Kaepernick, the second-year quarterback, set a quarterback rushing record with 181 yards and had four touchdowns total in the 45-31 win.
SAN FRANCISCO — There were 22 players on the field, dozens more on the sideline, more than 60,000 fans at Candlestick Park.
But for much of Saturday night’s playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, it seemed as if they all revolved around a single, budding star: Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, justifying November’s decision by San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh to hand the team to an untested, strong-armed second-year quarterback, dominated the field with long scrambles and pinpoint throws.
He set records, kept the Packers’ defense off-balance and outplayed the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Aaron Rodgers.
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And on a cool, clear evening that may stand as the coming-out party for San Francisco’s next great quarterback, he led the 49ers to a 45-31 victory and a spot in the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year.
“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.”
After shaking off an interception that Sam Shields ran back 52 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco’s first drive, Kaepernick ran for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and two touchdowns and threw two TD passes to Michael Crabtree.
Rodgers tried to rally the Packers after tossing his own interception. He threw a 20-yard touchdown to James Jones, and DaJuan Harris ran for an 18-yard touchdown, as Green Bay reached halftime down just 24-21.
But Kaepernick’s 56-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter broke a 24-24 tie and the Packers’ spirit.
“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 also ran for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to extend the 49ers’ lead to 38-24. Anthony Dixon added a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:34 to go, sealing a matchup with the winner of Sunday’s Seahawks-Falcons game.