I’ll admit it: I did not believe in Colin Kaepernick when Harbaugh gave him the start against the Saints. And I wasn’t alone.
But if I wasn’t convinced by Kaepernick’s superb playoff showing against the Packers, I would be alone.
Kaepernick completed just 17 of 31 passes, but he made some great throws, muscled through some drops, threw two touchdowns and set a record for rushing yards. Kaepernick’s 181 rushing yards were the most ever by any quarterback in any NFL game.
He was on all game, and he made two great throws to Michael Crabtree for touchdowns. He broke loose for two great rushing touchdowns, and if he saw a running lane, he took it. Kaepernick also made a great throw to Vernon Davis to set up a touchdown run by Frank Gore.
However, Gore wasn’t the hero. The man with 444 total yards was.
Kaepernick was intercepted by Sam Shields in the first quarter, and Shields took it back for a touchdown. But the second-year second-rounder out of Nevada settled down, settled in, made his throws, shredded the Packer defense, kept them off-balance and led the 49ers to a win.
Was Alex Smith a good fit for the 49ers? Yes. Would he have won the 49ers this game? Probably not.
Kaepernick hadn’t been running much, and Green Bay doesn’t have a great run D. Kaepernick controlled the ball, something Smith might not have done. The 49ers had the ball for more than 38 minutes, so Rodgers wasn’t able to work his magic. Smith probably wouldn’t have controlled the ball like that, and if Rodgers had, say, 30 minutes, it’s safe to say he would have scored at least one more touchdown.
But he didn’t have the chance. Kaepernick took the chance away from him.
Greg Roman’s play-calling was important as well, since he established the run early on and allowed Frank Gore to run for 119 yards on 23 carries and score a touchdown. Gore was a constant threat, and Green Bay couldn’t stop the read-option. So Kaepernick had throwing lanes, and he used them to burn the Packer secondary.
If the 49ers play the Seahawks, they will have more trouble running. But Kaepernick can still do a good job against their secondary, because he will have the crowd at his back and confidence on his side. Seattle has to be paying attention to Kaepernick’s running, which will open up passing lanes for him. It’s much harder to defend a quarterback who can run and throw.
Atlanta, on the other hand, will have a harder time. They won’t be fooling Kaepernick by moving around right before the snap, and they are the 19th ranked run defense, which is certainly not great. They have the league’s 23rd best defense, which isn’t great either.
However, Kaepernick and the 49ers will take on any team. They’ve got a quarterback with tons of confidence, who just had the game of his life. And if anyone is still doubting Kaepernick, they certainly didn’t watch the Packers-49ers game. He brings a running and deep passing threat not possessed by Smith, and there’s no doubt that he deserves to be the man running the 49er offense.
It was a gutsy move switching to Kaepernick in the second half, and one that I didn’t like. But after watching Kaepernick put most of his passes right on the money and watching him rewrite the record books, my opinion has changed. Kaepernick is the guy for the 49ers.
And he might be the guy carrying the Lombardi Trophy on February 3.