Colin Kaepernick's brand of Jekyll and Hyde football has been a point of discussion this season and it appeared this would continue after Thursday night's game when the 49ers quarterback got off to a slow start. The difference against the Rams was how the offense complemented the the third-year quarterback, rather than ask him to be the focal point.
Early in the game it looked like more of the same. Kaepernick threw for just 11 yards in the first quarter, being sacked once and unable to find open receivers. His passes were off target, often under or overthrowing against a defense offering big cushions. He failed not only to complete passes, but completely missed seeing receivers, wasting opportunities.
The second quarter represented a swing back to what's considered a typical 49ers' offensive performance. A series of successful Frank Gore runs settled Kaepernick, allowing holes to open in the secondary while the Rams were forced to account for Gore. This allowed the passing game to get in rhythm, with Kaepernick finding Anquan Boldin on a 42-yard gain, followed by a touchdown.
Gore remained the star in the first half, breaking two tackles as the clock ran down to score the second touchdown of the game on a 34-yard run.
Leaning on Gore allowed San Francisco to return to its offensive identity, something the team lacked in the last two weeks. He carried the ball a total of 20 times against the Rams, compared to a total of 20 carries in the team's losses to Seattle and Indianapolis. Playing from ahead definitely helped, which was fueled by Kaepernick's accurate passing and lack of mistakes -- but the 49ers' playcalling asked Gore to shoulder the burden, even when the game was close.
Part of this shift towards Gore has been the de-emphasizing of the read option offense. Kaepernick carried the ball just three times, tying for the second-lowest number of carries since becoming the team's starter.
Thursday's win was vitally important for the mindset of the 49ers looking to stay within striking distance of Seattle. Kaepernick threw for 167 yards, Gore ran for 153 -- the picture of offensive balance. Throwing 30 passes isn't how the 49ers win. They're a team built on the ideal of clock control and manipulating the point of attack, both of which are removed when the quarterback is asked to win on his arm.
It's just one game, but if the 49ers have figured out their offensive game-planning they could be ready for a run. Their next five opponents have a combined record of 6-9, and it's here where the team can take advantage of a lapse in its schedule.