San Francisco's quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) showed some positive signs in Monday's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo
So, maybe the San Francisco 49ers don't need a new quarterback after all.
Just imagine what Colin Kaepernick could do with some real receivers. You know, like he used to have in Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, guys who combined for 20 catches and 247 yards for their new teams over the Thanksgiving holidays.
For one day, anyway, Kaepernick turned back the clock without the talented trio Sunday in Miami, playing easily his best game of the season and giving his troubled franchise another path to consider in its attempt to regain respectability.
But forget the future. San Francisco coach Chip Kelly wants more right now.
After all, his club came up a touchdown short against the Dolphins, 31-24.
So despite 475 yards of total offense against what had been a stellar Miami defense, Kelly woke up Monday morning unsatisfied -- and with his team riding a franchise-record, 10-game losing streak.
"I'm just disappointed in how we really hurt ourselves in that game," he said. "On the drives that we were stopped, all but one of them I think were our fault. We had the fumble in the red zone, and then a couple times the penalties put us back.
"But I thought the offense did a nice job. You just wish with 475 yards of offense, you'd have more than 24 points."
Kaepernick accounted for 409 of the 475, rushing for 113 and passing for 296. All three 49ers touchdowns were the result of Kaepernick passes.
Kelly insisted Monday that he was not surprised to see it. In fact, he thinks the quarterback's ceiling is a lot higher.
"It's natural for anybody the first time playing in our system, our first time getting to coach him, he's made a progression from game to game where you see improvement from him, which is what you're looking for," Kelly said. "I think it's all facets. It's not just one facet where it's just this and this is all he's done. It's in everything: his pocket presence, his accuracy, understanding and knowledge of protections."
So, just like the Kaepernick of old?
"No," Kelly said. "He's still not where he was. I think back then he was between 225 and 230 pounds. I don't think he's near that now. So, no to that."
Kelly went on to say that it is no coincidence that Kaepernick's best game of the season came with a healthy Carlos Hyde at his side.
The running back, who sat out almost a month with a shoulder injury, complemented Kaepernick with 65 yards on the ground while also teaming for five catches for 30 yards, including his first career receiving touchdown.
"Our guys are doing a better job and doing the things that we need to do to execute offensively in this league," Kelly said. "It was good to get a healthy Carlos."
--For the second time in three weeks, the 49ers put up a better-than-expected fight against one of the league's top running backs.
After limiting Arizona's David Johnson to 55 yards on 19 carries in Week 10, the 49ers were even better against Miami's Jay Ajayi, holding him to 45 yards on 18 carries.
Ajayi averaged 137 yards on the ground, with a pair of 200-yard outings, in his previous five games.
"I thought our run defense played well," Kelly said. "When you hold Ajayi to 45 yards, one of the premier backs coming in, I think our guys did a good job. I thought they tackled well by and large."
The improved defense against the run coincides with the increased playing time given to nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, who was brought along slowly following knee surgery. Dorsey was in on 39 of the 58 defensive snaps Sunday.
Recently acquired Chris Jones also played a role. He got a surprise start in place of injured Quinton Dial at defensive end and played 27 snaps in his 49ers debut.
--Instead of having to endure the six-hour flight from Miami to San Francisco after the game, the 49ers took a 30-minute puddle-jumper to Orlando, where they will set up camp this week.
With a second long trip staring them in the face, the 49ers worked out a deal with the University of Central Florida to use its facilities this week, allowing for far less travel.
The 49ers will fly to Chicago, site of their next game, on Friday.
"The hotel's great," Kelly said Monday. "Great setup. Just like a normal Monday for us."
Coincidentally, while the 49ers stayed in the East, the Carolina Panthers remained out West following their game Sunday at Oakland.
The Panthers will work out at San Jose State, not far from the 49ers' practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif., while awaiting their next game at Seattle.
REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Colin Kaepernick recorded his best passer rating (94.1) since the 2014 season despite, as usual, getting little help from the league's worst collection of wideouts. But where they was not quality, Kaepernick countered with quantity, finding nine different receivers. Eleven of his completions went to running backs, six to tight ends.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- What is the difference between an A-minus and an A? About 2 yards. That was how much more Kaepernick needed on the final play of the game in order to score what could have been a game-tying touchdown. Still, 193 yards on the ground is 193 yards. It appears the 49ers could have a nice little thing going when Kaepernick and Carlos Hyde are both healthy.
PASSING DEFENSE: F -- Two words: Ryan Tannehill. He of 172 passing yards the week before against the Rams. Just 149 two weeks earlier against the Jets. And under 200 three other times this season. Then 285 and three touchdowns against the 49ers. Embarrassing.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A-minus -- The 49ers might have found something. The less Arik Armstead plays, the better they get against the run. Holding Arizona's David Johnson and Miami's Jay Ajayi to a total of 100 yards in the past three weeks rates right up there with what any other run defense accomplished this season. Credit a healthy Glenn Dorsey in the middle.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- The 49ers got next to nothing out of their return game once again Sunday, but they have come to expect that. What hurt most in this game was Kenyan Drake's 78-yard kickoff return, even if it didn't result directly in any points. The highlight: When the 49ers absolutely, positively needed Phil Dawson to convert a 36-yard field goal with 2:15 remaining, the veteran did it. No problem.
COACHING: A -- It rained Monday in San Francisco. Meanwhile, it was 78 degrees in Orlando. Niners coach Chip Kelly had his team basking in the latter. 'Nuf said after one of the club's most encouraging efforts of the season.