Carolina Panthers‘ head coach Ron Rivera acknowledged that Colin Kaepernick will not play the same way against the Panthers as he did in their last game, a 10-9 win at Candlestick Park.Referring to Kap’s struggles in the first go-round, Rivera said: “I don’t expect that again. I expect the young man to come out and play well. He’s a good football player and he showed it. All you have to do is watch the way he has played down the stretch. We caught them at a good time and it turned out in our benefit.”
That they did. The 49ers did not have Michael Crabtree, lost Vernon Davis early, and could not move the ball to save their lives against a smothering Panthers defense. Despite the best efforts of the 49ers’ defense, they could not score more than a measly nine points. Rivera is absolutely right. Kaepernick will play better. That was one of his worst games, so he almost has to by default.
Rivera is smart, too, in saying this. Underestimating your opponents and providing bulletin board material are good ways to invigorate the other side and hurt your own chances at winning. Rivera and the Panthers are avoiding this trap. The 49ers better as well.