When Jim Harbaugh made the controversial call to start Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith this season, everything changed for the San Francisco 49ers.
While Smith has proven he's a worthy starting quarterback in the NFL, Kaepernick adds another dimension to the 49ers offense, evident in the two playoff wins against the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.
The 49ers scored a combined 73 points in those wins. All 10 touchdowns came via the offense.
Against the Packers, Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards to go along with two touchdowns on the ground. He also passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns to one interception.
Against the Falcons, Kaepernick was held in check on the ground (21 yards), but he went 16-of-21 for 233 yards (11.1 yards per pass attempt) and one touchdown through the air.
But Kaepernick's impact goes even goes further than his stats.
The read-option San Francisco has employed with Kaepernick under center has been devastating for opponents. Just the thought of the dual-threat quarterback running down the sidelines opens things up for his teammates.
Case in point: Atlanta focused on shutting Kaepernick down on the ground, and watched running backs Frank Gore (90 yards, two touchdowns) and LaMichael James (34 yards on five carries, touchdown) run past them into the end zone.
The reality is, Atlanta employed the best strategy for limiting the 49ers offense and still allowed 28 points. The Falcons held Michael Crabtree, Kaepernick's favorite target, to 57 receiving yards, but Kaepernick reconnected with tight end Vernon Davis to the tune of 106 yards and a touchdown in response.
Kaepernick's dual-threat ability, combined with San Francisco's diverse play-calling, has become deadly.
San Francisco's opponent in Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens, held Tom Brady's New England Patriots to 13 points, despite the Patriots averaging 34.8 points per contest during the regular season (tops in the NFL).
But Kaepernick has the kind of dual-threat ability to frustrate the Ravens defense, as Robert Griffin III did when the Washington Redskins defeated Baltimore in Week 14, scoring 31 points in the process.
It's also worth nothing that Ravens free safety Ed Reed had his worst game of the season against Griffin and the Redskins, as noted by Pro Football Focus. More importantly, strong safety Bernard Pollard, widely considered to be one of the best run-stoppers in the league at the position, also struggled to contain RGIII and the Skins' offense.
Perhaps that wasn't entirely because of Griffin, but the dual-threat obviously had a hand in Reed and Pollard's uncharacteristic performances.
Maybe the Ravens score some points against the 49ers. The offensive line played well against the Patriots and Joe Flacco has been on fire.
But that won't matter because San Francisco's offense is too potent and diverse for Baltimore to stop.
What are your thoughts?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!