He won with his arm. See: 227 yards, fourth-quarter touchdown pass and elite 88.8 QBR.
He won with his legs. See: team-leading 98 yards rushing.
And he won with his head.
Kaepernick overcame clock management issues that forced two timeouts on the 49ers’ first offensive drive of the game. He also moved past an interception caused by an underthrow on the opening series of the second quarter.
He even dismissed another timeout snafu after he “forgot to put on the wristband with the codes to the 49ers' offensive plays” on the first snap of the second half, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
So after what can be described as “losing” his head early on, Kaepernick recovered in a veteran, franchise-leading fashion.
He made all the critical plays when it mattered most in the fourth quarter.
Green Bay had just gassed San Francisco’s defense with an exasperating 6:13 drive that ended with a John Kuhn touchdown. The Packers held their first lead of the game with 12:06 remaining.
Momentum had clearly shifted to the home team on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
The 49ers defensive contingent absolutely needed an extended, clock-consuming series out of its offensive compatriots.
Kaepernick did his part not by taking time off the clock but by providing inspiration through points on the scoreboard.
He first advanced San Francisco on a pressure-packed third down with a 24-yard scramble around left end. Open-field speed and gridiron awareness facilitated the heady play.
And two plays later, he threw the initial go-ahead touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.
Kaepernick threaded a perfect throw down the seam between linebacker A.J. Hawk and safety Morgan Burnett.
Yet, it was the final drive that cemented Kaepernick’s early career postseason lore.
The 49ers pass rush and coverage personnel contained Aaron Rodgers and Co. on a 3rd-and-8 just outside the end zone. Ray McDonald tackled the Packers quarterback after a desperate two-yard scramble.
Green Bay settled for a game-tying field goal instead of a lead-fostering touchdown.
San Francisco’s intrepid defense now needed Kaepernick to keep his quarterback counterpart on the sideline for the remaining 5:06.
Ask and you shall receive.
Kaepernick produced first downs via his arm with 11- and 17-yard passes to wideout Michael Crabtree, with the latter coming on 3rd-and-10.
He connected with Frank Gore for another 11-yarder after surveying the field and appropriately checking down to his running back.
But Kaepernick’s greatest moment arrived on a subsequent third down.
The 49ers man of the hour pump-faked, evaded a fierce Green Bay pass rush and ran for a courageous 11 yards down the left sideline.
It was a showcase of dual-threat quarterback dynamism at its finest.
Gore pushed San Francisco another 12 yards into enemy territory four plays later.
Phil Dawson then nailed the game-winning field goal from 33 yards out as time expired.
Kaepernick’s final run made him the only quarterback in NFL history with 80-plus rushing yards in multiple postseason games.
Those 98 total yards—including a 42-yard burst that set up Gore’s second-quarter touchdown—were surely of legend-creating caliber.
Okay, let’s now address the Kaepernick detractors.
What about his clock mismanagement, lowly 53.3 completion percentage and point-producing turnover?
To that we’d counter with zero undue timeouts burned, three chain-moving passes and 50 yards worth of winning, field-goal-facilitating production—all on the closing drive of the game.
Wasn’t it Crabtree’s hands and Gore’s rushing yards on the final series that paved the way for Dawson’s field goal?
To that we’d point to Kaepernick making the necessary throws and putting Gore into position for those yards with 11 of his own on a do-or-die third down.
How about the 49ers defense that held the Packers to a touchdown below their eighth-ranked scoring average? And to 27 percent on third downs, well short of Green Bay’s ninth-rated clip of 41 percent this season?
To that we’d say, well, nothing.
The NFL’s No. 5 defensive contingent held up its end of the bargain and more.
It greatly mitigated the damage usually inflicted by a top-three offense on its home turf.
The 49ers defense operated in pure Super Bowl-worthy form despite being on the field more often than not (30:54).
But it was Kaepernick’s playmaking that proved the ultimate difference.
Kaepernick ran, passed, managed, battled and ultimately play-made his way to postseason advancement.
"He's Kaepernick tough," Jim Harbaugh said via CSN Bay Area.
In addition to praising his quarterback for not wearing sleeves in freezing conditions, the 49ers head coach added more, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee:
“I mean he was just clutch…Colin Kaepernick - I think we can all agree is a clutch performer.”
Here’s to that clutch, MVP-like status continuing against Carolina in the 49ers' pursuit of a sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Follow me on Twitter @jlevitt16
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