Colin Kaepernick, 49ers Continue to Be Packers' Kryptonite

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IJanuary 6, 2014

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The San Francisco 49ers are proving to be a reincarnation of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys for the Green Bay Packers

The Cowboys' early '90s dominance came mostly at the expense of the Packers, who—despite the emergence of Brett Favre as an elite quarterback—were consistently unable to get over the Dallas hump, especially in the postseason. It wasn't until the Packers avoided the Cowboys in the playoffs that Green Bay got back to the Super Bowl.

Fast forward to the 2010s, and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are struggling against their newest form of Kryptonite. Instead of Troy Aikman and the Cowboys, it's now Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. 

On Sunday, San Francisco escaped a frigid Lambeau Field with a 23-20 win in the NFC Wild Card Round. Kaepernick was again a thorn in Green Bay's side, as the versatile quarterback threw for 227 yards and ran for 98 more against an undermanned, beat-up defense.

Sunday's victory marked the 49ers' fourth straight over the Packers since the beginning of the 2012 season, and the second straight in the postseason. San Francisco beat Green Bay in last season's NFC Divisional Round, and in each of the last two season openers. 

The Cowboys once beat the Packers six straight times from 1994 to 1996, including three in the postseason. It was a similarly one-sided rivalry back then that helped shape the power in the NFC.

This latest loss to the 49ers will feel a little bit like some of the later losses to the Cowboys. Close, but just not good enough. 

"Unfortunately, we were one play away from getting it done today," coach Mike McCarthy said, via the Packers' official site. "We just weren't quite good enough...One play not good enough."

The Packers had chances to rid themselves of the 49ers curse, but a few mistakes prevented Green Bay from pulling off an upset over one of the NFL's most complete and talented rosters. 

Early on, the offense sputtered. In fact, it took the Packers almost 20 minutes to record a single first down. By then, Green Bay had spotted the 49ers a six-point lead and most of the game's early momentum. 

McCarthy said afterward that 20 points wasn't going to be enough to win. 

Rodgers finished the game with just 177 yards passing, his lowest total ever in the postseason. Yet lost in that number are the missed opportunities from James Jones, who had two big plays escape his grasp. Both his drop down the deep middle and on a second back-shoulder throw against the right sidelines would have set up the Packers with scoring chances. 

The Green Bay defense played its best game over the four-game losing streak, but a couple glaring mistakes killed the unit. 

Safety Morgan Burnett was slow to react to a seam route to Vernon Davis, and Kaepernick's throw beat the remaining coverage for a fourth-quarter touchdown. A more instinctive and confident safety likely breaks up the pass or even intercepts it. 

On the next drive, rookie Micah Hyde missed a golden opportunity when a pick-six went through his hands. An interception in that situation would have either given Green Bay a seven-point lead or set up Rodgers with a chance to win the game. Instead, the 49ers would go on to convert two huge third downs, including a 3rd-and-8 where Kaepernick scrambled to his left for 11 yards. 

A third conversion allowed Dawson to kick his game-winner with no time remaining. 

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 05:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers walks off the field after being defeated by the San Francisco 49ers in their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 5, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The San Francisco
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The cumulative effect of those misses provided San Francisco the opening it needed to move on, much like the first three meetings. 

"It was a frustrating way to end the season," Rodgers said, via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I think a lot of us felt with the way things had gone the last four or five weeks that there was something special about this year, and everything might be aligning right for us to make a run." 

Finally beating the 49ers will eventually require the Packers to figure out Kaepernick, who has thrashed Dom Capers' defense every time they've faced off.

Kaepernick's 98 rushing yards were the second most in his NFL career, behind only the record 181 he posted against the Packers last January. He already ranks fifth in NFL history for postseason rushing yards by a quarterback, thanks in large part to the 279 he's recorded in two wins over Green Bay. 

The quarterback's 325 yards of total offense Sunday give him 1,203 in his last three games against the Packers. 

Kaepernick also outplayed Rodgers throwing the football, outgaining the Packers starter by 50 yards and averaging almost a yard more per attempt. His lone blunder was a first-half interception to Tramon Williams that briefly sparked a Packers rally. 

Other than that throw, Kaepernick was too much for Green Bay during the game's key situations.

The 49ers converted six third downs—including three on the final drive—and one fourth down, which led to San Francisco's opening field goal.

Kaepernick had a hand in all but one of those plays.

His toss to Michael Crabtree went for 31 yards on a 4th-and-6 play during the game's opening drive. The conversion gave the 49ers three points. Kaepernick later shined brightest on the final possession, when he found Crabtree for 17 yards on 3rd-and-10 and then scrambled for 11 back-breaking yards on a 3rd-and-8 play from Green Bay's 38-yard line. 

Five plays later, Dawson split the uprights with zeros left on the Lambeau Field clock. 

Kaepernick was also the spark behind every 49ers answer, too. 

Colin Kaepernick's Last 3 Games vs. GB
Passing YardsTDRushing YardsTD
2012 Divisional Round26321812
2013 Week 14123220
2013 Wild Card Round2271980
Kaepernick: 1,203 yards, 8 TDs

One series after Green Bay went up 7-6 in the second quarter, Kaepernick delivered a five-play scoring drive that took just over three minutes. His 42-yard scamper was the highlight of the march. 

Later, Kaepernick took the 49ers 63 yards in just four plays after the Packers went up 17-13. He scrambled for 24 yards and then found Davis for a 28-yard touchdown against tight coverage. 

Kaepernick remains a far cry from Aikman, and Crabtree isn't Michael Irvin. But the results for Green Bay are starting to look similar, with the losses and postseason exits piling up. 

Sunday's loss really isn't all that different from Favre's loss to the Cowboys in November 1994, when the Packers blew a late lead, or in January 1996, when Dallas scored the game's final 14 points to beat Green Bay by 11 in the NFC Championship Game. 

There are just some teams who give others trouble. The Cowboys were that franchise for Favre's Packers, who were championship-worthy but lost three times to Dallas in the postseason.

The 49ers look like the problem team for Rodgers and his Packers.

Four straight losses can't be blamed on fluke or happenstance. San Francisco simply has a quarterback that Rodgers can't beat and the Packers can't contain. 


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