The San Francisco 49ers silenced their critics (i.e. me) on Saturday, beating the Green Bay Packers 45-31 to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
Although the two teams were tied at 24 in the third quarter, it was the Niners who stepped up in crunch time. They scored touchdowns on their final three drives (not counting the clock-killing kneel-downs) to bury the Packers.
It was a great overall team effort by the Niners, but the win couldn't have been possible without the following three players.
Colin Kaepernick, QB
Despite throwing a pick-six on his second throw of the game, Kaepernick tops this list with his record-setting performance.
Colin Kaepernick's 183 rush yards are the most for a QB in NFL history including BOTH playoff and regular season games (via Elias).— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2013
FROM ELIAS: Only QBs in history with 2 Pass TD & 2 Rush TD in same playoff game: Otto Graham (twice), Jay Cutler & Colin Kaepernick.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 13, 2013
Michael Crabtree, WR
Of course, Kaepernick had plenty of help from his top wide receiver.
The 25-year-old Crabtree had one of the best games of his young career, catching nine passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He found gaps in the Packers' defense all night long, putting himself in a good position to receive passes from Kaepernick.
Both of his touchdown catches came in the pivotal second quarter, when the 49ers went from being down seven to up seven. Kaepernick will get all the headlines (and deservedly so), but San Fran's victory wouldn't have been possible without Crabtree.
Frank Gore, RB
Like Kaepernick, Gore ran all over the Packers on Saturday.
Gore averaged 5.2 yards on his 23 carries, finishing with 119 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes, including a massive 45-yarder. Before that catch, his longest reception of the season was 26 yards.
But the most important play Gore made was his two-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put San Fran up 38-24. The Niners added another TD after that, but Gore's drive served as the knockout blow.
Gore proved yet again that he is one of the premier backs in this league. If he continues to produce at this level, the Niners will likely be Super Bowl champions.