The Green Bay Packers traveled to San Francisco to face the 49ers in Saturday's second divisional round playoff game, and the two teams faced a tall order if they were going to match the excitement level of the Baltimore Ravens' wild double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos.
The game was a rematch of a Week 1 contest won by the 49ers, and not only was Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers looking for payback for that defeat, but many also suspected that the eighth-year pro was also looking to right a perceived wrong from quite a bit longer back:
The biggest difference between Saturday's matchup and the Week 1 game between these two teams was the presence of quarterback Colin Kaepernick under center, and Bleacher Report's own Andrew Garda predicted that Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers would be quite eager to face a passer making his first career playoff start:
I picture Dom Capers foaming at the mouth when he sees a young/inexperenced QB on the other sideline.— Andrew Garda (@Andrew_Garda) January 13, 2013
That Garda is one smart cookie. Or at least it appeared so at first, although in fairness to Garda no one foresaw what was coming.
Just as he predicted, first blood in the game was drawn by Green Bay's defense, as an errant Kaepernick throw was intercepted by Sam Shields and returned 57 yards for the game's first points:
NFL (@NFLONFOX) January 13, 2013
Not the start to a player's first ever postseason game that you're looking for.
However, the youngster shook off that mistake and found redemption, and after Kaepernick scrambled into the end zone from 20 yards out to tie the score, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated pointed out that we could be in for another wild affair:
Kaepernick touchdown, in a game that seems like it might be equally awesome.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) January 13, 2013
This time it was Green Bay's turn to answer the bell, and after running back DuJuan Harris ran it in from 18 yards out to give Green Bay a 14-7 lead, fans such as Deja Wilson were getting carried away by another exciting playoff contest:
I honestly almost punched my sister for cheering for the packers.— Deja Wilson (@Deja_Wilson) January 13, 2013
Once again, however, Kaepernick and the 49ers responded, and after Kaepernick found his favorite target in wideout Michael Crabtree, the score was knotted at 14 as the second quarter got underway:
San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 13, 2013
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers then made his first big mistake of the day, and after a Tarell Brown interception gave San Francisco great field position, Bleacher Report's Alessandro Miglio was left wondering what was going through the struggling Rodgers' head:
what was Rodgers thinking with that arm punt?— Alessandro Miglio (@AlexMiglio) January 13, 2013
Kaepernick and the 49ers made Rodgers pay for that mistake.
After Michael Crabtree reeled in his second scoring catch of the first half, FOX Sports relayed that Crabtree was the first San Francisco player in a decade to accomplish that feat:
Now it was Aaron Rodgers' turn to redeem himself after a gaffe cost his team seven points, and as he's been so often in the past, Rodgers was up to the task.
Rodgers led the Packers on a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 20-yard touchdown pass to James Jones, and with the score tied at 21, fans and media members alike, such as Annie Heilbrunn of The San Diego Union-Tribune, were riveted by the day's second wildly entertaining game:
Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) January 13, 2013
The 49ers were able to respond with a drive that culminated in a 36-yard field goal by David Akers as the first half ended, and a 24-21 halftime lead for San Francisco led this sportswriter to reflect on a very solid first half by the Niners' young signal-caller:
Outside the Pick-6 Colin Kaepernick sure doesn't look like a player making his 1st career playoff start. 107 RY, 3 TDs in solid first half.— Gary Davenport (@IDPManor) January 13, 2013
In fact, Jason Whitlock of FOX Sports had even higher praise for Kaepernick:
Am I right? At no time in his career was Michael Vick as good as Colin Kaepernick is right now.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) January 13, 2013
Meanwhile, the imaginary mind of football great John Madden wondered aloud if the Packers were planning on playing any defense Saturday night:
Good to see Dom Capers defense is in postseason form.— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) January 13, 2013
The teams traded punts to open the second half, but then Rodgers and the Packers put together one of their best drives of the night, taking the ball 74 yards before a Mason Crosby field goal squared things back up at 24.
That fourth tie of the game didn't last long.
Kaepernick answered the Packers' field goal in about as emphatic a manner as you can answer anything, taking off on a 56-yard touchdown scamper that gave him over 300 total yards and four touchdowns for the game and put him in some select company according to Chase Stuart of FootballGuys:
Colin Kaepernick joins Michael Vick (in that OT game vs. MIN) as only players since 1960 w/ 150 rushing & passing in same game— Chase Stuart (@fbgchase) January 13, 2013
Pro Football Talk chimed in that Kapernick could be closing in on a record that would be an eye-popping achievement:
Who would have thought Eric Dickerson's single-game postseason record would be threatened more by Colin Kaepernick than Adrian Peterson?— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 13, 2013
Kapernick did not achieve that admittedly gaudy feat, but he certainly wasn't done toying with the Packers.
A Green Bay punt gave Kapernick the ball back, and after a long pass to tight end Vernon Davis, the 49ers were set up with a 1st-and-goal to kick off the fourth quarter.
Aaron Rodgers has 5 4QC wins in his career, and the combined deficit in those games is 16 points. Down 14 now. @jasonjwilde— Scott Kacsmar (@CaptainComeback) January 13, 2013
Once again, the San Francisco defense, which is as good as any in the National Football League, was able to force a punt, and among Twitter's many cheeseheads, panic was beginning to settle in:
Packers. You are killing me inside.— Adam Greene (@TheFirstMan) January 13, 2013
I just wanna cry, please packers lets go— Emily Vissers (@emily_vissers) January 13, 2013
49ers played their game.Too bad Packers couldn't be prepared for it.Unreal. #Packers— Steve Cruft (@d3termination) January 13, 2013
That same panic settled in over the remaining Green Bay fans on the following drive, as the 49ers once again took the ball and marched the length of the field, going over 500 total yards of offense in the process.
Facing a 4th-and-1 the from inside the 25-yard line, the 49ers pulled the old "try to make the defense jump offsides" trick, and well...
Unbelievable. Packers take the bait and jump offside. Give 49ers the first down. And thats the ball game over!— Scott Mc Donnell (@ScottMcDonnell3) January 13, 2013
That gaffe led to an Anthony Dixon touchdown run that made it 45-24 with under four minutes to play, and just like that, the game was effectively over.
For the Green Bay Packers, their 2012 season ended just as it began, with a loss to the 49ers, and Gregg Doyel of CBS posted a stat after San Francisco's sixth touchdown that tells you all you need to know about just how badly the Green Bay defense was manhandled:
Yards gained: 49ers 581 ... Packers 287— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) January 13, 2013
However, this game was all about the performance turned in by Colin Kaepernick, and after his nearly 450 total yards and four total touchdowns, it's only fitting that I close this article with some reflections on his incredible performance:
Forget most ever by a QB in a playoff game. @kaepernick7 183 rushing yards are the most ever for a QB in ANY game, regular season too.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) January 13, 2013
Ever the sportsman, @kaepernick7 even spotted the Packers a TD out of respect for his old favorite team. Then he hung a fortyburger on 'em.— Dr. Gonzo (@49ersInYoPocket) January 13, 2013
Colin #Kaepernick did more damage to Green Bay, Wisconsin than cholesterol— Fake SportsCenter (@FakeSportsCentr) January 13, 2013
There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Colin Kaepernick.