Your team loses by a score of 10-9 and you happen to have a stat line that reads as follows: 11-of-22 passes for 91 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. In addition, you are sacked six times and when taking into account the yardage lost on those sacks, you finish the game with a net total of 46 yards passing. Clearly you had a very bad game as the quarterback and are going to receive much criticism for your play.
Looking at Kaerpnick’s performance from a distance, it is hard to argue against the fact that he did not play well at all and that a couple of the sacks during the game where his fault as he ran into pressure as opposed to remaining in the pocket. While Kaepernick did commit several mistakes during the game, to place most of blame on him for his performance on Sunday against the Panthers would be to miss deeper underlying reasons for his performance.
The truth of the matter is that Kaepernick’s receivers did not help him at all during the game. In particular, the 49ers wide receivers once again struggled to beat and create any separation between themselves and Panthers’ secondary players. Even a player like Anquan Boldin, who has proven to be able to make catches without getting much separation between him and his defender, struggled to have any impact on Sunday.
While Kaepernick may have been jumpy and unable to look beyond his first target, the reason for this was because his receivers were unable to get open. It is tough to ask or expect for him to seek out options no. 2 and no. 3 given that they were unlikely to be open at all for him to confidently throw the ball to them.
The QB also lost one of his two most reliable and trusted pass targets in Vernon Davis to a concussion early in the second quarter. This took away a player Kaepernick confides in and allowed the Panthers’ defense to be able to roll coverage over to Boldin, even with the return of a Mario Manningham who was still finding his way.
Fans and analysts alike have been willing to come up for excuses for the likes of Tom Brady by blaming his receivers for his struggles earlier in the season. While Brady has more of a track record, his struggles showed that a quarterback needs the support of his receivers to shine. In Kaepernick’s case, he is a quarterback in his first full season as a starter who was let down by his receivers and because of that, he needs to be given the same slack for his play on Sunday.