SAN FRANCISCO -- The fans pay their money and they want their highlights.
So when Colin Kaepernick threw a ball into the first row with three seconds left in Sunday's first half, boos cascaded from the not-so-cheap seats at Candlestick Park.
The reaction was for an offense that had struggled, and while the play certainly wasn't flashy, it did preserve the time necessary for a field goal that gave the 49ers a 6-3 halftime lead on Miami.
What it also wasn't was a risky action that might have been expected from a quarterback making only his fourth NFL start. So in the larger scheme of what eventually became a 27-13 victory over the Dolphins, that specific airmail by Kaepernick likely will go unnoticed.
On the other hand, it was exactly the kind of decision that draws praise from Jim Harbaugh, further reinforcing his own decision to play the Pitman High graduate ahead of Alex Smith.
"Kap did a great job throwing that ball away," Harbaugh said. "As the clock ticked down, had he completed the pass inbounds we wouldn't have gotten the field goal try. He did a great job of understanding where we were with the clock."
It was a veteran move, one that probably would have been made by Smith given the same circumstances.
But that's where we still are in this whole so-called quarterback controversy. Every time Kaepernick makes a great play or a bad one, misses a read or finds the perfect target, takes a sack or scrambles for yardage, the same question is asked.
What Would Alex Have Done?
The more Harbaugh writes his pet quarterback project into the starting lineup, the less that question will be asked, until it eventually just fades away. For the record, the question of who will start next week in New England was not broached in the post-game sessions with either Harbaugh or Kaepernick.
"I've been comfortable this whole season, and compared to last year I think I'm a lot more comfortable with the offense, especially in comparison to being comfortable with what defenses are doing," Kaepernick said. "I guess you could say it's slowing down for me."
This was Kaepernick's fourth start for the 49ers, which puts him in some pretty elite company. Downey High's Tony Graziani was the last Modesto-area product to make multiple starts at quarterback in an NFL season, logging three for the Atlanta Falcons in 1999 the year after they went to the Super Bowl.
Before that you have to go back 50 years to when Oakdale High's Eddie LeBaron played for the Dallas Cowboys and made five of his 81 career starts.
If all goes well for Kaepernick, he'll be approaching LeBaron's career mark around 2017. Right now, he's showing the ability and poise that will keep him in the league for at least that long.
Against a solid Dolphins' defense, Kaepernick completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Under the NFL's system which reportedly uses the combination of slide rule, pedometer and Richter scale to measure a quarterback's ability to throw the forward pass that's a stellar 100.2 passer rating.
Had Smith, who was benched with a 104.1 rating, put up those exact numbers and won on Sunday, he would have been accused of being a game-manager.
But in Harbaugh's offense, that's what quarterbacks are supposed to do move the offense, protect the ball and win. Manage the game.
"These games are really hard," Harbaugh said. "We knew going in that Miami would be tough to move the ball on. You have to stay patient, but we also took some shots. Our offense played winning football."
There's yet another area in which Kaepernick is playing like a veteran the post-game interview. He's not about to let anything out of his mouth that can be turned into bulletin board material for the other team, and in that way he's very much a Harbaugh disciple.
So when asked one question about how he's adjusting to his month of NFL celebrity status, how everything in his personal life from his prodigious tattoos to his pet tortoise Sammy is going public, Kaepernick flashed a wry smile, as if there were something he'd really like to say, especially about Sammy.
Then, he ducked the question and ran for the safety of the sideline.
"I'm not adjusting to that because I don't pay attention to it," he said. "I'm focused on football and on winning games."
No highlight there, but eventually there was one on the field.
With the Niners nursing a 20-13 lead and needing just a first down at the two-minute warning to start celebrating the season's ninth win, Kaepernick turned a read-option into a game-clinching 50-yard scoring run.
And there's your moment to remember, your footage for the season recap video.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2150. Follow him at twitter.com/modestobeek.