SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers -- with Colin Kaepernick rushing for 181 yards, an NFL postseason record for quarterbacks -- crushed the Green Bay Packers, 45-31, Saturday night at Candlestick Park in an NFC divisional playoff game.
The 49ers will face the winner of Sunday's Atlanta-Seattle game in the NFC Championship Game. For the second straight year, both 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, will be coaching in the conference championship games.
Kaepernick lost two yards on two kneel-downs at the end of the game, but he still bettered Michael Vick's quarterback rushing mark of 173. Kaepernick scored on runs of 56 and 20 yards and passed for 263 yards, including touchdown passes of 12 and 20 yards to Michael Crabtree. The Niners finished with 579 yards to 352 for the Packers.
"It was a great team effort," Jim Harbaugh said. "Offensively, we played great. We took advantage of turnovers. We were outstanding on defense."
Kaepernick's runs were part of the game plan, Harbaugh said, adding: "We used a lot more pistol formations . . . I saw a lot of Colin in college [Nevada]. He was great then. This is what we thought he could do. He also did a great job throwing the ball, hitting Crabtree for those back-shoulder catches. Everybody on the offense was in on this game."
In recent days, Bay Area papers had questioned the logic of Harbaugh going with a quarterback, Kaepernick, in his first playoff game instead of Alex Smith, who beat the Packers, 30-22, in the season opener and won a divisional playoff game last year.
The doubters looked smart when Kaepernick was intercepted on the game's fourth offensive play by Sam Shields, who returned it 52 yards for a TD.
Kaepernick, starting only his eighth game, then showed his ability and his cool. Big and fast -- he ran for 4,000 yards and passed for 9,000 during his career at Nevada -- Kaepernick ran 20 yards for a touchdown on third-and-8, and with six minutes gone, the score was tied at 7-7. And the Packers' offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had yet to touch the ball.
Once they got it, Rodgers, the leading passer in the NFL, hit a 44-yarder to James Jones. That was followed by an 18-yard touchdown run by DuJuan Harris. At the end of the quarter, the 49ers had an 11:20 to 3:40 advantage in time of possession, but Green Bay had a 14-7 lead.
Then came the mistakes. Green Bay's Jeremy Ross muffed a punt at his own 10, and San Francisco recovered at the 9. Three plays later, Kaepernick threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree, and the score was tied. But not for long. On third-and-7, Rodgers threw deep. The ball was picked off by Tarell Brown, Rodgers' first interception in 284 passes. Kaepernick then connected with Crabtree for a 20-yard touchdown, and the 49ers led 21-14.
Rodgers threw a 20-yard strike to Jones to make it 21-21, and a 36-yard field goal by David Akers gave San Francisco a 24-21 lead at halftime. The stats at intermission were fascinating. The 49ers had 313 yards to the Packers' 152 and about 13 minutes more possession time, but only the three-point lead.
The Packers tied it when Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field goal. But Kaepernick raced 56 yards for his second TD, giving the 49ers a 31-24 lead. Short TD runs by Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon gave the 49ers a 45-24 lead before Greg Jennings caught a 3-yard TD pass from Rodgers.
"You have to raise your level of play," Kaepernick had said about what was required. "You have to be more precise. You have to know everything a defense is going to do."
The Packers' defense may have known what Kaepernick was going to do, but it had trouble stopping it.