The smoke cleared, and finally, a victor has been revealed.
Colin Kaepernick emerged as the 49ers unsung hero Saturday night, not so much because of his play, which was spectacular to say the least, but rather for his grit, heart and most importantly—leadership.
How many young quarterbacks would have succumbed to the pressures of throwing an awful across-your-body interception on the very first drive? Did I mention that this was Colin Kaepernick's first playoff game, after taking over midseason for veteran quarterback, Alex Smith?
More importantly, how many fans panicked after Kaepernick threw that interception, which was returned for a touchdown by Packers cornerback Sam Shields? If you're one of the few with a hand down, pat yourself on the back.
It was an inevitable conclusion. We all knew Kaepernick's inexperience would eventually doom the 49ers, but the real question, was when?
Many feared this would occur under the bright lights of the postseason. It was only natural, right? It was the passage many young quarterbacks endured. To eventually win meant losing along the way.
Why would it be different in this case?
Well, the tables have turned. Kaepernick threw that football stigma out the window in the 49ers 45-31 defeat of the Green Bay Packers in the much-hyped divisional round of this years playoffs.
No, Kaepernick wasn't just a spectator, as many expected heading into this matchup.
With Aaron Rodgers and that explosive Packers offense, it was only natural that pundits and fans expected the 49ers defense to lead the charge.
Oh, how we were all wrong. Instead of avoiding a potential shootout with the Packers, Jim Harbaugh, and by extension, Colin Kaepernick, embraced it.
Oh no, the 49ers didn't run away from the big and bad Packers offense. Instead, they fought them head on, and Colin Kaepernick proved merciless as the leader of the 49ers brigade.
No one saw this coming, not even the Green Bay Packers.
As reported by Jason Cole on Yahoo sports, Packers general manager, Ted Thompson, when asked about Kaepernick's performance stated, "That was unbelievable."
"He did everything. I mean, I had read the press clippings and seen some of the highlights. But to watch what he did … oh my, that was special."
This was the same man who drafted Aaron Rodgers, after 23 teams decided he wasn't worth a first-round selection. On a related note, Colin Kaepernick was drafted in the second round, with the 36th selection to be exact.
If Aaron Rodgers has a chip on his shoulder, how do you think Kaepernick, a Wisconsin native, feels about his draft status?
Alex Smith, who went first overall to the 49ers in that same draft with Aaron Rodgers, can only look on as Kaepernick takes the mantle.
It wasn't Smith's fault in regard to the concussion that sidelined him for the Niners win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 11. It wasn't fair for Smith to lose his job. In the NFL, however, fairness doesn't exist.
It's about winning. And despite his relationship with Alex Smith, Jim Harbaugh knew that Colin Kaepernick was the answer.
Harbaugh's game plan spoke a thousand words. Instead of staying conservative, the 49ers attacked, attacked and attacked.
They conquered a weakness many believed hindered the 49ers. It's the only way you can conquer a fear. And man, did the 49ers answer the call.
With Alex Smith at the helm, that conservative game plan would have been in effect.
I'm not saying a win would be out of the question, especially when you consider the 49ers beat the Packers in Week 1 with Alex Smith at quarterback. However, being conservative can cost you.
Just ask John Fox and the Denver Broncos.
Instead, Harbaugh took his chances with the young quarterback midseason, in the hopes of preparing him for this moment. And all we can say is WOW!
Colin Kaepernick threw for 263 yards and rushed for a jaw-dropping 181 yards on the ground. Don't forget the four touchdowns (two in the air, two on the ground) that proved crucial in the win.
As Thompson said, Kaepernick was 'special.' The world finally saw what some of us already believed. Colin Kaepernick is the 49ers quarterback, for now and more importantly, the future.
The debate is, and should be over.