The San Francisco 49ers are off to the divisional round of the playoffs, and while there are tons of factors that went into their 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands out. In fact, Kaepernick has stood out every time the 49ers have played the Packers in recent seasons.
San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh is 4-0 against the Packers and Kaepernick has been his quarterback for three of those games. On Sunday, Kaepernick had a so-so game throwing the football, with 16 completions on 30 attempts for 227 yards with one touchdown and an interception. But he made a difference on the ground.
Kaepernick kept the ball seven times and put up 98 yards on the ground. On three of San Francisco’s final four drives, Kaepernick rushed for 16 yards on a first down, converted a 3rd-and-short with a 24-yard rush and converted a 3rd-and-long for 11 yards to extend the final drive, which ended with a game-winning field goal.
Sure, he underthrew some passes – he missed a wide open Vernon Davis on more than one occasion — but Kaepernick came through when the game was on the line, and that’s what was important. On the aforementioned last drive of the game, Kaepernick also used his legs to escape the pressure and find Michael Crabtree for a 17-yard reception and a first down.
Extending that final drive to give that field goal more of a chance was a huge deal given the conditions that game was being played in.
Earlier this season, the 49ers bested the Packers in Week 1, though that time it was Kaepernick’s arm that made the difference. Green Bay, having spent the offseason in a highly-publicized search for methods to beat the read option, was locked onto the run and Kaepernick only rushed for 22 yards in that game. But he found Anquan Boldin 13 times for 208 yards and completed 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
In fact, there was actually very little read option in that game. Maybe the Packers’ tough talk worked, or perhaps Harbaugh and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman didn’t want to take the chance. Whatever the case, Kaepernick shredded the Green Bay secondary and got the 49ers’ regular season started with a win.
His biggest game against the Packers was in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs, though. In that game, Kaepernick threw for just 263 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but broke the single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 16 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Searching for pictures of that game will bring up tons of snapshots of Kaepernick holding the ball and running, with three or four Packers players chasing him from behind. It certainly felt like that was all that game truly featured in the end.
In all, Kaepernick has accounted for 301 rushing yards against the Packers in three games. In total with rushing and passing, he’s put up 1,203 yards and eight touchdowns. Do keep in mind that Kaepernick grew up a Packers fan.
The Chargers, after making it to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2009, are moving on.
San Diego went into Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, where the Bengals had a perfect record at home this season, and came out victorious, 27-10. They will now face Denver next Sunday at 1:40 p.m. local time.
It was a game where turnovers mattered, as expected. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw 20 interceptions in the regular season, lost the ball three times (once on a fumble and twice on interceptions). Cincinnati running back Giovanni Bernard was stripped of the ball in the second quarter by linebacker Donald Butler.
Big plays happened when big plays mattered.
In a game where it was supposed to snow — (it didn’t, just rained in the fourth quarter) — the Chargers silenced the critics who didn’t give them a chance all week, who said they didn’t really deserve to be in the playoffs.
Here’s how it went:
The Chargers lost the coin toss and the Bengals deferred, giving San Diego the ball first. Rivers was sacked five plays into the opening drive and the Bengals took the ball, but stalled on their first possession.
On the next drive, the Chargers did what they do best — they controlled the clock on an 11-play methodical drive that was punctuated by a Danny Woodhead run up the middle for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, the Bengals tied the game, marching 60 yards down the field in 10 plays.
Chargers linebacker Donald Butler made a big play at the end of the second quarter when he stripped Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard near the red zone, forcing a fumble. Cornerback Richard Marshall recovered the fumble and the Chargers received the ball with less than two minutes before halftime.
The Bengals forced a three-and-out on the next drive and, on the following possession, kicker Mike Nugent converted a 46-yard field goal. The Bengals led the Chargers 10-7 going into halftime.
The Chargers didn’t pick up a single first down in the second quarter.
But adjustments were made in the locker room.
In the third quarter, Rivers finally connected with a wide receiver for the first time in the game, hitting Keenan Allen for nine yards. The offense found a rhythm and a few plays later, Eddie Royal caught a 33-yard pass. On the next play, Rivers threw a touchdown to Ladarius Green and the Chargers took the lead, 14-10.
After attempting only six passes in the first half, Rivers went 6-for-6 for 68 yards and a touchdown in that third quarter drive.
On the Bengals’ next drive, Andy Dalton fumbled the ball on a head-first slide, giving San Diego possession at Cincinnati’s 46-yard-line. The Chargers capitalized this time with a 25-yard field goal by Chargers kicker Nick Novak, making it a seven point margin.
Dalton turned the ball over again on the next drive, picked off by cornerback Shareece Wright for the third turnover in five drives. The Bengals held San Diego to a field goal, but the Chargers were up by two scores.
Another interception by Dalton on the next drive (this time, picked off by linebacker Melvin Ingram) made it near impossible for the Bengals to come back, and a touchdown by Chargers running back Ronnie Brown with a little more than two minutes to play sealed the win for San Diego.