Kid QBs growing by the game

Posted Dec 19, 2012

The Seahawks and 49ers teams that will meet at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night are different than the teams that squared off in Week 7, and two big reasons are Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

In their Week 7 matchup in San Francisco, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson completed 9 of 23 passes and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick carried the ball once for minus-1 yard.

How things have changed as these young quarterbacks continue to mature by leaps and bounds entering Sunday night’s nationally-televised rematch at CenturyLink Field. Wilson has become one of the most efficient – and productive – passers in the league, not to mention a dangerous runner, as the Seahawks have won three in a row and five of their past six. Since taking over for an injured Alex Smith, Kaepernick has ignited the offense in winning four of his five starts, as the 49ers have scored 32, 31, 27 and 41 points in those victories.

Entering that Week 7 game – a primetime matchup on a Thursday night – most of the attention was focused on the respective defenses. The 49ers were ranked No. 1 in the league and the Seahawks were No. 4. So the 49ers’ 13-7 victory was fitting.

The defenses still rank among the best in the league, with the 49ers at No. 2 and the Seahawks at No. 3. But this week, most of the talk has been about how the offenses have been giving opponents fits.

“Just from what we’ve done in the last couple games, I think it’s grabbing some attention,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Wednesday of hanging 58 points on the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago and 50 on the Buffalo Bills last Sunday in Toronto – making the Seahawks the first team in the NFL since 1950 to score 50-plus points in back-to-back games.

The 49ers, meanwhile, jumped to a 31-3 lead over the favored Patriots in New England on Sunday night and then rallied for a 41-34 victory after the Patriots tied the score at 31.

And the focal point of all this offense in recent weeks has been the respective quarterbacks, who look so different but play so similar. Kaepernick is 6 feet 4 and weighs 230 pounds, while Wilson is 5-11, 206.

But both can run, as Wilson scored three rushing touchdowns against the Bills and has 402 rushing yards; and Kaepernick is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and has a 50-yarder among his five rushing touchdowns.

And both can pass, as Wilson’s 21 touchdown passes are tied for the third-most by a rookie QB in NFL history and his passer rating of 95.5 ranks second among this year’s crop of rookies QBs; while Kaepernick has a 101.4 passer rating after throwing four touchdowns passes against the Patriots.

In contrasting and comparing the two, a good place to start is with Seahawks practice-squad receiver Corbin Louks. He played with, and against, Kaepernick at Nevada. He practices everyday with Wilson.

“I went against 'Kaep' in the spring game, and actually intercepted him on the first play of the game,” said Louks, who was playing safety for the Wolf Pack. “That was pretty cool.”

But back to this week, Louks said, “Both of them can throw the football well and they both can run the football well. It adds another dimension, and you can see it in Russell’s success and in Kaepernick’s success. They both have done big things with their feet and with their arms.”

Even 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, a man of few words during interviews, had quite a bit to say when asked about the difference between Wilson in Week 7 and Wilson in Week 16.

“He was good against us the first game, and we went into that game seeing a very good quarterback – a very accurate quarterback, a very mobile quarterback who can hurt you running the ball and throwing the ball,” Harbaugh offered during a conference-call interview. “He had a real good command of the offense. That’s continued and he has been good.

“I really felt like in the first game we played them, he threw some beautiful passes. Fortunately for us, they were dropped. But his accuracy, his play, was right on the money.”

As for Kaepernick, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was also duly impressed.

“Colin is giving them a spark that they obviously really favor,” Carroll said. “The thing that really jumps out is Colin has such a strong arm and he really can fire the ball downfield, out of the play-action stuff. And then when he gets out and runs he can really go.”

And Sunday night, on national TV, with the top two teams in the NFC West squaring off for playoff positioning, Kaepernick and Wilson will go at one another in a matchup that is managing to overshadow the defensive prowess of both teams.