Even as the 49ers were in the midst of blowing out the Chicago Bears 32-7 on “Monday Night Football,” the speculation had begun.
Colin Kaepernick’s debut as a starting quarterback in the NFL was so impressive that members of the media, fans on Twitter and TV analysts were speculating about the quarterback situation on the 49ers.
“Goodbye Alex Smith, Hello Colin Kaepernick,” was one headline on a national website before the game was over.
“Why haven’t we seen Colin Kaepernick before tonight?” was the headline on a San Francisco Chronicle blog published in the second half.
And, wrote one fan on Twitter just before the end of the game: “Alex Smith will not have a job in San Fran next year, let alone maybe the rest of the season.”
Kaepernick, in just his second pro season, was almost perfect, throwing accurate deep balls, short touch passes and scrambling away from pressure to keep plays alive in leading the 49ers over the Bears and improving their record to 7-2-1 – and overshadowing even the San Francisco defense’s smothering performance that included Aldon Smith’s 5 1/2 sacks.
Kaepernick – starting in place of Smith, who suffered a concussion in last week’s 24-24 tie with the Rams – completed 16-of-23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
From the outset, the former Nevada star was in complete control of a Niners offense that pummeled the Bears on the ground for 123 yards from multiple power formations, while connecting on big plays in the passing game.
San Francisco rolled to a 20-0 lead in the first half, then removed all doubt about the outcome by marching to a touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Niners defense pressured backup quarterback Jason Campbell all night, sacking him six times. Campbell, starting in place of Jay Cutler who suffered a concussion last week, also was picked off twice.
Now should come an interesting week at Niners headquarters.
Will Alex Smith be cleared to play and start against the Saints in New Orleans next week? Or will the team take its time with Smith and allow the hot Kaepernick to show what he can do a second straight week?
It’s not as if Smith has been lacking. Smith had made 28 consecutive starts until Monday night and was 19-5 as a starting quarterback under head coach Jim Harbaugh before being knocked out of last week’s game. For the season, he is No. 4 in the NFL in quarterback rating.
Aldon Smith, meanwhile, would have stolen the show on any other night. His 5 ½ sacks are a half-sack short of the team record (Fred Dean, 1983) and he now leads the NFL in sacks with 15.