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Colin Kaepernick struggles; Niners' playoff hopes dim

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It took Colin Kaepernick nearly a half hour to look comfortable throwing a pass Thursday night, a short out to Stevie Johnson that ended the first half.

Kaepernick and the Niners were booed a second time right after that completion, and they headed in at halftime down 13 to make adjustments after Kaepernick hit just seven of his first 16 passes in their 19-3 loss to the Seahawks. He threw a pick on a pass right to the gut of Richard Sherman early in the first quarter and -- on at least four other occasions -- missed his wide receiver in a catchable situation.

Kaepernick finished 16 of 29 for 121 yards and two picks. The second interception was also to Sherman, and once again, featured Sherman simply reading Kaepernick's eyes to the football.

This was one of those games in which everything snowballs. Peyton Manning endured it against the same defense less than a year ago in the Super Bowl. Seattle has a way of doing this, especially when the Cover-2 man is firing and the read option is offering little reprieve.

But in a game that could seriously alter the 49ers' postseason plans, how much is the loss an indictment on where Kaepernick is as a quarterback?

We can count the reads he missed. We can wonder why he insisted on throwing at Sherman as many times as he did, especially when Sherman was covering Brandon Lloyd (and we can also wonder why Lloyd was getting targeted over Vernon Davis at a five-to-one ratio at one point). We can point to the visible indecision Kaepernick showed on several scrambles. We can chuckle when he passes up a wide-open check down in the third-quarter to his running back, and instead hurls the ball into the end zone to his fullback, who is blanketed by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.

But then we wonder, how much of this is a down season or an offensive staff forcing him into a player he's not, and how much of it is a harsh reality?

Kaepernick has thrown multiple touchdowns in just three games this year. He is 34th among qualified starters in adjusted completion percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. That number dips closer to 40 percent when under pressure.

Now, he needs to beat Seattle on the road and Arizona at home to even consider heading back to the playoffs. Can he do it?

At this point, Niners coach Jim Harbaugh needs to be thinking about some redesigns on offense. On Thursday night, Kaepernick's mobility was only used as an escape mechanism. Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree were nonexistent, and the running game was abandoned after some momentary signs of life early in the second half.

Kaepernick needs to elevate in these moments, too, though. Russell Wilson lucked out by not losing either of his fumbles, but he also was able to create more opportunities downfield, especially in the face of some creative slot blitzing by San Francisco.

He is capable, but is it too late to prove it this season?

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews the Week 13 games and reacts to the news of RGIII's benching in D.C. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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