"I think he'll be back," Kaepernick said.
When asked what makes him think that, Kaepernick had a two-word answer: "His resume."
Kaepernick and the 49ers play host to the Seattle Seahawks Thanksgiving night, but Kaepernick wouldn't get into the issue from the NFC Championship Game last season on Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman's post-game rant against 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.
"We're not worried about that," Kaepernick said. "We're worried about trying to win this game. It's a different year, different season. We approach it that way."
Only 13 times in NFL history has a quarterback finished a game with a higher quarterback rating than Russell Wilson had Sunday (121.6) while getting sacked seven or more times.
That tells you all you need to know. Even though he was under constant duress from the blitz-happy Cardinals, Wilson found a way to get it done, throwing and running the football.
Arizona blitzed 33 times in 58 plays, including 22 of 33 plays in the second half. But Wilson was 11-of-13 for 153 yards against the blitz, including eight first-down throws. He also was 5 of 6 for 70 yards when under duress, including the game’s only touchdown -- a 20-yard catch-and-run to tight end Cooper Helfet in the third quarter.
Wilson was the game’s leading rusher with 73 yards on 10 carries, which included a 40-yard run in the second quarter that would have been a 49-yard touchdown run if not for a questionable holding call on Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse at the 9-yard-line.
Let's take our weekly deep dive into the Sunday performance of five NFL quarterbacks, using data supplied by analyst Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN Stats & Information. After all, the numbers don't always speak for themselves. (For all Inside Slant posts, including the weekly QB Report, follow this link. For a full statistical breakdown of all NFL quarterbacks, see ESPN.com's QBR page.)
Stafford completed just 18 of his 46 passes, giving him the lowest single-game completion percentage (39.1) in his career. How much of it was his fault? And how much of the blame falls on his receivers or pass protection? Here's what we found out: Of the 28 incompletions, 10 were judged to be over- or under-thrown in ESPN video review, tied for Stafford's second most in a game this season. Four of the incompletions were judged to be dropped and nine more were defended -- broken up, batted or intercepted -- by the Patriots. Both of those last two figures were season highs for Stafford. Seven of those defended passes were intended for receiver Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate. (Stafford targeted each of them with 10 passes and completed four apiece.) That provides a reliable explanation for most of the misses. Meanwhile, Stafford found himself under duress or hit on 10 of his dropbacks, third most for a quarterback in a game during Week 12.
When you throw 46 passes and complete only 18, there is plenty of blame to go around. Stafford's inconsistent accuracy was the biggest culprit, but the Patriots also played excellent defense. The drops, on the other hand, are best seen in context. Their total of 18 for the season is the sixth most in the NFL, but part of that is the result of 417 overall attempts, which ranks eighth in the NFL. The drop percentage, a more reliable measure, is 4.3 -- slightly higher than the NFL average of 4.0. Receiver drops shouldn't be disproportionately blamed.
The Patriots used a pass-first approach against the Lions, but see if you can pick up on its true intent. Brady threw 11 screen passes and completed all of them, his highest total of both completions and attempts in at least five seasons. Of his 53 attempts, 29 traveled 5 yards or fewer past the line of scrimmage. Brady completed 25 of them, including 12 that were caught at or behind the line. Brady threw 21 passes on first down, tied for his most in a game this season, and converted eight first downs on those throws. He also completed 5 of 6 play-action throws on first down and 8 of 9 overall. The Lions backed off their blitz against him, sending an extra rusher on 15 percent of his dropbacks, and overall they pressured him on only 9.4 percent of his dropbacks, a season low for the Lions and for Brady. He was put under duress on five attempts, completing all five.
A week earlier, the Patriots defeated the Colts behind 201 rushing yards from power back Jonas Gray. They pivoted noticeably against the top rushing defense in the NFL, but they used their passing game often to simulate the run. The end result: The Patriots lit up the Lions for 34 points, more than twice their defensive scoring average entering the game.
Cutler posted season lows in dropbacks, attempts, completions and passing yards for a game -- and it appeared by design. Playing against a defense that discourages downfield throws, Cutler attempted only three passes that traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. His longest pass traveled 17 yards in the air past the line of scrimmage. The three attempts were Cutler's fewest in a game that he has finished since joining the Bears in 2009. His average air yards per throw was 3.85, by far his shortest this season and his second shortest in his Bears career. He attempted only five outside passes (passes thrown beyond the numbers). Entering the game, he had completed at least seven of those passes each week this season. He threw five play-action passes and three screens, completing all eight such throws. In eight red zone plays, the Bears threw only once -- the second time in as many weeks when they have run more often than passed in the red zone. The reverse had been the case the previous 10 weeks.
For at least one week, the Bears dialed it way back for a quarterback who entered the game with 17 turnovers. In the past two weeks, tailback Matt Forte has carried or caught a pass 60 times for a total of 287 yards. That makes sense, given Cutler's struggles and the arrival of December weather.
Hoyer's worst game of the season coincided with the return of downfield threat Josh Gordon from suspension. Hoyer targeted Gordon 17 times against the Falcons, completing eight but also throwing two of his interceptions on those throws. He threw downfield to Gordon -- at least 15 air yards -- eight times and completed two of them. Those 17 targets were tied for the most passes thrown to one player in an NFL game this season. Eight of his 17 incompletions were judged to be overthrows by ESPN video analysis, including two of his interceptions. In the red zone, Hoyer missed all six of his attempts, including one interception. His 0.0007 QBR in the red zone was the worst of his career. All three of his interceptions came against the Falcons' standard pressure, the same as his previous five this season. Hoyer had not previously thrown an interception against the blitz in 2014.
Did the Browns' eagerness to unleash Gordon knock Hoyer off his previously efficient game? It's difficult to dismiss that possibility as at least a partial explanation for his performance. Hoyer regained his composure to lead another game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, his fifth in 10 victories as a starter during his career, giving him a successful outcome with which to evaluate his approach.
Wilson took seven sacks, tying his career high, and they came in a variety of ways. He spent an average of 2.56 seconds in the pocket per throw, his longest in a game this season, but three of the seven sacks came outside the pocket. The Cardinals blitzed him on 50 percent of his dropbacks, a season high for Wilson. They sacked him on three of those plays, but he also completed 11 of the 13 passes he got off against the blitz for 153 yards. When under duress, Wilson completed 5 of 6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Wilson kept most of his passes short, attempting only three that traveled at least 15 yards downfield. Of his 211 passing yards, 138 came after the catch. He attempted a season-low seven passes to receivers and kept the ball on five of the Seahawks' 14 zone-read plays, accounting for 46 yards.
It's probably best to view the seven sacks as a byproduct of Wilson's ability to make plays against the blitz. When an opponent blitzes on half of your passing plays, you find any way you can to make it work. The Seahawks are more than happy to take the end result.
But the Seahawks will face the No. 2 running quarterback in the league on Thanksgiving night in San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has 336 yards rushing this season.
“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril said of Kaepernick. “He’s elusive, so when you’re rushing, you have to rush through your guy and always keep vision on [Kaepernick]. Don’t get too high or too low. You still rush a guy normally, but you can’t let yourself get pushed too far away where he can step in or step out into the hole you just left.”
Avril, now is his second year with the Seahawks, understands the depth of the rivalry between these two teams and their fans, but he said that isn’t what make the games between them different.
“What’s different is the fact that we know each other so well,” Avril said. “They know what we try to do and we know what they try to do. It makes for a very physical game.”
The Seahawks won the last matchup in dramatic fashion with a 23-17 victory in the NFC Championship that was sealed on cornerback Richard Sherman's tipped pass in the end zone that linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted.
“I don’t even remember most of that game,” Avril said. “We’ve played 11 games this year and I can’t even remember what Game 2 was like. It’s a whole different season now and different teams and different schemes. That was last year and we have to go make it happen this year.”
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN NFL Nation TV's Spreecast as episode No. 33 gives a Turkey Day preview, revisits Odell Beckham Jr.'s insane three-fingered catch, and discusses several teams' futures given the varying quarterback situations they have inherited this season.
Host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and co-host Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears reporter), John Keim (Washington Redskins reporter) and Phil Sheridan (Philadelphia Eagles reporter).
Plus, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) and Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will debate in this week's "Main Event" about Sunday's big game at Lambeau Field that will feature MVP candidates Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
Pierre-Louis suffered a shoulder injury in the Kansas City game and did not play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. It's possible the Seahawks could place Pierre-Louis on injured reserve, which would end his season.
"Kevin is banged up pretty good and there's more news to come," Carroll said. "We're working on it."
The good news is Carpenter's likely return to the starting lineup after missing the last three games with a sprained ankle. Carpenter was having his best season before the injury. Carroll said they almost activated Carpenter for the game against the Cardinals.
"We labored over whether to go with him," Carroll said. "He was really politicking to get out there and play. But we thought with the short week coming up it was better to just hold him out and give him the best chance to be ready for this game."
It appears unlikely that tight end Cooper Helfet will play Thursday night after spraining his ankle Sunday. Helfet scored the game's only touchdown Sunday with a 20-yard catch-and-run when he dove into the end zone.
Running back Marshawn Lynch will need to recuperate sooner this week than he has the last few weeks. He hasn't practiced on Wednesday or Thursday the last three weeks because of nagging issues with his back, along with a calf and rib injury.
"We'll just go through the process and see how he does," Carroll said. "We'll take good care of him and he's real smart about how he handles it. We expect he'll be ready to go and I know he won't want to miss this thing."
Sure, the last time the San Francisco 49ers met the Seattle Seahawks, the NFC title was on the line and Sherman knocked away Colin Kaepernick's last-gasp fade pass to Michael Crabtree to turn it into a game-clinching interception for Malcolm Smith in the end zone.
And who can forget Sherman's postgame rant?
"I'm the best corner in the game," he told Fox Sports. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me.
"Crabtree, don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you real quick. LOB."
Sherman was giving a shout-out to the Seahawks' hard-hitting secondary, deemed the Legion of Boom. He was requested for a Tuesday conference call with Bay Area reporters, but the Seahawks' P.R. department declined to make him available.
Crabtree has spoken only on rare occasions this season, but Kaepernick did talk to reporters in the locker room on Monday. He did not take the bait, even as it is more than 10 months old.
Asked if Crabtree was anticipating the rematch with Sherman, Kaepernick said, "It's another game for him. I don't think he's worried about anything else."
Then surely Kaepernick must have a view on Sherman.
"I don't have any," he said. "I'm worried about what we're doing."
Kaepernick said he had no communication with Sherman at offseason events. And while many quarterbacks have shied away from throwing at Sherman, Kaepernick said, "I'll throw to whoever's open."
And it's just Monday.
Oh sure, you made him pay you $100,000 for not talking to reporters, a hefty sum even for a man making millions of dollars.
And now he mocks you every time he "talks" to reporters.
In a postgame interview Sunday, Lynch sat at his locker in his Elmer Fudd hat and was asked 22 questions. He answered with a total of 50 words.
Most answers were one-word responses of "yeah" or "maybe." A couple of responses were "I don't know." He also brought up his foundation at one point when asked a question about the team's important 19-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
He did the same type of thing four days earlier before practice on the day he was fined, only answering with responses about his shoes or music artists he likes when asked football-related questions.
Lynch is making a point that he isn't going to really answer any questions even though the NFL is forcing him to do interviews. The sad thing is how some reporters think it's funny.
It's not funny. It's childish and a waste of time of reporters who only are trying to do their job effectively.
Don't get me wrong. I'm in the group of most reporters who cover the Seahawks that are fine with Lynch's vow of silence. It's far better for us not to have to listen to such nonsense.
But I also understand the NFL's stance. If they let Lynch get away with not talking to the media, a contractual obligation for all players, then other players would say they are not speaking to reporters, either.
So be it if that's the case. It's better than what the situation has become with Lynch.
And now some of Lynch's teammates are angry because they think "the media" ratted Lynch out about not talking. After Sunday's game, normally talkative cornerback Richard Sherman was short in his responses, before saying, "This is what happens when Marshawn gets fined."
So NFL powers-that-be, this is what you get. You can't make a man talk who doesn't want to talk.
Arizona has lived by the deep ball this season, but the Seattle Seahawks secondary held Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton to 3-of-8 passing on attempts of at least 15 yards downfield. That includes his first interception on those throws this season, a second quarter pick by cornerback Byron Maxwell.
The Seahawks have not allowed a deep touchdown pass (thrown at least 15 yards downfield) since Week 5, the longest active streak of the season.
Certainly, it helped the Seahawks on Sunday that Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was out with a sprained knee, the first game he has missed in seven years. But the Seahawks secondary blanketed Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd, who didn’t have a catch and was targeted only twice.
All four secondary starters were on the field Sunday for the Seahawks, but the key was that all four were healthy.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor, who missed two games with a groin injury and played through ankle and hip problems, said Sunday was the best he has felt all season. Maxwell, who missed four games with a calf injury, was back in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game.
SEATTLE -- Doug Baldwin thought it was time to talk it out. The Seattle Seahawks receiver said his team needed to get back to who it was -- not physically, but mentally. So they had a team meeting a couple days ago.
"There was something that was missing, a subtle difference," Baldwin said after the game. "Today we found it. It's about trusting each other and respecting each other. It was a feeling for each of us that we needed to get back."
Baldwin said he approached several of the team leaders -- cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas, running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson -- about setting things straight.
"We've been talking," said Wilson, who was 17-of-22 passing Sunday for 211 yards and one touchdown. "We had kind of a team meeting, and we were just talking about getting our swagger back. We felt like it kind of went away for a little bit, for whatever reason, but I feel like we got it back."
SEATTLE -- The heart and soul of the Seattle Seahawks' defense was back Sunday, with two star players who were healthy for the first time in a long time.
The heart: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who played for the first time in six weeks after a turf-toe injury. The soul: Strong safety Kam Chancellor, playing full speed and without pain for the first time this season.
The result was a defense that got its swagger back and shut down the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals in a 19-3 victory at CenturyLink Field.
Wagner and Chancellor each had eight total tackles, including seven solo stops for Chancellor.
Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, who had an interception in the second quarter, summed up what Wagner and Chancellor meant to the defense Sunday.
On Wagner: “I definitely felt his presence out there today,” Maxwell said. “He's a playmaker and has great ball skills. He adds another dimension to our defense.”
On Chancellor: “It’s like when somebody picks on you and you go get your big brother,” Maxwell said. “He was our big brother today.”
Sunday marked the fewest points the Seahawks had allowed since shutting out the New York Giants on Dec. 15 last year. And it was the fewest points the Seattle defense had allowed at home since the 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 15 last season. The Cardinals had only 204 total yards of offense and only 64 yards rushing.
A big reason? Wagner and Chancellor, who completely change the complexion of the defense when they are healthy. The Seahawks had all their defensive starters back Sunday, with the exception of nose tackle Brandon Mebane, for the first time since the Dallas game on Oct. 12.
“I think we’re getting healthy at the right time,” said Wagner, who played every defensive snap. “That’s going to be important down the stretch with all the division games [four of the last five] we have coming up.”
Wagner said earlier in the week he wanted to bring a passion back to the defense.
“I think I did that,” he said. “I definitely wanted to come out there with a lot of energy and make some big hits. It shows when we’re healthy and we’ve got all our pieces, we’re a pretty good bunch.”
Chancellor missed two games earlier this season with a groin injury. But he’s been playing with ankle problems and he also had offseason hip surgery. He said he felt like a new man Sunday.
“Yeah, it is the best I’ve felt all season,” Chancellor said. “I felt good, running around, cutting, everything.”
And he also felt Wagner’s return made him better.
“Bobby just brings so much intensity,” Chancellor said. “He controls the middle of the defense. He disrupts things and changes the direction of the runner, and that gives me more chances, too.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made a beeline to Wagner’s locker after the game.
“It was great to have him out there,” Carroll said. “I went up to Bobby and said, ‘Geez, I didn’t realize what a factor you are.’ He is one of the heartbeat guys for this club.”
The heart (Wagner) and the soul (Chancellor) were back at their best Sunday, which made all the difference for the Seahawks’ defense.