For 49ers, Super Bowl berth all about positive change

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,NFL,John Keim

It's about the quarterback. It's about the decision to bench the other one. It's about a style of offense.

When San Francisco beat Atlanta on Sunday to reach the Super Bowl, the 49ers were validated on several levels. Yes, their defense is the reason they were good all season. But they're going to the Super Bowl because of their offense -- because of their second-year quarterback, a guy who happens to play a lot like Washington's.

The 49ers decided midway through the season that they could not win a Super Bowl with Alex Smith, so they turned to Colin Kaepernick. Like Robert Griffin III, he's a multidimensional quarterback who can hurt teams with his arm or his legs.

Funny thing is, many experts say that a quarterback eventually must become a pocket passer to win a title. To a degree they're right. Kaepernick completed 16 of 21 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. Very Griffin-esque (pre-knee injury, of course). And he only ran twice for 21 yards.

However, it was the threat of Kaepernick running -- he had 181 yards rushing last week -- that directly impacted two 49ers touchdowns. And it's why the zone read, with the right personnel in control, is so dangerous and tough to defend. Atlanta's ends forced Kaepernick to hand off. But they could not account for the running back, and twice that left big holes for LaMichael James and Frank Gore to score.

The other thing that's obvious is that the Redskins need to (and want to) re-sign Fred Davis. The 49ers' Vernon Davis caught five passes for 106 yards; Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez caught eight for 78. Like Washington's Fred Davis, Vernon Davis can be moved around via alignments to create mismatches. Somehow the defense loses sight of these weapons. When you're trying to fool a defense's eyes, best to do it with guys who are fast. Like both Davises.

But in the end it was about showing a style of offense that's creative. Combine that with talent and you have explosiveness.

That's why it's going to be fun watching the Redskins, 49ers and Seahawks grow in the next few years.

- John Keim

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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