ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Whether it was on or off the field, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick experienced some good with a lot of bad on Sunday in his return to the starting lineup.
The 49ers and Kaepernick had some success in the first half before crumbling as the game wore on in a 45-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. It was the 49ers’ fifth consecutive loss.
“I thought it was OK,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said in evaluating Kaepernick’s performance. “There were some positives that you can really build on that I thought he did.
“We got to be better overall on offense. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s everybody on the offensive side of the ball. I thought he really made some plays with his legs today.”
Kaepernick’s stat line was pedestrian. He completed just 13 of 29 pass attempts for 187 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked three times. He also gained a team-high 66 yards rushing on eight attempts.
Kaepernick appears certain to remain as the starting quarterback for at least a while after Blaine Gabbert started five games. But when asked if Kaepernick would start next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kelly answered, “Yeah, we’ll see.”
Just like Gabbert who regularly misfired on big-play chances to open receivers, Kaepernick missed an opportunity for a big play on the 49ers’ first possession when he overshot wide receiver Torrey Smith on a deep post pattern. Instead of a touchdown, the 49ers were forced to punt.
“That would’ve been big to come out that way and give us that lead and being able to play from there,” Kaepernick said. “(It) might’ve been a little juice being out there and having that opportunity. Saw the coverage and knew we had it and let it fly a little too long.”
Kaepernick later found Smith on a 53-yard touchdown pass – a throw that appeared to get held up in the 22-mph wind. The underthrown pass forced Smith to stop to make the catch. Smith had to restart his engine and cut across the field to make it into the end zone.
Kaepernick generated a lot of pregame attention for his demonstration to bring attention to racial inequalities in the United States. Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Eli Harold took a knee on the sideline during the playing of the national anthem to continue to the protest.
“I had some Bills fans come up before the game and say they support me,” said Kaepernick, who wore a shirt that paid homage to the late Muhammad Ali. “I think it all depends on who the person is. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to fight what I’m fighting for.”
Shortly before the national anthem, a loud chant of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” broke out in the stadium – seemingly directed at Kaepernick, whom some believe is taking an anti-American position. But Kaepernick said he believes there is nothing more American than his peaceful protest designed to help those who are less fortunate than him.
“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody, for the equality that this country says it stands for,” Kaepernick said. “To me, I see it as very patriotic and American to uphold the United States to the standards it says it lives by. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
The anti-Kaepernick expressions continued while he was on the sideline, his teammate Quinton Patton said.
“It’s a lot of negative and a lot of harsh stuff coming toward Kap on the sideline and everybody doesn’t know that,” Patton said. “He’s getting all the heat from everybody and anybody. You got to be a strong individual.
“I’ve heard A to Z out there.”
Although no members of the Buffalo Bills have joined in the protest during the national anthem, Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin approached Kaepernick after the game to request a jersey swap. Goodwin represented the U.S. as a long-jumper in the 2012 Summer Olympics.