SAN FRANCISCO — The fame has come, the fortune eventually will, but right now Colin Kaepernick finds himself quarterbacking the NFL's last-ranked passing attack.
Midway through his first full season as the 49ers' starter, Kaepernick takes pride in the 49ers' record (6-2) rather than flinch at their league-worst 189.9 passing yards per game.
“We're winning games,” Kaepernick said. “There are teams ahead of us that are obviously doing better in the passing game that aren't where we're at record-wise. So, that's what we care about: wins.”
The 49ers, fresh off last weekend's bye, put a five-game win streak on the line Sunday when they host the Carolina Panthers, who are 5-3 and seeking their own five-game win streak.
Both teams are in NFC playoff contention, primarily by virtue of top-10 rushing units as well as stingy defense and elite special teams.
An improved passing threat is what the 49ers need in their playoff push. They certainly have a capable quarterback in Kaepernick, who's averaging fewer passes per game (24.8) than any other starter.
But does Kaepernick have enough targets? He's getting more — and that doesn't include former star Terrell Owens, who will only serve as an honorary game captain today.
Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, last year's team-leading receivers, practiced together this past week for the first time since last season.
While Crabtree still looks a month away from his season debut because of an Achilles tear, Manningham could play Sunday for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury Dec. 23.
Manningham is needed to fill what has been an unproductive No. 2 wideout role. Same goes for Crabtree. Without them, the 49ers have counted on Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game, while getting little production from Kyle Williams, Jon Baldwin, Quinton Patton and Marlon Moore, who was cut last week.