Colin Kaepernick ran himself into the NFL record book Saturday and along the way he carried the 49ers to their second straight NFC Championship Game appearance.
In his first postseason start, Kaepernick set a league record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a playoff game, propelling the 49ers to a 45-31 shredding of the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park. The 49ers will meet the winner of today’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
“I feel like I had a lot to prove,” Kaepernick said. “A lot of people doubted my ability to lead this team.”
Kaepernick outdueled reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers by gaining 181 yards with his legs and throwing for another 263, while accounting for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). The second-year quarterback’s 56-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter is now the longest by a quarterback in an NFL playoff game.
The team’s 323 rushing yards is also a club record for the postseason.
But Kaepernick looked like a rookie — not a record-setter — on the 49ers’ first possession. His second pass went for a touchdown, but it was a pick-6 to Packers cornerback Sam Shields.
Kaepernick recovered from the mistake immediately, though, leading the 49ers on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by his 20-yard scramble into the end zone.
“We didn’t handle the read option very good and we didn’t handle the quarterback getting out of the pocket,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “You may not have noticed, but we did have a spy on him at times.”
The Packers jumped ahead 14-7 in the last minute of the first quarter when running back DuJuan Harris scampered for an 18-yard touchdown run. But the 49ers tied it soon after by capitalizing on a Packers mistake.
The offense took possession at Green Bay’s 9-yard line after Jeremy Ross fumbled an Andy Lee punt and Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree for a 12-yard touchdown three plays later.
The “Crabbernick” duo connected for another score on the next possession, a 20-yard strike that gave the 49ers a 21-14 lead. Crabtree finished the game with nine catches for 119 yards.
But the lead quickly evaporated. The Packers responded with a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to tie it before David Akers put the 49ers ahead 24-21 with a 36-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
The 49ers took control in the second half. After the Packers tied the game with a field goal early, the 49ers scored 21 unanswered points with rushing touchdowns from Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon.
“We just didn’t get it done in the second half,” Rodgers said. “I knew we were going to have to score some points.
“We knew we were going to have to put up at least 38 points.”