Colin Kaepernick shines under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. He now has a 124.6 career passer rating through four Monday night starts. The 49ers got off to a slow start in the 31-17 win, as they were held scoreless through about 22 minutes of play, but the flood gates opened when Kaepernick launched a perfect deep ball to Brandon Lloyd down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left in the second quarter. Lloyd caught the ball in stride, burning Janoris Jenkins in the process. The hookup changed the tide of the game. Kaepernick then came out in the third quarter, scrambled left on a rollout, bought time, and looped a perfect 11-yard TD to a wide-open Anquan Boldin in the end zone, once again taking advantage of Jenkins. Later in the third, Kaep whistled a bullet to Michael Crabtree on a double-move for a 34-yard score. The fourth-year quarterback should have had a fourth passing score, but Vance McDonald and Vernon Davis fought over a ball in the end zone when both were wide open. It fell to the turf. We've learned by now to not get overly excited about a big game from Kaepernick. He has the talent to do it weekly, but this offense keeps him under wraps. He's more QB2 than QB1 more weeks than not. He'll once again be on the borderline in Week 7 in Denver.
On the Rams' side of the ball, the most notable offensive storyline was third-round RB Tre Mason making his debut after the Rams mothballed him as a healthy scratch the first four games. Mason came out and immediately broke off a 12-yard gain on a swing pass before then ripping off a 27-yard run up the middle of the 49ers' vaunted run defense. It could have gone for a 50-plus yard touchdown had Brian Quick not gotten in the way downfield. Mason ran up Quick's backs before getting tackled. Carries were split 8-7-5 between Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham, and Mason, respectively. We're not going to go wild over Mason leading the Rams with his 40 rushing yards, but it was clear to anyone watching that Mason is the best natural runner in St. Louis' backfield. Stacy looks more like Shonn Greene by the week, while Cunningham is a do-it-all-but-do-nothing-great back. He's an ideal backup. Mason struggles in blitz pickup. The Rams told Mason he'd compete for the starting job when they drafted him in May. And we've seen coach Jeff Fisher flip the script at running back before. Stacy took over in Week 5 last season after carrying the ball just one time the first four games. Mason has the highest draft pedigree of anyone in the Rams' backfield. It's something to watch the next week or two. But it doesn't help that the Rams' schedule is brutal the next six weeks (vs. SEA, at KC, at SF, at ARZ, vs. DEN, at SD). The Rams get the Redskins and Giants in Weeks 14 and 16.
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Monday Night Football Quick Hits
Chris Givens has tumbled all the way down the depth chart in St. Louis after a breakout 2012 rookie season. He's a one-track pony as a deep threat. … The 49ers informed Frank Gore in the offseason that he had to earn his roster spot after the team's selection of Carlos Hyde. … Hyde handled most of the goal-line and clock-killing work for the 49ers much to the dismay of Gore and his fantasy owners. … Jared Cook has become a weekly streaming option with Austin Davis at quarterback. He's averaging eight targets per game. … Speaking of Davis, he came crashing back to Earth in this one. After a strong first quarter, the wheels fell off and he missed throw after throw with OC Brian Schottenheimer's creativity seemingly going out the window. … Brian Quick caught just one pass. He was a man on a milk carton. … We're still waiting on the big game from Michael Crabtree. The 49ers keep adding weapons each offseason, making this a spread-the-wealth run-first offense. Crabtree would be insane to re-sign with the 49ers after the year. He's a WR1 talent stuck seeing WR3 workload. … Vernon Davis looked rusty in his return from a back injury. He'll be a mid-range TE1 against the Broncos' middle-of-the-road defense when it comes to covering tight ends.
In Other News…
Stevan Ridley is done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. It's a tough blow for the contract-year running back who's had an up-and-down career in New England thanks to fumble issues and pass-game limitations. He'll likely have to settle for a low-level deal next March. Brandon Bolden would appear to be the front-runner to take Ridley's snaps, but it's conceivable the Patriots will use a rotation of Bolden, James White, and practice squadder Jonas Gray. Even FB James Develin could see increased work. The Patriots will lean more on Shane Vereen.
Jerick McKinnon out-snapped Matt Asiata 48-15 in Week 6 against the Lions. It's a changing of the guard. Finally. Asiata is about as pedestrian-level as they come at running back, while McKinnon is one of the better pure athletes in the league. McKinnon out-touched Asiata 17-3 on Sunday and is the back to own in Minnesota. He has RB2 upside. Asiata owners can consider cutting bait, though it might be advisable to wait a week to see if the switch to McKinnon wasn't just a one-week deal.
Chris Johnson's Weeks 1-6 carry totals have gone 13, 12, 10, 6, 7, and 3. He played just 33.3 percent of the offensive snaps Sunday against the Broncos. It's clear the Jets are coming to the realization that Johnson is done -- something the rest of the NFL world realized last season and before then -- and are phasing him out of the offense. His fourth-round ADP during the summer was laughable. Chris Ivory is the back to own for Gang Green, even though he hasn't scored since Week 2. Ivory is still averaging 4.85 YPC on the year. But the Jets' offense can't move the ball. He's an RB3.
Quarterback & Running Back Slants
The Panthers installed more running plays for Cam Newton last week in practice. He ran it 17 times for 107 yards and one score against the Bengals with Carolina's backfield depleted and talent-less. … Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Bishop Sankey is "getting better." He totaled 68 yards on 19 touches against the Jaguars. … Jake Locker (thumb) remains the Titans' starter when healthy. … Robert Griffin III's (ankle) timetable for return remains uncertain. He's expected to resume individual drills in practice next week. … Carson Palmer "felt good" in his return from the nerve issue in his right shoulder. … C.J. Spiller played just 12-of-69 snaps in Week 6. We can't wait for him to get out of Buffalo, hopefully after this season. … Reggie Bush (ankle) missed Week 6 "largely as a precaution." … Coach Chip Kelly refused to rule Darren Sproles (sprained MCL) out for Week 8. The Eagles are on their bye. … DeAngelo Williams (ankle) is expected to miss a couple more weeks. … C.J. Anderson played just one snap against the Jets. He's behind both Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson.
Wide Receiver & Tight End Slants
Andre Holmes once again led the Raiders receivers in snaps played in Week 6. He's Oakland's No. 1 receiver. … A.J. Green (toe) expects to miss Week 7 against the Colts, but coach Marvin Lewis said Green has a "shot" to suit up. Don't expect it. … The Bengals aren't seeing any progress with Marvin Jones (ankle/foot), and haven't ruled out surgery. … Victor Cruz underwent season-ending patellar tendon surgery. Odell Beckham will now play every down. … The Bills have given Mike Williams permission to seek a trade. He was a healthy scratch in Week 6. … Tom Brady said Rob Gronkowski is "absolutely back." … Tim Wright played just 16-of-74 snaps against the Bills. He remains a bit part of the offense. … Jordan Reed played on 35-of-65 snaps in his Week 6 return. His snaps will rise, making him a legit TE1. … Marques Colston is expected to see a bigger role while Jimmy Graham (shoulder) is sidelined. … Coach Jim Caldwell wouldn't rule out sitting Calvin Johnson (ankle) through the Lions' Week 9 bye.