Whenever the name Colin Kaepernick comes up, the conversation usually centers on something other than football. His recent political statements have overwhelmed anything he has done on the football field since regaining his starting role at quarterback.
Of course, that was always subject to change were he to do something newsworthy with his helmet on. On Sunday in Miami, he changed the subject.
No, the San Francisco 49ers did not beat the Miami Dolphins. Miami hung on for a 31-24 victory, their sixth straight, but Kaepernick looked like the Kaepernick of the 49ers’ Super Bowl days.
Of all places to be playing on Sunday, Kaepernick was taking the field in Miami, where he defended Fidel Castro after the despot’s death on Saturday. While serenaded with jeers and boos from the Miami fans at Hard Rock Stadium, he completed 29 of 46 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
Kaepernick was also the team’s leading rusher with 113 yards on 10 carries.
Had he earned two more yards rushing on the game’s final play, the game would have gone into overtime. He was stopped by Ndamukong Suh at the two-yard line to allow Miami to escape.
Miami led 31-14 early in the fourth quarter, but the 49ers kept coming. The Dolphins were glad the clock expired
Going into the game, the Dolphins were the best in the NFL in preventing conversions on third down. On Sunday Kaepernick and the 49ers turned seven of their 14 third down plays into first downs. They were also two-for-two on fourth down plays.
For those unwilling to give Kaepernick credit for his output on Sunday, there is always the temptation to wonder if Miami was taking San Francisco lightly. After all, they were 1-9 and losers of eight straight, while the Dolphins were on a roll.
Along with the offensive output, here is another reason to give the opponent proper credit. Coming into the game, the 49ers were the absolute worst in the NFL against the run, allowing 179 yards on the ground per game. This was 36 yards worse than the next-to-last team, Cleveland.
Despite that, they played hard, allowing Miami to gain only 95 yards rushing. Jay Ajayi, who has become a highly productive running back, had only 45 of those yards.
Perhaps Miami was “playing down” to the level of their opponent, as some teams do. A good example of that came when the 0-11 Cleveland Browns had a makeable field goal to beat the Dolphins on September 26. The subsequent miss prevented Miami from starting the season 0-4 and Cleveland from removing a goose egg in the win column.
While Miami’s Ryan Tannehill did not quite match the numbers put up by Kaepernick on Sunday, he was good enough to overcome the subpar running game. He threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
It is a safe bet that Colin Kaepernick will continue to be a lightning rod for controversy because of his political stances. But for the coming week, fans and analysts will be talking about his football exploits just as much, if not more.