All the questions about the San Francisco 49ers heading into this weekend’s Divisional Round matchup against the Green Bay Packers had to do with QB Colin Kaepernick and whether he could handle playoff football, and DE Justin Smith and whether he could be effective after his torn triceps muscle suffered nearly a month ago in New England. Safe to say they both put those questions to rest. Colin Kaepernick made what could have been a back breaking mistake early in the first quarter on a pass intended for Vernon Davis after being flushed from the pocket, Sam Shields jumped in front of Davis and took it to the house to give the Packers an early 7-0 lead. This was the pivotal moment of the game, it looked like the Packers might be able to rattle the young QB but Kaepernick had other ideas.
We all knew he could run, and he proved it on the ensuing drive with a 20 yard scamper for a touchdown to even the score. The Packers would retake the lead after an incredible 44 yard catch by James Jones set up an 18 yard touchdown run by Dujuan Harris. The next 49ers drive would run out of steam but Packers punt returner Jeremy Ross couldn’t handle the punt and C.J. Spillman dove on the ball to give the 49ers a 1st and goal. After a couple failed plays, an incomplete pass and a fumbled snap, Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree on 3rd and goal at the 13 yard line for the touchdown. Another TD pass to Crabtree by Kaepernick, and a TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones evened up the score at 21 as half time drew near. David Akers, named as still the starter over recently signed Billy Cundiff, hit a 36 yard field goal to send the game to the half with the 49ers leading 24-21.
The Packers tied the game once more on a Mason Crosby field goal from 31 yards midway through the 3rd quarter, but that was as close as they’d get from that point on. Three plays later Colin Kaepernick would showcase that incredible speed once again on a 56 yard touchdown run. It was 31-24 now and the 49ers would never look back. A Frank Gore 2 yard touchdown, and an Anthony Dixon 2 yard score put them up 45-24. The Packers did manage a garbage time touchdown from Rodgers to Greg Jennings, but there was simply not enough time to mount any kind of meaningful comeback.
Kaepernick showed the world why Jim Harbaugh made the gutsy decision to keep him as the starter even though Alex Smith had recovered from his concussion. He set a single game NFL record for rushing by a QB with his astronomical 181 yards, besting Michael Vick’s previous record of 173. He scored twice on the ground, but also scored twice through the air to Michael Crabtree (who had 119 yards receiving as well) and threw for 263 yards. He did make the one mistake for the pick 6, but that seemed to wake him up as he was simply spectacular from that point forward. There’s no doubt that Alex Smith never could have put on a performance like this.
Everyone knew the Packers high octane offense would be able to put points on the board, but the 49ers defense stepped up and made plays when necessary. Tarell Brown intercepted Aaron Rodgers on a badly overthrown deep ball, and Spillman recovered the fumble from Ross on the punt return for the 2 turnovers the 49ers were able to create. Aaron Rodgers was only sacked one time by Patrick Willis, but it was clear he was never able to get comfortable in the pocket and his production suffered. Justin Smith by all accounts was his normal self, despite wearing a large arm brace to stabilize his torn triceps. He didn’t light up the stat sheet, but his presence was definitely felt, and it’s no surprise the game had the result it did with him in there.
The 49ers await their opponent next week, they will either head to Atlanta to face the Falcons or will host the Seattle Seahawks for a chance to play in Super Bowl XLVII. Both teams present their own pros and cons, but it’s hard to not hope for Seattle and another shot at their division rival at home after the beat down they suffered in Seattle last month. But right now, the 49ers have all the confidence in the world and they feel there is nobody who can stop them. Nobody.