SAN FRANCISCO – Colin Kaepernick ran for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree in leading the San Francisco 49ers back to the NFC championship game with a 45-31 victory against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.
Playoff first-timer Kaepernick outshined reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who never got in sync for the Packers in 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 for the Niners.
Kaepernick, the second-year pro out of Nevada who supplanted Alex Smith at quarterback, shook off an interception that Sam Shields ran back 52 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco’s first possession to twice rally the 49ers from a TD behind.
Kaepernick’s 56-yard TD run on a read-option keeper in the third quarter gave the 49ers a 31-24 lead.
Kaepernick also led another drive that David Akers finished with a 36-yard field goal to put the 49ers ahead 24-21 as the first half ended.
Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown 3 seconds into the fourth quarter to extend San Francisco’s lead to 38-24.
Rodgers rallied the Packers after tossing his own interception. He threw a 20-yard scoring strike to James Jones, and DaJuan Harris ran for an 18-yard touchdown.
The amped-up crowd at Candlestick Park endured a flurry of emotions at the start.
With San Francisco looking to return to the NFC title game for the second straight season, Kaepernick’s costly error quieted the 49ers faithful. Shields stepped in front of Kaepernick’s pass, shook the quarterback to the ground and scampered down the sideline to give the Packers a quick 7-0 lead.
Kaepernick converted two third downs to bring the 49ers back on their next drive and darted 20 yards up the middle on third-and-8 for the tying score.
When Rodgers and the Packers offense finally took the field, they didn’t do much the first time out. San Francisco stopped Rodgers on a three-and-out.
Rodgers found his groove on the next series and floated a 44-yard pass that Jones snatched over two defenders. Then Harris broke through the middle to put the Packers up 14-7 on the next play.
But Green Bay made its share of mistakes.
Jeremy Ross muffed a punt and Chris Spillman recovered at the Packers’ 9. Three plays later, Kaepernick found Crabtree running free over the middle for a tying 12-yard touchdown pass.
San Francisco’s stout defense often took a linebacker off the field to drop an extra defensive back in coverage against Rodgers, just as the 49ers did in a 30-22 win in the season opener at Lambeau Field. The strategy flustered Rodgers enough that he overthrew Jordy Nelson on a deep pass that Tarrell Brown intercepted.
Kaepernick broke another 15-yard run on third down, but officials whistled him for a 15-yard taunting penalty for tossing the ball in the direction of Green Bay defenders. He brushed that off to hit Crabtree for a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers a 21-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
On Green Bay’s next series, Rodgers threaded a 20-yard TD to Jones with 2:33 remaining in the half. Kaepernick responded and led the 49ers downfield to give the struggling Akers, who had to beat out Billy Cundiff to keep his job, a chance.
Rodgers led the Packers on a nine-play 76-yard drive midway through the third quarter. Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field to tie the game at 24.