Colin Kaepernick’s rise to celebrity was truly unexpected. If there were doubters, it was because in three of his five starts, the team had a losing record, but last Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Kaepernick unloaded four scoring passes for San Francisco, which held off New England 41-34 on a rainy night.
In Kaepernick’s first start, he led the 49ers to a 32-7 victory over the always tough Chicago Bears, and in five starts has tossed seven touchdowns with two interceptions for 1,083 yards, and has won four games with one loss.
Kaepernick, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds, completed 14 of 25 attempts for 216 yards with one pick, and his powerful right arm was the primary reason San Francisco led 17-3 at the half.
“We needed to score points in the second half,’’ said Kaepernick, who toiled at the University of Nevada, and is the only college quarterback in Division I-A history to have 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards.
Kaepernick’s final touchdown throw gave the 49ers a 38-31 lead over the Patriots, who were riding a seven-game winning streak.
Kaepernick’s 38-yard pass to Michael Crabtree came with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter, and was made possible when LaMichael James returned the kickoff 62 yards.
“I told him to get me the ball and I’ll score,’’ said Crabtree, who had seven catches for 107 yards.
Kaepernick’s first scoring pass went to Randy Moss, covered 24 yards and came with 10:55 left in the opening quarter.
When Kaepernick, who took over for the injured Alex Smith [concussion], drilled Delanie Walker with a 34-yard strike and 6:59 showing in the second quarter, the 49ers (10-3-1) pulled ahead 14-3.
David Akers nailed a 20-yard field goal with no time left on the clock in the second quarter to make it 17-3.
San Francisco’s lead swelled to 24-3 after New England’s Stevan Ridley fumbled.
From two yards out, Kaepernick was stopped cold, and in the process fumbled into the end zone where running back Frank Gore (83 yards and 21 carries) pounced on the ball with 10:38 left in the third quarter for a 24-3 lead.
Kaepernick’s 27-yard pass to Crabtree with 10:21 showing in the third quarter made it 31-3.
Just when it looked hopeless, New England field general Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champ, rallied the troops and tied it at 31-31.
New England (10-4), which had four turnovers to San Francisco’s two, closed within 31-10 when Brady (36 of 65 for 443 yards and two interceptions) moved the Patriots 73 yards on 13 plays, with Danny Woodhead (61 yards on 12 rushes) scoring on a six-yard run and 5:59 left in the third quarter.
Brady’s one-yard dive early in the fourth quarter capped an 86-yard, nine-play march and made it 31-17.
When Brady found tight end Aaron Hernandez (92 yards on 10 receptions) with a five-yard dart and 12:13 left, it became 31-24, and Woodhead’s one-yard dash at the 6:43 mark of the final quarter tied it at 31-31.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.