There’s a reason the No. 1 overall draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith, is manning a clipboard.
That reason is the unique skill set of one Colin Kaepernick.
Forget about any opening playoff jitters for this quarterback who can beat you with his feet as well as his rocket arm.
The seemingly unflappable Kaepernick threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more, including an electrifying 56-yard burst in the third quarter after the Green Bay Packers had tied it up.
The Niners rode those legs and that arm to a huge win over the Pack, 45-31, in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Candlestick Park Saturday night.
It seemed as if no one in Green Bay was prepared for what Kaepernick brings to the table.
The numbers for Kaepernick and the Niners were absolutely stunning.
In what has to have already achieved debacle status in Green Bay lore, San Francisco had over 500 yards of offense.
Kaepernick shattered the record for rushing yards by a QB, racking up 183 when the dust settled.
It deteriorated into a total decimation of the Packers by Jim Harbaugh’s team.
‘We didn’t make enough plays on offense,” Rodgers said after the loss. “We had a chance to score early in the second half and didn’t get it done.
“We had a chance to help our defense out and we didn’t get it done.”
Green Bay settled for a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby which tied the game at 24 with 8:25 left in the third.
Had that singular drive not stalled, this might have been a different ball game.
The pro boxing equivalent of this NFC Divisional Playoff game would have been Ali vs. Frazier.
Two heavyweights, among the best in their era, going toe to toe to advance to a title shot.
The title in this case is the Super Bowl and both teams were in the discussion to get to this point from the get-go.
That the Packers got there after a 2-3 start is impressive.
But when head coach Mike McCarthy’s boys had the chance to rest up and play this game at home, they let a determined Minnesota Vikings team to stop the momentum they had built up to that point
In San Francisco, Harbaugh has assembled a total team that can be argued is more consistent in all phases of the game.
The reigning NFL MVP went up against a defense that, while struggling a bit of late, tends to neutralize even the best in the business.
In the end, it came down to execution and turnovers.
A muffed punt return by Jeremy Ross breathed new life into the Niners.
And they rose up like the mythical phoenix.
The first of two Michael Crabtree scoring catches, this one from 12 yards out, tied the game at 14 apiece with 10:59 left in the half.
An exceedingly rare Rodgers interception also produced points.
The 20-yard Kaepernick toss to Crabtree gave the home team had a 21-14 lead with 5:26 to go before intermission.
Incredibly, GB defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn’t make any adjustment at halftime.
Just a David Akers field goal separated the teams at the half.
But 21 unanswered points held the Pack at bay for good.
Kaepernick’s tour de force made everyone forget about RG III, Russell Wilson and the early career of Michael Vick.
Sam Shields got things rolling with a 52-yard ‘Pick 6’ of Kaepernick on the game’s opening drive.
Any thoughts of the young Niner starter being rattled were quickly doused when he tied the game with a 20-yard TD run.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were both able to work their way off the milk carton in the second half.
Rodgers barely edged out Kaepernick in the quarterback rating, but the latter was the game changer on this night.
It’s win or go home time and, unfortunately for Packer Nation, it is Green Bay that is going home ending yet another season of promise.
As always, there are questions left to answer for this team as the Pack looks forward to the 2013 season.
Donald Driver, activated for tonight, has, in all likelihood, played his last down as a Packer.
His age and productivity don’t warrant a return.
It will be difficult to see Driver and his No. 80 in different colors, but that is just a part of the business.
Greg Jennings will command more money than the Packers are willing to part with.
This is especially true since they have an emerging Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and the great player that James Jones has worked his way to become.
Tight end Jermichael Finley is another story.
Despite his agent’s Tweets and some drops early in the year, Finley’s potential may be too hard for GM Ted Thompson to give up on.
Capers is under scrutiny since his scheme continues to get gashed by the run.
Seems every time the Packers let a running back (or a QB like Kaepernick) get to the outside, they turn the lights out.
As good as this same defense was at stopping Adrian Peterson last week was as bad as they were versus Kaepernick, Frank Gore, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon.
If you didn’t have the DVR of the game to verify what your eyes have just witnessed, you wouldn’t believe it.
Even though this team left their hearts and Super Bowl dreams in San Francisco, the Packers are still the favorites to be in a similar position next season.
With Rodgers, the emergence of DuJuan Harris and the other weapons will make them odds-on favorites to win the NFC North and make more noise beyond that.
But this year — again — they will be watching the Big Game at home like the rest of us.
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