Quarterback Colin Kaepernick experienced the worst day of his NFL career last September during a trip to face the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona defensive back Justin Bethel intercepted Kaepernick on the 49ers’ third play of the game and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. On the 49ers’ seventh play, Tyrann Mathieu locked onto another Kaepernick pass attempt, made the interception and returned it 33 yards for Arizona's second defensive touchdown within the first six minutes of the game.
Afterward, Mathieu suggested the Cardinals baited Kaepernick into throws they knew he would make. He said the Cardinals knew Kaepernick was reluctant to throw outside the numbers and they knew his tendencies, such as which way he likes to roll out and which side of the field he feels more comfortable throwing. When the teams played later in the season, Mathieu said Blaine Gabbert was the 49ers’ better option at quarterback.
“Well, everybody’s going to have a game plan,” Kaepernick told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s part of football. That might have been a part of their game plan, whatever they were saying. So it’s something that our game plan is going to be able to attack their defense in different ways that we feel like we can take advantage of.”
Kaepernick completed just nine of 19 pass attempts for 67 yards and four interceptions in that 49ers’ 47-7 loss to the Cardinals last season.
“Yeah, it probably was the worst game of my career,” Kaepernick said. “So it’s a good opportunity to go back, redeem myself and try to help get this team back on track.
“Looking at film, they’re a team that they know what they want to do and they do it well. So that’s something that we have to be able to go out, be on top of everything we’re doing and win one-on-one matchups”
There was a lot of optimism about Kaepernick at the beginning of the 2015 season. He spent 10 weeks during the offseason with independent quarterbacks coach Dennis Gile in the Phoenix area. Hall of Fame finalist Kurt Warner also stopped for a handful of sessions.
Kaepernick, 29, suggested that he is at the stage of his career where he is beyond making major adjustments to his mechanics.
“I wouldn’t say it messed with my confidence or anything like that,” Kaepernick said. “I would say it’s something that at this point in my career, I just have to go out and play. And working on mechanics, those are things you can fine-tune a little bit but you don’t want to do too much of that where you’re not out there just playing naturally.
“I wouldn’t say restrained. It was just something that I was training one thing and my body naturally wanted to do another. So I had to find that middle ground.”
In his three starts this season, Kaepernick is completing a career-low 52 percent of his passes. He raised his passer rating from 66.2 to 80.0 with a 398-yard performance on Sunday in the 49ers’ 41-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
“It is encouraging,” he said. “We put up some yards. We need to put up more points along with those yards. We still left a lot of opportunities out there on the field for bigger plays, more yards, more points. So those are things we have to be able to capitalize on.”