COMMENTARY | As fans and analysts of the great game of football, we tend to rush to snap judgements about specific players. Most of those who we rush to criticize or praise don't have the necessary sample size for us to draw a realistic conclusion.
Such has been the case with both Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Following the San Francisco 49ers blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, many believed that Kaepernick was in the process of regression from what was a stunning sophomore campaign. Including the Colts loss, Kaepernick accounted for six total turnovers and zero touchdowns during a two-game stretch, both losses.
Meanwhile, Wilson appeared to be taking his game to the next level. Up until Seattle's Week 14 loss to the 49ers, the second-year starter tallied 23 touchdowns compared to six interceptions and was putting up one of the best sophomore campaigns in NFL history.
While Kaepernick hasn't necessarily lit the statistical world in fire since that Week 3 loss, he has led the 49ers to wins in 10 of their last 12 games with their only two losses coming by a combined four points. San Francisco is also averaging 28.2 points per game during that span. Overall, the 49ers have scored 30-plus points eight different times this season, the most for the franchise since 1998.
For his part, Kaepernick has been pretty darn good during those 12 games. He has tallied 20 touchdowns compared to four interceptions for a quarterback rating of 95.6 since the loss to Indianapolis. His four interceptions during that span equates to one per 72 pass attempts. Just think about that for a second.
More than just statistics, Kaepernick seems to have let the game flow to him more naturally since early-season struggles. He's doing a great job getting to his second or third read, which has enabled the 49ers passing game to open up a tad. This type of balance, even if it doesn't show up in yardage totals, has given Frank Gore more lanes to run through on the ground. This is evidenced by the fact that San Francisco is averaging 183 rushing yards in its last three outings.
Kaepernick has also been outstanding in third-down situations recently, converting at a near 50-percent clip during the 49ers five-game winning streak.
I wouldn't go as far to say that Wilson is struggling right now. After all, that's exactly the type of rush to judgment that I referenced at the start of this article. I may be a few things, but hypocritical definitely isn't one of them.
As a team, the Seahawks have lost two of their last three after starting the season winning 11 of their first 12. This hiccup in an otherwise dominating campaign has enabled San Francisco to get right back in the NFC West race with just one week remaining in the regular season.
Wilson just hasn't been quite right in these past three games. Seattle is averaging less than 20 points per game and is converting just 26 percent of its third-down situations during this three-game stretch. After throwing just six interceptions in the first 12 games of the season, the second-year quarterback has been picked in each of his last three games. He's also only thrown three touchdowns and boasts a 72.4 quarterback rating during this span. By his lofty standards, Wilson isn't performing up to the level we have seen in the past.
Again, looking at it beyond basic statistics, there seems to be a common theme as it relates to why Wilson isn't performing at a high level right now. First, Seattle has gone up against two of the best defenses in the NFL in these three games in the form of the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco. Second, defenses are doing a great job forcing Wilson to stay in the pocket. This has caused issues with accuracy on intermediate routes and an inability to progress past his initial two reads. If this represents a blueprint for how to contain Mr. Wilson, I am pretty darn sure the smart young quarterback is working through ways to counteract it. We will get a solid understanding of his ability to work through these issues on the football field when Seattle hosts a solid St. Louis Rams front seven on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick will have a chance to one up Wilson against Arizona in Week 17. Seattle's young phenom went 11-of-27 passing for 108 yards against the Cardinals last week. If Kaepernick can go into the desert and play good football, which is far from a certainty against a stingy defense, he will close the gap even further heading into the playoffs.
As it is, the NFC West seemed to be a lost cause for the 49ers just a few short weeks ago. At the same time, many were talking about Wilson as a potential MVP candidate, while questions were being raised about Kaepernick's ability to improve as a quarterback. In a dramatic twist of fate, San Francisco could be holding the divisional title mantle come Sunday evening, while Wilson and the Seahawks wonder how they let it get away. While unlikely, this would be a rather unexpected curve in the landscape of both the division and the perceived differences between these young quarterbacks.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Bleacher Report and is currently the head editor at eDraft and a columnist at Pro Football Focus. Vincent co-hosts a weekly radio show called "Football Debate Central" with former NFL player Ryan Riddle and has seen his work featured on CNN, BR and Los Angeles Times, among many other outlets.
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