49ers strike gold with record-setting, elusive QB Colin Kaepernick
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SAN FRANCISCO -- His runs break tackles or break into the clear.
His passes nearly break fingers, they're thrown so hard.
He has a body full of tattoos (mostly religious icons), a pet tortoise, a lingering chip on his shoulder.
And now he has a reputation moving with the speed that Colin Kaepernick did against the Green Bay Packers.
The quarterback on the Packers' side, Aaron Rodgers, the Northern Californian who had hoped to play for the 49ers, came off the field Saturday night and said about Kaepernick, "We didn't really have a whole lot of answers for him."
In truth, other than picking off an early pass and returning it for a touchdown, the Packers had no answers.
Kaepernick set an NFL rushing record for quarterbacks with 181 yards, scored two touchdowns and passed for two more to lead San Francisco to a 45-31 win over the bewildered Packers in an NFC divisional playoff game. Next up for Kaepernick and the 49ers is a trip to Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
"You have to tip your hat sometimes," Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji said of Kaepernick, "when a guy like that at the quarterback position is consistently outrunning and outflanking your defense and making huge plays."
Such as the 56-yard touchdown sprint with 7:07 left in the third quarter that put the 49ers in front for good at 31-24. "Any time a quarterback that fast gets a step on you," Packers linebacker Erik Walden said, "it is pretty much over with."
In the Pistol offense of recently retired coach Chris Ault at Nevada, the 6-5 Kaepernick passed for 10,098 yards and 82 TDs and ran for 4,112 and 59 TDs during his career. But he was the sixth quarterback (and 36th player) taken in the 2011 NFL draft, behind Cam Newton (No. 1), Jake Locker (8) Blaine Gabbert (10), Christian Ponder (12) and Andy Dalton (35). Kaepernick thought he should have gone in the first round, not the second.
Niners second-year coach Jim Harbaugh, who while at Stanford had Andrew Luck, scouted Kaepernick. After starter Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the ninth game of the season and Kaepernick took over, San Francisco incorporated the Pistol's read-option plays into its offense.
"I see him in practice," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said of Kaepernick. "He's unbelievable. But to see what he did in this game, it amazes me. It wows me."
When asked Saturday night if he is a thrower (263 yards in completions) or a runner (he had 183 yards before two kneel-downs at the end), Kaepernick said, "I don't want to be categorized."
Or pinned down.