Sports

Kaepernick leads 49ers past Packers in playoff debut

SAN FRANCISCO – The unproven kid thoroughly beat the former Super Bowl champion and reigning MVP.

With a strong arm that allowed him to pick the Packers apart from the pocket and speedy legs that helped him break free for big gains, Colin Kaepernick did a little bit of everything in a record-setting, sensational playoff debut – and Aaron Rodgers just couldn’t keep up.

Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and ran the San Francisco 49ers right back to the NFC championship game with a 45-31 win over Green Bay in an NFC divisional game Saturday night.

Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree. Next up for the Niners: a game on Jan. 20 for a spot in the Super Bowl, against the winner of today’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and host Atlanta Falcons.

“It feels good. We’re one step closer to where we want to be,” Kaepernick said. “I feel like I had a lot to prove. A lot of people doubted my ability to lead this team.”

And what a playoff debut it was by the second-year pro making just his eighth NFL start. No doubting Jim Harbaugh’s big midseason gamble switching quarterbacks now.

Rodgers never got in sync for the Packers (12-6), finishing 26 of 39 for 257 yards with two touchdowns.

Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to topping the rushing mark of 119 yards set by Michael Vick in 2005 against St. Louis. Crabtree caught TD passes of 12 and 20 yards in the second quarter and finished with nine catches, 119 yards for the 49ers (12-4-1).

Kaepernick, sporting a burgundy beanie partially covering his head, was greeted at his locker after the game by former 49ers quarterback John Brodie.

San Francisco had 579 total yards with 323 on the ground, scoring its third-most points in the franchise’s playoff history.

“Our offensive line did an amazing job today,” Kaepernick said. “They shut everybody down inside. Our receivers, our tight ends, blocked great outside, and our running backs were running hard, so it made it easier on me.”

Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon each added 2-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter for the No. 2 seed NFC West champions, slim favorites on their home field in a rematch of Week 1. They added to their memorable night by setting a franchise postseason record for yards rushing, 119 of those by Gore to complement Kaepernick.

Rodgers, the former Cal star passed up by San Francisco with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, never got going. Rodgers rooted for the Niners as a kid in Northern California.

This was another early exit for the Packers, who lost in the divisional playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants a year ago and were denied a chance to defend the title they won after the 2010 season.

Those Green Bay road stars of two years ago – they won three away from Lambeau Field on the way to the Super Bowl – didn’t have it this time against San Francisco’s stingy defense and a no-fear, second-year quarterback who would not be denied. A kid who was born in Milwaukee and grew up a big Green Bay fan until the day he was drafted in 2011 out of Nevada.

“I didn’t know how fast he was,” Green Bay defensive back Charles Woodson said. “Coming in I really never paid attention to it. But he is fast.”

Kaepernick joined Jay Cutler in 2011 and Otto Graham in both 1954 and ’55 as the only players with two rushing and two passing TDs in a playoff game.



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