Matt Maiocco, a longtime NFL scribe who expertly covers San Francisco for CSNBayArea.com, has once again been gracious enough to answer five questions on the 49ers heading into this weekend’s big matchup.
Check out the Q&A below.
Q: Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns. How much has Kaepernick improved from throwing inside the pocket? And do you expect this trend to continue, or will we see San Francisco lean more on the read-option as the season progresses?
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Maiocco: There’s no questioning Kaepernick’s arm talent, whether his passes come from the pocket or on the move. He has demonstrated he can help the 49ers win games in a lot of different ways, including with his legs. A year ago, the 49ers used the read option during the regular season, for sure, but they kicked it up a notch in the playoffs. How much they use the read option this season will be a week-to-week proposition. After all, the 49ers believe they do a lot of things well and often refer to their plan of attack as a game-plan-specific offense.
Q: Anquan Boldin put together a dominant performance against Green Bay, finishing with 13 receptions for 208 yards and a score. There’s no doubt that Boldin can still play, but I suspect Seattle’s big corners will match up better than Green Bay did. Besides Vernon Davis, what other San Francisco receivers could make an impact in the passing game?
Maiocco: Kyle Williams was the clear No. 2 wide receiver for the 49ers on Sunday. He played far more than the other wideouts: Marlon Moore and rookie Quinton Patton. Williams has a good combination of quickness and speed. He caught three passes for 36 yards against the Packers in his first game back after sustaining a torn ACL in late-November. If the Seahawks – or other teams down the road – begin paying too much attention to Boldin, the 49ers will depend on Williams to make some plays of his own and keep defenses honest.
Q: What’s the buzz from San Francisco players on the upcoming, nationally televised matchup in Seattle? Are they looking forward to facing their NFC West rivals as much as the fans?
Maiocco: There are probably two answers to that question. Privately, yes, this is more than just your typical Week 2 game. I do believe the 49ers have a great deal of respect for the Seahawks while also experiencing “dislike” in large doses. There are no two games on the schedule that stand out like these two games. Playing in Seattle is a big deal because of the thrashing the 49ers took there last season. Now, publicly, the 49ers will say this is just another game and it’s an important game because the next game on the schedule is always the most important game. Do I believe that? Yes, to a point. Let’s remember, this game will not define the season for either of these teams.
Q: Rookie safety Eric Reid appeared to fill in nicely for departed All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, finishing with six tackles and an interception. What does Reid do well, and what does he need to improve on?
Maiocco: Reid did a good job of making sure none of the Packers receivers got behind him. Although he missed two tackles against the Packers, he generally does a good job of playing physical football and wrapping up. Because he is still gaining experience, his weakness at this point is that he might be too concerned with giving up the big play and, perhaps, he does not react as quickly on plays in front of him.
Q: Even though Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards, at their core San Francisco still a tam that runs the football. How will the 49ers try to mix runs with Frank Gore and the rest of the running backs?
Maiocco: The 49ers will stick with Gore, whether he has much room or not early in the game. Gore will play most of the team’s offensive snaps due to his skills in blitz pickup, too. Kendall Hunter is the No. 2 running back. They will mix him into the game early. He’ll also get a handful of carries. (Third-string running back LaMichael James is not expected to be available due to a knee sprain.) The 49ers want to be balanced, but even if Seahawks can stuff the run early in the game, the 49ers are not going to turn one-dimensional with the passing game. Kaepernick runs the read option out of the pistol formation whether Gore or Hunter is in the backfield.