49ers vs. Packers: Why Colin Kaepernick Will Earn 3rd Win over Aaron Rodgers

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49ers vs. Packers: Why Colin Kaepernick Will Earn 3rd Win over Aaron Rodgers
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
With all due respect intended, expect Aaron Rodgers to take a backseat again to Colin Kaepernick on Wild Card Weekend.

Come Wild Card Weekend, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will square off with Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers for the third time.

And like the previous two head-to-heads, Kaepernick will have the advantage.

Except for entirely different reasons.

Nearly one year ago to the day, Kaepernick powered the 49ers' 45-31 playoff win with a quarterback-record 181 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

The read-option absolutely devastated the Packers to the tune of two game-breaking scores of 20 and 56 yards, not to mention an 11.3-yard average all told.

Green Bay’s linebackers and safeties could not contain Kaepernick on the outside.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Notice how 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is able to look at Green Bay's defenders way off in the distance.

Defenders on all three levels succumbed to Frank Gore-led fakes on the inside, where upon Kaepernick would torch the defense down the sidelines.

San Francisco’s dual-threat dynamo also compiled two scores through the air and an outstanding 92.4 QBR. Overcoming a pick-six on his second pass of the game showed big-time maturity by the first-year starting quarterback.

Rodgers, in comparison, tallied just 194 yards passing and one touchdown until a garbage-time scoring drive with 3:34 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Kaepernick simply outplayed him in more ways than one.

Moving forward, San Francisco’s misdirection schemes have since lost their defense-obliterating luster.

In Week 1 of this season versus Green Bay, the 49ers’ offensive coaching staff abandoned the read-option in favor of a pass-first attack.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Kaepernick burned the Packers with the power of his arm in Round 2.

Kaepernick racked up 39 pass attempts compared to just seven carries on the ground.

He completed a lofty 69.2 percent of those throws and, even more impressively, totaled a career-high 412 yards.

Additional highlight-reel marks included a 10.6-yard average, three touchdowns (next to zero interceptions) and a 129.4 passer rating.

Tight end Vernon Davis hauled in two of those scores, while first-year 49er Anquan Boldin materialized into Mr. All Everything.

Boldin set his own career best with 208 yards on 13 receptions. He moved the chains on numerous occasions—third and fourth downs included—and had one second-quarter touchdown.

Put it all together and Kaepernick went toe-to-toe with the Super Bowl-winning Rodgers.

He one-upped him in almost every statistical category and, most importantly, won with his arm.

Quarterback Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD INT QBR Rate Yds/Att
Colin Kaepernick 27 39 69.2 412 3 0 89.8 129.4 10.6
Aaron Rodgers 21 37 56.8 333 3 1 70.0 102.6 9.0

Kaepernick now finds himself opposite Rodgers for the third time over the past year.

Even though the game will arrive under a similar postseason-laden backdrop, Kaepernick is a fundamentally improved quarterback.

He is an evolved product from the two previous matchups, two additional playoff starts and two separate two-game losing streaks in 2013.

Call him a superior amalgamation—one that derives its power from steadfast vengeance against this season’s adversity and a last-second defeat in Super Bowl XLVII.

To wit, take a gander at how Kaepernick has recovered from all recent 49ers losses.

Pro Football Reference
Colin Kaepernick's Game Log

There certainly seems a conspicuous trend of positive outcomes following any trials and tribulations.

Moreover, no quarterback outside of a record-setting Peyton Manning enters these 2013 playoffs on a hotter streak.

Kaepernick has reeled off six consecutive wins. He has averaged 232.5 yards and a 61.8 completion percentage over that span, up from 199.8 and 58.4, respectively, overall.

He has also produced a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 74.5 QBR and 107.0 passer rating.

Those are improvements over Kaepernick’s 11-to-7 mark through the previous 10 games, and 68.6 QBR and 91.6 passer rating on the season as a whole.

Rodgers, Green Bay’s own dual-threat, strong-armed master, comes into the postseason following a vastly contrasting 2013 campaign.

He missed Weeks 10 through 16 after breaking his collarbone early on against the Chicago Bears on November 4.

Tom Lynn/Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers was more coach than player for much of 2013.

It was a rather controversial—or at least tumultuous—period filled with a constant back-and-forth of “Will he play?"...“No, the collarbone still needs time.”...“Rodgers looks ready.“..."No, doctors have still ruled him out.”

The Packers going 2-5-1 with their team leader sidelined certainly didn’t help matters.

But to his credit, Rodgers cast all that relative chaos aside in short order.

He rose above two first-half interceptions in Week 17 and threw two separate go-ahead touchdowns in the second.

With the NFC North and a playoff berth at stake, Rodgers did the impossible.

On 4th-and-8 with less than one minute remaining, he escaped a swarming Bears pass rush, rolled out to his left and—in a split-second balancing act—launched a 48-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Randall Cobb.

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It was vintage Rodgers on a do-or-die play in a win-or-go-home final game of the season.

So how—you might ask—will Rodgers not create similar magic against San Francisco on Sunday?

Because the Bears’ No. 15 pass defense is a mere freshman-quality unit compared to the 49ers’ No. 7-ranked varsity contingent.

A corps that surrendered 25 touchdowns, 59 plays of 20-plus yards and an 86.9 passer rating is not in the same league as one that allowed 19, 43 and 76.4, respectively, in those same categories.

The 49ers simply won’t allow for such Rodgers-powered wizardry.

The green-and-yellow-clad No. 12 just won’t have the opportunity against San Francisco’s No. 5-ranked overall defense.

Yes—despite this game being played on the famous opposition-crushing Lambeau Field.

Conversely, Kaepernick will have at his exploiting disposal a Packers D rated 24th against the pass.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor
Chicago Bears Brandon Marshall hauls in one of the 30 passing touchdowns allowed by the Packers in 2013.

It’s one that has coughed up the NFL’s fourth-most passing touchdowns (30), fifth-most 20-plus yard completions (61) and eighth-highest passer rating of 95.9.

And if any rushing lanes open up, don’t be surprised when Kaepernick takes off.

Only two teams have surrendered more than Green Bay’s 16 run gains of 20-plus yards.

When the clock strikes zero in this latest January matchup, keep an eye out for a little run, a little pass and a whole lot of win in the box score from No. 7.

One might even deem this as a newfound je ne sais quoi for the third-year quarterback.

Just don’t go telling Kaepernick—we wouldn’t want this sophistication going to his head.

Follow me on Twitter @jlevitt16

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