Patriots hoping to contain 49ers QB Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick is giving the New England Patriots some extra

things to think about this week.

As if defending perennial Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore

wasn’t enough of a concern, the Patriots (10-3) now must focus on

curtailing San Francisco’s shifty quarterback in front of a

national audience Sunday night.

”Our job is to contain him, running and passing,” New England

defensive end Chandler Jones said Friday. ”Kaepernick’s a good

athlete. He can throw the ball and he can run as well. It’s our job

to contain him.”

Easier said than done.

The Miami Dolphins last week discovered first-hand how difficult

that task can be.

Trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins’

defense surrendered a 50-yard touchdown run to Kaepernick, who

deftly deceived the defensive line with a perfect play-action fake,

bounced outside and darted untouched up the left sideline for the

clinching score for the 49ers (9-3-1).

”Everybody came to me and Mr. Everything did his thing,” Gore

said after the win.

The highlight-reel run also served noticed to the rest of the

league – there is no quarterback controversy in the Bay Area.

”He’s a guy that can do a lot. Just that last run he had

against Miami last week where he’s able to just hit the sideline

and pull away from everybody and he has a very strong arm,”

Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. ”So, another young

quarterback that we’re playing that we’re going to just try to make

things tough on him, do different things, but he’s really grasped

onto the offense fast. He hasn’t played in many games, but he’s

been very productive.”

Kaepernick’s primary numbers don’t jump out at you – three

passing touchdowns, five touchdown runs and a 67.4 completion

percentage. Yet the 25-year-old has just one interception in 129

pass attempts, has eclipsed 200 yards passing in three of his four

starts and is averaging 7.6 yards per carry.

”He has one interception. As a young guy to be playing football

and playing at a high level like he’s doing, he’s not making many

mistakes at all and he’s not throwing into coverage where guys are

just dropping balls,” McCourty said. ”I think because of his arm

strength, he’s able to even throw in some tight windows and get the

throw in there and it’s the right read. So it’s going to be tough

for us.”

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh earlier this week highlighted

Kaepernick’s top qualities, saying he’s fast, powerful, smart and

reads the field extremely well.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick sees similar talents.

”I think the two most important things for a quarterback are

his decision making and accuracy. I could probably go out there and

read the field decently but I don’t think you’d want me playing

quarterback,” Belichick joked. ”There are other guys that can

thread a needle but maybe not see as well, but I think the

combination of seeing the field, making good decisions and accuracy

is really what it comes down to more than some other qualities.

”I think he’s done it to a degree,” he added. ”He’s a young,

improving quarterback. It looks like he gets better each week and

probably plays with more confidence and does things a little bit

better each week. But, I wouldn’t disagree with (Harbaugh).”

Kaepernick started the season as the backup to Alex Smith, who

just last season led San Francisco to within one victory of the

Super Bowl and had the 49ers at 6-2 and atop the NFC West before

going down with a concussion in the first half against St. Louis on

Nov. 11.

The 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft then calmly stepped

under center and inherited the starting role even with Smith

healthy enough to return.

”This guy, he can throw the football, he has a strong arm, he’s

pretty accurate. For the most part, he makes pretty good

decisions,” said New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork. ”To be

playing only a couple of weeks, he makes some good plays for this

team.”

The Patriots defense, however, poses perhaps the most formidable

test yet for the mobile quarterback.

Their run defense is eighth in the league, surrendering just

more than 100 yards a game. And while the unit still ranks 29th

against the pass, it has vastly improved since the acquisition of

cornerback Aqib Talib, who has played in four games for the AFC

East champions. New England has won seven straight, including a

dominating 42-14 victory over the first-place Houston Texans on

Monday.

”Defensively, turnovers and points allowed, that’s really what

decides the game,” McCourty said. ”We can pull up a bunch of

different stats, but how many points have you given up and try to

take the ball away. So for us, it stays the same throughout the

season.

”We’ll have our work cut out for us this week. This team and

this offense, they do a good job of taking care of the ball, so

we’re really going to have to try to go out there and make our own

plays in the passing game and running game.”

For the 49ers to win, so will Kaepernick.