Colin Kaepernick led the way for the San Francisco 49ers as he proved too much to handle for the Green Bay Packers once again.
The 49ers defeated the Packers for the second game in a row in the playoffs, with a 23-20 win. In Kaepernick’s third straight victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, he passed for 227 yards, one touchdown and rushed for 98 yards. Kicker Phil Dawson added the game-winning field goal as the clock ticked away to advance the Niners to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
[Sidenote: As I wrote this I heard a car driving through my SF neighborhood (Ingleside!) with the occupants yelling: ‘Quest for six! Quest for six! Quest for six!’ Indeed, the quest continues...]
The 49ers dominated the Packers in all aspects in the first quarter. San Francisco’s defense managed to force Rodgers and his offense into three straight three-and-outs and did not allow a completion. However, Kaepernick could not get his offense into the end zone despite getting inside the ten-yard line on their first two drives. Instead of touchdowns, the Niners settled for two field goals by Dawson for a 6-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Rodgers and the Packers offense found their groove with a 14-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, capped by five-yard pass to wideout Jordy Nelson. The TD drive gave the Packers a 7-6 lead and was setup after Kaepernick threw an interception with the 49ers at Green Bay’s 29-yard line.
San Francisco answered Rodgers’ touchdown pass with a five-play, 68-yard TD drive that included a season-high 42-yard run by Kaepernick. Frank Gore ran in for a 10-yard score to give his team a 13-7 advantage. The Packers kicked a field goal to end of the first half to cut the lead to 13-10, 49ers.
To start the second half, the 49ers started with a three-and-out, which was followed up by the Packers doing the same. The rest of the third quarter had both offenses held without scoring.
The fourth quarter proved to be the most exciting with a combined 20 points scored, one touchdown and one field goal by each team. Green Bay had their longest drive, in yards, that carried over from the third quarter into the fourth. Rodgers led his offense on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that burned 6:35 off the game clock and gave Green Bay the lead, 17-13. Somehow, Rodgers avoided the Niners’ pass rush on fourth down, when he should’ve been sacked, and found a receiver for a first down. Two plays later fullback John Kuhn ran in for a one-yard touchdown to put the Packers ahead by three in the fourth quarter.
After a 37-yard kickoff return by LaMichael James, it only took the 49ers four plays to take back the lead to go up, 20-17, with just over ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick galloped for a first down on 3rd-and-4 after the play broke down and no one was open. He followed up his 24-yard gain with a 28-yard clutch TD strike to Vernon Davis for a three point advantage.
Green Bay answered back by driving 61 yards in five minutes to tie up the game, 20-20. The 49ers defense looked helpless for much of the second half trying to stop the offense. However, after the Packers reached inside the 49ers’ ten-yard line, the defense came up big with a stop to force a field goal. The defensive stop by San Francisco ensured Kaepernick and his offense would have one last possession to win the game.
Just before the two-minute warning, Kaepernick completed passes of 11 and 17 yards to Michael Crabtree. He followed up with an 11-yard throw to Gore get his offense into Green Bay’s territory. One of Kaepernick’s biggest rushes of the game was not because of yardage, but because of the first down conversion that accompanied the run. With a little over a minute left in the fourth quarter, Kap tucked the football and ran for 11 yards for a first down. From there, the 49ers ran out the game clock until three seconds remained and a timeout was called.
In the much talked about frigid air and howling wind, Dawson booted a game-winning 33-yard field goal that kept San Francisco’s season alive and propelled them to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
The 49ers will play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, January 12, at 10:05 am (PT).
Michael Crabtree finished with a game-high eight receptions and 125 receiving yards.
Jim Harbaugh still wore his trademark khakis despite the cold weather.
Kaepernick led all rushers in Wild Card weekend with 98 yards on seven carries.
NaVorro Bowman finished with ten tackles and one forced fumble.
Phil Dawson contributed nine of San Francisco’s 23 points.