FOXBORO, Mass. — There aren’t many quarterbacks in football that can say they’ve taken their team into Gillette Stadium and bested Tom Brady. But, on Sunday night, that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick did.
The second-year quarterback took the field in Foxboro with not even a hint of fear in his eyes, and led the first real landmark victory of his young NFL career. Kaepernick entered Brady’s house with limited experience and unknown expectations. But by the time he boarded the plane back to San Francisco early Monday morning, he had developed a reputation as both a fearless leader and as a winner.
“He’s got poise that’s beyond his years,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbuagh said complimenting his young quarterback after the game.
That same sentiment was felt about Brady during his first season under center. Brady embodied adjectives like courage, fortitude and desire during that 2001 season, and Kaepernick is beginning to personify those traits this season.
It’s not to say that Kaepernick will achieve Brady’s unparalleled success during his first season as a starter, although there are some uncanny similarities, but he definitely possesses a very similar demeanor to the two-time MVP.
Kaepernick is a special young talent, with incredible speed and agility on the ground as well as arm strength and precision through the air. His diverse skill set separates him from many other quarterbacks throughout the league, and maybe even more importantly it offers the 49ers different opportunities on offense.
Alex Smith sufficed as the Niners’ quarterback over the past two seasons. He filled a role and did so admirably, and only appeared to be getting better this season. Leading the league in completion percentage (70 percent) and posting a 6-2-1 record as a starter is no small feat. But Harbaugh knows Smith’s limitations and he understands the endless possibilities that Kaepernick offers. That’s why Kaepernick is the rightful owner of the 49ers’ starting quarterback job, and why he’ll keep it for the near and distant future.
Sunday night was a prime display of Kaepernick’s unique abilities while under, or behind, center. He completed 14 of his 25 passes for 216 yards and ran for another 28 in a rain-drenched game in New England. Kaepernick may not have put up the gaudy statistics that could be seen next to Brady’s name in the box score –36-for-65 and 443 yards passing. But when it came to the stats that mattered, Kaepernick dominated the future Hall of Famer.
The young gun threw four touchdowns to Brady’s one — although Brady also ran in a score — and threw a single interception on the night whereas Brady doubled up on that number. The touchdown to interception ratio is somewhat telling, but Kaepernick has an immense amount of respect for Brady and knew that he had to be ready to match Brady’s output.
“We knew we were going to have to put up points,” Kaepernick said afterward. “Tom Brady and that offense are very potent; they can put up a lot of points, so we knew we were going to have to match that today.”
If stats weren’t enough, the 41-34 win was proof that Kaepernick was amply prepared for the challenge. But even beyond the stat sheet or the check in the win column, Harbaugh was impressed by the character he saw his quarterback exude in the win.
“Another over 100 passer rating in a real tough environment. There was rain the entire game, but he did a nice job powering the ball through the elements and through the defense at times,” Harbaugh said. “It was a heck of a football game. I think Kaepernick definitely [acclimated] himself well.”
The 49ers came away from Gillette with a victory on Sunday night, all but wrapping up the NFC West title. But in the win, San Francisco gained more than just a division title. They discovered a budding superstar in their midst, and he just so happens to be their starting quarterback.