After going nearly a year between NFL starts, it would have been expected for Colin Kaepernick to come out a little rusty and then find his stride as the game progressed.
Instead, Kaepernick’s 2016 starting debut went almost the opposite way.
Kaepernick had a promising first half that included a long touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and two other scoring drives before he and the San Francisco 49ers fell flat after halftime in a 45-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
“We had good moments, we had some we need to correct,” Kaepernick said Tuesday. “I know personally there were throws I should have made and I want to make and I need to correct those this week. We have opportunities out there. We have to take advantage of those when they present themselves to us. That will allow us to put a lot more points on the board.”
Kaepernick went 8-for-11 for 135 yards in the first half against the Bills, keeping the Niners (1-5) right in the game despite missing a potential early touchdown pass when he overthrew Smith in the end zone on the opening drive.
But he was unable to carry that over to the second half as he completed just 5 of 18 passes for 52 yards and took three sacks.
“It’s not just him,” offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said. “You say it’s his numbers, but it’s our numbers. Sometimes it’s a drop here or there in critical situations affect those numbers. A penalty here or there and all of a sudden we’re off the field and that affects the numbers. We’ve got to do better around him and that helps his numbers.”
He was hurt by a pair of dropped passes, a defense that struggled to get off the field and an offensive line that was overmatched at times. But Kaepernick was far from sharp.
His best moments in the second half came on a couple of scrambles, including a 29-yarder and another that turned a possible safety into a 10-yard run for a first down.
“I thought using my feet was something I did well,” he said. “There were a couple of times I wish I would have hung in a little bit more, but those are always split-second decisions.”
Kaepernick figures to handle those better and to be sharper with a full game of experience in coach Chip Kelly’s system and a second week of practice with the first-team offense.
Kaepernick’s practice time was severely limited in the offseason and training camp as he recovered from surgeries on his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee.
He then was beaten out by Blaine Gabbert for the starting job and generated far more attention for his ongoing protest during the national anthem than his play on the field.
Kaepernick got only a handful of practice plays each week and three late-game snaps for handoffs in Week 1. Now he is tasked with helping turn around a rough season as the Niners have lost five straight games for the first time since 2010.
But Kaepernick has enough experience to know that forcing things will only make the situation worse.
“You have to allow the plays to come to you,” he said. “When that opportunity is there to make one, you have to make it. But you can’t force yourself into making a play.”
NOTES: RB Carlos Hyde had a sling on his right shoulder and didn’t practice. … CB Rashard Robinson (concussion) also missed practice. … CB Jimmie Ward returned to practice after missing three games with a quadriceps injury. … The Niners opened the 21-day practice window for rookie CB Will Redmond, who missed the start of the season recovering from ACL surgery. Redmond is eligible to play Nov. 6 against New Orleans and must be added to the 53-man roster the following week or be placed on season-ending IR. … The Niners signed WR DeAndre Smelter to the practice squad and released WR Dres Anderson.
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