COLIN KAEPERNICK fought off playoff anxieties and went out and had one of the best one-man games in playoff history, with 444 yards total offense and accounting for 4 touchdowns in a 45-24 beat-down of the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park tonight. In some ways Kaepernick put to rest who is the leader of this franchise at quarterback with his performance tonight, as the 49ers advance to the NFC Championship game to take on the winner of tomorrow’s Atlanta versus Seattle divisional playoff game.
San Francisco saw their first drive of the game start at their own 28 yard line. This drive was promising with a mix of solid FRANK GORE (23 carries for 119 yards and 1 score) runs and a nice Kaepernick (17 of 31 for 263 yards, 2 touchdown passes, and just 1 interception) 9 yard right sideline strike to MICHAEL CRABTREE (9 catches for 119 yards and 2 scores). But it went straight down the toilet when Kaepernick with all day to throw but no one to throw to (his receivers either were covered or didn’t finish their routes), threw a pass intended for tight end VERNON DAVIS that ended up being intercepted by cornerback SAM SHIELDS who took the theft 52 yards to the house for an eventual 7-0 Packers lead.
The 49ers got the ball back at their own 20 after the kickoff. Later in the drive and on 3rd and 2 from their own 28, cornerback TRAMON WILLIAMS was blamed for a pass interference on Crabtree who was running a slant route. The penalty gave the 49ers a first down on their own 33 yard line. The drive ended up being keyed by a Kaepernick 45 yard strike to Gore, who took the pass down the left sideline and crossed to his right and then was tackled at the Packers 22 yard line. Gore’s reception ended up setting up a play, that gave the Packers a harbinger of what they were in for tonight. Kaepernick again with no one to throw to, took matters into his own hands (and used good blocks by left tackle JOE STALEY and left guard MIKE IUPATI) to sprint 20 yards for a touchdown to end up making the score 7-7.
The Packers next drive ended on a 3rd and 3 play from their own 27 yard line, courtesy of an incompletion to fullback JOHN KUHN versus a heavily trailing PATRICK WILLIS.
Then with just under a minute left in the first quarter, AARON RODGERS (26 of 39 for 257 yards, 2 touchdown passes, and 1 theft) threw a 44 yard completion to JAMES JONES (4 catches for 87 yards and 1 score). Jones to his credit made a great catch, as he tipped the ball and then caught it amid double coverage from safety DASHON GOLDSON and cornerback CHRIS CULLIVER at the SF 18 yard line. That play set up an 18 yard unscathed touchdown run by DUJUAN HARRIS (11 carries for 53 yards and 1 score) to give the Packers a 14-7 advantage.
The 49ers next drive started at their own 20 yard line after a Green Bay punt. On 3rd and 7 the 49ers were assessed a false start on Davis. The penalty backed them up to their own 48 yard line and gave them a 3rd and 12 situation. So on 3rd and 12, the drive ended on a Gore 3 yard catch that was heavily covered by linebacker BRAD JONES. But the 49ers received new life when on the ensuing punt, fourth-year Niners safety CJ SPILLMAN recovered a muffed JEREMY ROSS punt at the Packers 9 yard line. The Spillman recovery set up a 12 yard Kaepernick to Crabtree connection, with the latter running untouched into the end zone after an intermediate crossing route. This scoring play put the score at 14-14.
But San Francisco wasn’t finished irritating Green Bay’s defense. Kaepernick at the end of an 8-play 48 yard drive, completed a 20 yard touchdown pass to Crabtree versus Shields to give the 49ers a 21-14 lead.
Green Bay answered the Crabtree touchdown play with a touchdown of their own from the same distance. With around 2:34 left in the first half, Rodgers threw a touchdown pass up the middle to Jones who was in a mismatch with linebacker NAVORRO BOWMAN. The drive covered 80 yards in just six plays and tied the game at 21-21. The 49ers just couldn’t let the Packers have the lead for long, as they snatched the lead back with an end of first half DAVID AKERS 36 yard successful field goal to make the score 24-21.
With just under 12 minutes left in the third quarter, Spillman again came up big on special teams with a tackle for no gain of the ever dangerous RANDALL COBB at the SF 11 yard line. This after a huge 52 yard punt by ANDY LEE who was an unsung hero in this game. All the Packers got out of this drive was a 31 yard MASON CROSBY field goal, but it knotted the score at 24-24.
But the 49ers took the lead back again like a spoiled and selfish child, with a 56 yard touchdown run by Kaepernick. On the play, Kaepernick made the Packers defense bite hard on a LAMICHAEL JAMES fake dive-play run up the middle, then Kaepernick proceeded to sprint down the right side for one of the longest runs by a quarterback in NFL history to give his team a 31-24 lead that they would not relinquish.
Later, Bowman atoned for his being victimized by Jones in the second quarter, with a pass defense of the ball and subsequent roughing-up of tight end JERMICHAEL FINLEY on 3rd and 6 to force a Masthay punt.
The 49ers took advantage of Bowman’s big play on their next offensive drive which started at their own 7 yard line. This drive was keyed by Davis, who caught his only pass of the night which went for 44 yards versus linebacker AJ HAWK who outgunned on this play. This play gave the Niners the ball at GB 15 yard line. This huge play set up a Gore 2 yard touchdown run to give the 49ers an insurmountable 38-24 lead.
On their next drive offensively, it was easily clear that the 49ers were toasting the Packers defense. As at the 7:52 mark of the fourth quarter the 49ers offense had gained 551 yards total offense. This drive would be the bury drive for the 49ers, meaning that this would be the drive that would bury Green Bay and put them in a hole that they couldn’t get out of and send them home. On 4th and 1, the 49ers sent backup offensive linemen DANIEL KILGORE and LEONARD DAVIS into the game on the left side of the line as to make the Packers think that they would run the ball to that side. But the 49ers gave Gore the ball and the running back lasered up the middle all the way to the GB 2 yard line. The play set up a 2 yard touchdown run by meat and potatoes running back ANTHONY DIXON, which eventually gave the Niners a 45-24 lead.
But the Packers refused to give up. Rodgers with just about 57 seconds left in the game, threw a 3 yard touchdown pass to GREG JENNINGS (6 catches for 54 yards and 1 score) in the back of the end zone. After the catch, Jennings didn’t even celebrate as he knew his team was done for.
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