CANDLESTICK PARK — No one predicted this outcome. All the experts and even some 49ers fans thought there was too much pressure on young Colin Kaepernick.
Although he redeemed himself in the regular season finale vs. Arizona, there was a bad taste in people’s mouths after the debacle in Seattle.
Kaepernick put those fears to rest by not only dominating the Packers, but by making history in the process. Imagine that, he did something no one else had accomplished, including the greats like Steve Young and Joe Montana.
Kaepernick ran for an NFL quarterback record 181 yards and went 17-of-31 for 263 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers 45-31 win over Green Bay on Saturday night.
That should quiet the doubters who questioned the reasoning behind head coach Jim Harbaugh benching Alex Smith in favor of Kaepernick who only had seven career NFL starts.
49ers safety Donte Whitner said it best:
Post-Game Audio: 49ers safety Donte Whitner
“Anybody that ever second guessed the decision to move from Alex to him, I don’t think they’ll be questioning him anymore. He’s that new style quarterback in the NFL … Extremely strong arm, accurate. He’s our quarterback, he’s our leader and he did a great job out there today.”
The game started inauspiciously for Kaepernick. On the 49ers opening series, he threw off balance and was intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields who returned the pick 52 yards for a touchdown. But the 49ers would eventually tie the game 24-24, then score 21 straight points.
Michael Crabtree made good on his word to redeem himself for a poor showing in last year’s NFC Championship game vs. the New York Giants. In that game he had one catch for five yards. This game, he was the recipient of two Kaepernick touchdown passes and had nine catches for 119 yards.
Crabtree said after the game:
Post-Game Audio: 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree
“Every playoff game I have something to prove but last year, it was bad. … It was what it was. But we’re on to a new year. I’m just trying to make a play and get this ‘w’.”
Kaepernick also had two touchdowns running. On 3rd and 8 in the first quarter, Kaepernick ran it all the way through the red zone for a 20-yard scoring run to put the 49ers on the board.
Midway through the third quarter, Kaepernick deked the entire stadium on a fake handoff to LaMichael James. Kaepernick kept it himself and ran it in for a 56-yard touchdown.
In the key stats, the 49ers outgained the Packers in total offense, 579 yards to 352. They also dominated on time of possession, 38:01 to 21:59 for Green Bay.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy pointed to time of possession after the game as one place his team fell short:
“Time of possession offensively, our point production for that was not enough. … Lopsided statistics, the game got away from us in the second half and I thought it was an outstanding performance from the 49ers.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a 49ers fan growing up in Chico, was not only passed over by the team he grew up rooting for, he wasn’t picked until he was the 24th selection in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Rodgers who was 26-of-39 for 257 yards and two touchdowns, called the loss “frustrating”:
Post-Game Audio: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
“Now I stand here and you realize that this is the last time that group is going to be together. It will be a different team next year. … You spend a lot of time with those guys, you care about them, you care about this a lot and then to go out there and play like that it’s disappointing.”
The 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the second year in a row, marking the first time San Francisco has reached the NFC Championship in consecutive seasons since 1992-94. … San Francisco improved to 13-3 at home in divisional playoff games. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is only the 8th coach to lead his team to the a league or conference championship in his first two seasons in NFL history. Two other Bay Area coaches accomplished this feat: John Madden in 1969-1970 with the Raiders, and George Seifert taking over for Bill Walsh in 1989-1990.