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49ers Dominate in Divisional Round, 45-31

Posted Jan 12, 2013

History was made several times on Saturday night at Candlestick Park.

In the process of rewriting San Francisco 49ers postseason records, Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree introduced themselves to a national viewing audience as two of the top young players at their respective positions.

The athletic playmakers helped San Francisco rack up 579 total yards of offense on Saturday night, including 323 rushing yards to completely disassemble the visiting Green Bay Packers, 45-31, in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round.

“I thought they competed like maniacs,” said Jim Harbaugh after his team dominated the Packers for much of the sixth postseason meeting between the two storied franchises, including outscoring the visitors 21-10 in the second half alone.

Now, the 49ers will advance to the franchise’s 14th NFC Championship Game next Sunday, making Harbaugh the eighth head coach in NFL history to reach the conference or league championship in each of his first two seasons.

But make no mistake, San Francisco’s repeat NFC title game appearance, the first of its kind since 1992-94, was due in large part to a complete team effort, led by the 49ers’ up-and-coming passing combination.

In his first postseason start, Kaepernick found Crabtree for a pair of touchdowns and the second-year quarterback added a franchise postseason record with 181 rushing yards against the Packers. Facing Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s formidable passing offense, it was Crabtree who totaled game highs in catches (11), receiving yards (119) and touchdowns (2).
Kaepernick’s 181 rushing yards were also the most single-game rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history, too.

“It’s a great accolade,” Kaepernick said of the ground gains he picked up behind San Francisco’s blockers, wide receivers included. “I think it means a lot to this team.”

It wasn’t quite the start the 49ers had wanted following a first-round postseason bye, but they still managed to rebound from it.

San Francisco won the opening coin toss, elected to receive and supplied the Green Bay Packers with a 7-0 lead.

The 49ers appeared to have early momentum after picking up a first down on the ground, but two plays later, Sam Shields intercepted Kaepernick’s second pass attempt of the game and returned it 52 yards down the home sideline for a Packers touchdown.

“He did a great job of responding,” Harbaugh said of his quarterback, who made his only costly mistake on San Francisco’s opening possession. “He’s got that ability to come back.”

No matter the 49ers’ only turnover, Kaepernick went on to rebound from the mistake, demonstrating poise wise beyond his years. The second-year pro finished the game completing 17 of 31 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and a 91.2 quarterback rating.

Kaepernick added two rushing scores, part of San Francisco’s four-touchdown performance on the ground.

“Our offensive line played great today,” Kaepernick said on a day where he was only sacked once. “Our offensive line dominated up front.”

On the 49ers’ second offensive drive, Kaepernick adlibbed correctly on a key third down. The 49ers quarterback scrambled towards his team’s sideline when the Packers pass rush collapsed the pocket and found Frank Gore on running free on wheel route. It was one of San Francisco’s eight conversions on third down out of 13 attempts. Kaepernick’s lofted pass went for a 45-yard gain down to Green Bay’s 22-yard line.

On 3rd-and-8, Kaepernick called his own number from 20 yards out, darting up the middle of Green Bay’s defense untouched for a touchdown to tie the game at 7.

The Packers didn’t sour – they responded with a 44-yard pass play on a great downfield catch from wide receiver James Jones. And on the very next play, DuJuan Harris scored on an 18-yard run to cap a 7-play, 82-yard scoring drive. More importantly, it gave Green Bay a 14-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Momentum, however, quickly found its way back to the 49ers sideline.  San Francisco found itself on the end of a fortuitous muffed punt by Packers wide receiver Jeremy Ross at Green Bay’s own 9-yard line.
After Kaepernick fumbled a snap and was tackled for no gain, he found the 49ers clutch third-down target, Crabtree, for a 12-yard score to tie the game at 14.

“He did a great job of throwing the ball, our receivers did a great job,” Harbaugh detailed. “Everyone was involved.”

San Francisco also forced a second crucial first-half turnover. Cornerback Tarell Brown picked off a deep Rodgers pass and returned it 39 yards the other way to Green Bay’s 48-yard line.

It was Rodgers’ first interception in his last 184 pass attempts.

Even better, the turnover led to another 49ers touchdown and another third-down scoring play from Crabtree. This time, the fourth-year wideout lined up to left of the formation and slanted in to the middle of the field to catch an easy 20-yard score from Kaepernick.

Still, Green Bay wasted no time making a response. The visitors came in the form of a 6-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took 2:53 off the clock. A couple of 49ers defensive penalties helped the Packers pick up chunks of yardage before Rodgers found Jones open for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

San Francisco matched the score by closing out the first half with an 11-play scoring drive to set up a 36-yard David Akers made field goal. The 49ers led 24-21 at the half.

Kaepernick supplied 107, first-half rushing yards, but the offensive fireworks were just getting started.

In the third quarter, Patrick Willis sacked Rodgers to force a Packers three-and-out, but the 49ers punted on their first possession of the second half.

It was the only sack registered by the 49ers defense on a night where Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith returned to action after missing the team’s final two regular season games. Smith finished the game with five tackles.

“Looked good,” Harbaugh said of Smith. “Looked like he was stout against the run… His legend grows.”

The Packers rallied after the three-and-out. Mason Crosby tied the game at 24 with a 31-yard field goal to cap a 9-play, 76-yard scoring drive.

It was the fourth tie score of the game by that point, but it proved to be the last.

Kaepernick led the 49ers on a touchdown drive, capped by a 56-yard zone-read keeper to give him at the time, 163 rushing yards, most in 49ers postseason history with 7:07 to play in third quarter.

The 56-yard run, the third longest run by a quarterback in postseason history, put the 49ers up 31-24.

Soon after, Vernon Davis got in on the passing act, drawing a pass interference penalty followed by a 44-yard over-the-shoulder reception inside of Green Bay’s red zone.

Davis’ big play set up another 49ers score, a 2-yard Frank Gore rushing touchdown to make it a 38-24 game.

Anthony Dixon tacked on a late 2-yard touchdown run of his own, giving San Francisco four rushing scores on the night and a comfortable lead. Not even a late Greg Jennings touchdown catch could spoil the outcome; all it did was put the game at a 45-31 final score.

“It was a great performance,” Harbaugh said of his players. “A great team victory.”

Still, the 49ers have work to be done. If the Atlanta Falcons defeat the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon, the 49ers will travel South for the NFC title game. If the Seahawks upset the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the 49ers will host the conference championship.

“It doesn’t stop here,” Willis said. “We got a big one next week.”

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