear you starting to doubt him again. Like he was getting negative Tweets uploaded to his armband. Or maybe it was the constant trash talking of the Carolina defenders.
"I'm not going to just let them say anything they want to me. So if you want to say things to me, I am going to respond."
Whatever the reason, the way he came alive — the way his throws started featuring such zip and accuracy, the way his focus sharpened and decision making improved - you got the feeling he wanted to shut some people up. Better yet, water board his critics in their own Haterade.
You could argue Kaepernick, if he is indeed more than hype, shouldn't need such a temperament to produce. At the very least, he shouldn't need outside influence to get him into whatever mindset he needs to be most effective every game. Such would be valid criticisms and underscores his inexperience as a quarterback. But that's an issue for another day.
For now, what matters is that he gets in that zone. Because when he is, he's a handful. When he is, he outshines the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton — on the road, on the big stage.
The 49ers are going to need Kaepernick to play the game of his life, which is more likely when he plays with a California redwood on his shoulder. When he's in that mode, he can lift the entire offense and thereby the team.
Motivation shouldn't be hard for Kaepernick. The last time he played at Seattle, he led the 49ers to an ugly 29-3 loss and had a quarterback rating of 20.1. In two career road games against Seattle, Kaepernick has completed 50 percent of his passes, thrown for one touchdown and four interceptions. In every other road game he has played in his career (including playoffs), he has completed 58 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has seven rushing touchdowns in 19 road games, but he has yet to rush for a score against Seattle.
The Seahawks' defensive linemen get the push to consistently pressure Kaepernick in the pocket. Their linebackers have the speed to keep him from running wild when he scrambles. Their secondary is so good at man-to-man coverage, it scarcely leaves an open man for Kaepernick to easily spot and connect.
So the 49ers' third-year quarterback is going to have to take his pocket presence to another level. He's going to have to pick the perfect times and angles to scramble, and run like danger is chasing him. He's going to have to repeatedly throw to covered receivers and hit his spots with accuracy, And when he fails to do either of those, he's going to have to brush it off with enough defiance to assure himself and his teammates they aren't headed for another debacle.
Kaepernick plays best when he has an APB to send to the world. If the 49ers are to conquer their Seattle demons and get back to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick needs to send that message emphatically. Get that man some Skittles.