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01/13/2013 3:11 AM EST
Kaepernick delivers, 49ers beat Packers 45-31
SAN FRANCISCO 45, GREEN BAY 31

By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The unproven kid thoroughly beat the former
Super Bowl champion and reigning MVP.



With a strong arm that allowed him to pick the Packers apart
from the pocket and speedy legs that helped him break free for
big gains, Colin Kaepernick did a little bit of everything in a
record-setting, sensational playoff debut - and Aaron Rodgers
just couldn't keep up.



Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and ran the San Francisco 49ers
right back to the NFC championship game with a 45-31 win over
Green Bay in an NFC divisional game Saturday night.



Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and
two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree.
Next up for the Niners: a game on Jan. 20 for a spot in the
Super Bowl, against the winner of Sunday's game between the
Seattle Seahawks and Falcons at Atlanta.



"It feels good. We're one step closer to where we want to be,"
Kaepernick said. "I feel like I had a lot to prove. A lot of
people doubted my ability to lead this team."



And what a playoff debut it was by the second-year pro making
just his eighth NFL start. No doubting Jim Harbaugh's big
midseason gamble switching quarterbacks now.



Rodgers never got in sync for the Packers (12-6), finishing 26
of 39 for 257 yards with two touchdowns.



Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to
topping the rushing mark of 119 yards set by Michael Vick in
2005 against St. Louis. Crabtree caught TD passes of 12 and 20
yards in the second quarter and wound up with nine receptions
and 119 yards for the Niners (12-4-1) in the NFC divisional
matchup.



Kaepernick, sporting a burgundy beanie partially covering his
head, was greeted at his locker after the game by former 49ers
quarterback John Brodie.



San Francisco had 579 total yards with 323 on the ground,
scoring its third-most points in the franchise's storied playoff
history.



"Our offensive line did an amazing job today," Kaepernick said.
"They shut everybody down inside. Our receivers, our tight ends,
blocked great outside, and our running backs were running hard,
so it made it easier on me."



Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon each added 2-yard touchdown runs in
the fourth quarter for the No. 2 seed NFC West champions, slim
favorites on their home field in a rematch of Week 1. They added
to their memorable night by setting a franchise postseason
record for yards rushing, 119 of those by Gore to complement
Kaepernick.



Rodgers, the former Cal star passed up by San Francisco with the
No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, never got going. Rodgers rooted
for the Niners as a kid in Northern California.



This was another early exit for the Packers, who lost in the
divisional playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York
Giants a year ago and were denied a chance to defend the title
they won after the 2010 season.



Those Green Bay road stars of two years ago - they won three
away from Lambeau Field on the way to the Super Bowl - didn't
have it this time against San Francisco's stingy defense and a
no-fear, second-year quarterback who would not be denied. A kid
who was born in Milwaukee and grew up a big Green Bay fan until
the day he was drafted in 2011 out of Nevada.



"I didn't know how fast he was," Green Bay defensive back
Charles Woodson said. "Coming in I really never paid attention
to it. But he is fast."



San Francisco advanced to back-to-back NFC title games for the
first time since reaching three in a row following the 1992-94
seasons, with 1994 their last trip to the Super Bowl.



With the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park waving red flags
reading "Quest for Six" - a sixth Super Bowl title, that is -
Kaepernick did his part and then some to deliver in the first
key step. Even after an early interception that gave Green Bay
all the momentum in a hostile road stadium.



Kaepernick topped Vick's mark with the 56-yard keeper on an
option play in the third quarter. That gave Kaepernick 163 yards
on 12 carries, also setting a 49ers franchise record for the
postseason.



"The execution for the 49ers on the read option was excellent,
but our issues were bigger than that," Packers coach Mike
McCarthy said. "We did not a very good job of keeping him the
pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket for a number of big
conversions."



Kaepernick joined Jay Cutler in 2011 and Otto Graham in both
1954 and `55 as the only players with two rushing and two
passing touchdowns in a playoff game.



David Akers kicked a 36-yard field goal moments before halftime
to give San Francisco a 24-21 lead at intermission after Green
Bay tried to ice the struggling veteran by calling timeout
before his kick.



Mason Crosby's 31-yard field goal tied the game at 24 midway
through the third quarter, then Kaepernick took over again. San
Francisco's defense handled the rest.



Kaepernick had 11 carries for 107 yards rushing by halftime.



Pick six, no problem.



The strong-armed Kaepernick brushed off the interception he
tossed on the fourth play of the game that Sam Shields ran back
52 yards for a touchdown, then took control with his pinpoint
passing to his favorite go-to guy - Crabtree - and with his
quick-burst ability out of the pocket.



"He does a great job of responding," Harbaugh said. "He has done
that any time there has been an interception he has thrown, a
safety or a turnover, he's responded with a scoring drive.
That's rare. I think that's a rare quality. So far he's shown
that he's got that ability to come back."



San Francisco, fueled all year by its near miss in overtime of
the NFC title game, made it two victories against Rodgers and
Co. this season after a 30-22 Week 1 win at Lambeau Field.



Kaepernick bounced back from the early interception and again
after a second-quarter taunting penalty in which he threw the
ball down in the face of safety M.D. Jennings after being hit by
Jennings and Erik Walden. Center Jonathan Goodwin grabbed
Kaepernick in an effort to settle him down after his 15-yard run
was negated by the 15-yard flag.



Two plays later, Kaepernick found Crabtree for his 20-yard TD as
San Francisco capitalized on another Packers turnover.



Rodgers answered right back on the Packers' next chance, driving
his team 80 yards on six plays and hitting James Jones on a
20-yard touchdown of his own that tied the game at 21. Green Bay
got help from a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Dashon Goldson
for a helmet-to-helmet hit on DuJuan Harris.



"We felt like we gift-wrapped them 14 points off turnovers in
the first half and our defense was playing all right," Rodgers
said. "And then we just didn't get it done in the second half. I
knew we were going to have to score some points. We knew we were
going to have to put up at least 38 points."



Former California receiver Jeremy Ross fumbled Andy Lee's punt
early in the second and C.J. Spillman recovered as San Francisco
got the ball back at the 9. Kaepernick threw a 12-yard TD pass
to Crabtree three plays later.



Rodgers' streak of 183 passes without an interception spanning
the previous five games ended when Tarell Brown picked off the
ball on a deep third-down throw in the second quarter.



"We expected them to try to get him out on the perimeter. But we
didn't expect to let him do what he did," Woodson said. "Give
him a lot of credit. He played a great game. He made a lot of
great plays out there today. It was hard to swallow."



Harris ran 18 yards for a score in the final minute of the first
quarter as Green Bay took a 14-7 lead. Rodgers connected with
James Jones on a 44-yard completion one play earlier before
Harris easily ran right up the middle into the end zone for a
Packers team that managed 45 total yards rushing in the
season-opening loss.



Such moments were few against a 49ers defense happy to welcome
back All-Pro lineman Justin Smith after he missed the final two
regular-season games with a partially torn left triceps muscle.



Notes: The Green Bay defense gave up the most total yards (579),
yards rushing (323) and second-most points in the playoffs in
franchise history. ... San Francisco improved to 13-3 at home in
divisional playoff games. ... The 49ers had 48 offensive plays
in the first half to 20 by Green Bay.



---



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