Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, chased by Miami linebacker Jason Trusnik, runs for a 50-yard touchdown.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Quarterback Colin Kaepernick scores on a 50-yard keeper with just over two minutes remaining to cap the 49ers' 27-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

  • Ailene Voisin

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Ailene Voisin: Kaepernick is showing he's a real keeper

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 - 8:29 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Within the past week alone, the national media have written, chatted and tweeted extensively about Colin Kaepernick's pet tortoise, his tattoos, his baseball talents, his adoptive parents, his birth mother, his birthplace (Milwaukee, Wis.) and his adopted hometown (Turlock).

But this is a tough guy to chase down. The 49ers' second-year quarterback is handling the attention with all the poise and escapability of a seasoned veteran – basically, by saying little and revealing even less – while showing off his fleet feet and impressive powers of recovery.

The three gaffes that contributed mightily to last Sunday's overtime loss in St. Louis? The safety, the errant pitch, the ill-advised step out of bounds?

Who remembers this stuff anyway? Known for athletics and academics during his prolific high school and college careers, Kaepernick did exactly what he was supposed to do. He forgot all about it. He stuffed all three mistakes into the bottom of his dirty clothes hamper, picked himself up and brushed himself off, and directed a 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins that included his second 50-yard sprint in as many weeks, this one for a touchdown.

"Acquitted himself very well," coach Jim Harbaugh said.

"Made some big-time throws and ran the offense. Did a good job of running the football. His ball security was better, even though he did fumble one time. But I thought that was an improvement. And his reads were good, for the most part."

Against a defense that utilized soft zone coverages in an attempt to limit his deep throws and big-strike potential, Kaepernick, cautious and patient, converted 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards. He spent a large chunk of the afternoon throwing to wideout Michael Crabtree for modest 10-yard gains or exploiting the 49ers' newest running back combination of Frank Gore and rookie LaMichael James.

Gore, who carried 12 times for 63 yards and elicited a few appreciative gasps from the crowd with his familiar cutbacks and elusive power bursts up the middle, exceeded 1,000 yards for the sixth time in his career. James, making his NFL debut after three dazzling seasons with Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks, skittered and scooted for 30 yards, including a 13-yard scamper.

But Harbaugh didn't ignite a quarterback controversy because he likes to play safe. That's some other coach's DNA. He switched from Alex Smith to Kaepernick precisely because he likes the added dimension of the big play, the deep throws, those quick strikes that command attention and turn ballgames.

"Our offense has a lot of volume," Kaepernick said. "That's something that just takes a little time."

It took two second-half plays Sunday to elevate a so-so game into an interesting afternoon – a flea-flicker that almost resulted in a touchdown and a 50-yard keeper that did.

First, with 3:16 left in the third quarter, Gore took a handoff and lateraled to Kaepernick, who launched a 50-yard pass that barely eluded Randy Moss' grasp in the end zone.

"We thought we were going to have six," the quarterback said.

Then, with just over two minutes remaining, Kaepernick faked a handoff to Gore and took off around the left side, cruising behind blocks from Garrett Celek and Crabtree, and accompanied by Delanie Walker as he strolled over the goal line.

"Sometimes it's a called run," said Harbaugh, "where he's just going to hand it off. Sometimes he's got the option to hand it off, or throw it.

"It did vary. … It was a big third-down conversion. We'd been struggling on third downs. To get that one to pop and get the touchdown was great."

Asked if he was surprised by the amount of open space on his fifth career rushing touchdown, the most by a 49ers quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2001, Kaepernick finally spilled the goods.

"A little bit, I was," he said with a grin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Email: avoisin@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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