STEVEN SENNE / Associated Press

Colin Kaepernick impressed Jim Harbaugh with his ability to make a big pass after being intercepted.

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  • Late defensive stand clinches playoff berth for 49ers
  • REPORT CARD

    Offense: The 49ers fail to hold a 28-point lead in the third quarter but produce a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown pass. Colin Kaepernick is great … when he has the ball. Too many bad center-quarterback exchanges. Grade: B

    Defense: Four takeaways usually are enough to topple a team. The 49ers, however, need a four-and-out late in the game to seal the win. They play without anchor Justin Smith for much of the second half. Grade: B

    Special teams: La-Michael James' 62-yard kickoff return gives the 49ers renewed life late. The 49ers call a fake punt that goes for 31 yards and a first down. David Akers misses an early field-goal attempt from 39 yards. Grade: C+

    Overall: There are mixed feelings after an up-and-down game. The bottom line is the 49ers topple the NFL's hottest team in its own building and seal a playoff berth. Grade: A-

    – Matthew Barrows

49ers notes: Kaepernick has 'poise beyond his years'

Published: Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 - 8:06 am

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Minutes after Sunday's game, Colin Kaepernick was asked about his touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.

"Which one?" the quarterback asked earnestly.

Indeed, Kaepernick threw two scores to Crabtree under a cold and steady New England rain. The second of which was most prominent because it wrestled the lead back for the 49ers with 6:25 remaining. Crabtree wasn't the primary target on the play, but when Kaepernick saw the Patriots in man-to-man coverage, he didn't hesitate.

"He wins a lot of one-on-one matchups, and he did it on that play," Kaepernick said.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, meanwhile, may have been even more impressed with the first Kaepernick-to-Crabtree touchdown connection, which came in the third quarter.

On an earlier drive in the quarter, Kaepernick tried to force a throw in the end zone to Randy Moss. Safety Devin McCourty, however, cut in front of the receiver for the interception, Kaepernick's only turnover of the contest.

Harbaugh said one of the most difficult tasks for a quarterback is to make a big pass following such a turnover. But that's exactly what Kaepernick did on his next attempt, which followed an interception by Aldon Smith. His pass from 27 yards away threaded three defenders and put the 49ers ahead 31-3.

Indeed, he seemed unfazed by the magnitude of the game. He hit four of his first five passes – all of them to either Crabtree or Moss – on the opening drive, including a 24-yard touchdown to Moss on the sixth play of the opening possession.

"It was a tough game to play quarterback," Harbaugh said. "You saw both quarterbacks at times – you're not going to hit every pass. … I think Kaepernick definitely (acquitted) himself well. He's got poise that's beyond his years."

Slippery when wet – Harbaugh said that Kaepernick required a little in-game coaching to fix a stream of botched exchanges between the quarterback and center Jonathan Goodwin.

There were five bad snaps on the evening for the 49ers, including four fumbles. One of them came on fourth and one deep in New England territory, resulting in the 49ers turning the ball over on downs. Kaepernick started using a glove midway through the game and adjusted his technique.

"The ball was hitting and squirting off his hand," Harbaugh said. "He moved his guide hand a little further to the right and his top hand a little further to the right. That helped."

Moss No. 3 – With his 24-yard touchdown catch on the 49ers' opening drive, Moss passed former Ram and 49er Isaac Bruce for No. 3 all-time receiving yards.

Moss finished the game with 15,220 total career receiving yards. He spent three-plus seasons in New England and had one of the most prolific years of his career in 2007. He caught 98 passes for 1,493 touchdowns, averaging 15.2 yards per catch. Last week, Moss said he credited Patriots coach Bill Belichick for increasing his NFL education after he arrived in New England as a nine-year veteran.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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