In order to show his quarterback’s versatility, Jim Harbaugh decided to draw out the most conservative game plan ever for someone like Colin Kaepernick. Guess what? It was good enough for a win, on the road, in the NFC Championship game.
These were Kaepernick’s stats at the end of the game, a man mostly known for being explosive when he steps outside of the pocket, who ran for 174 yards before contact in the win against the Green Bay Packers: 16-21 passing for 233 yards, one touchdown throw, 127.7 passer rating. The Alex Smith plan, just for a quarterback with a lot more talents, that forces the defense to respect the other things he can do, even if he isn’t planning on doing them.
Kaepernick was sacked only once and burst out into runs only twice, gaining 21 more yards on the ground. He simply worked quickly, using more weapons than usual, meaning Vernon Davis, and not only Michael Crabtree, got to enjoy his passing ability.
He was 9-of-11 for 129 yards and a touchdown when the Falcons sent five or more pass rushers, using mostly Vernon Davis, who caught four passes for 75 yards and a touchdown when the Falcons sent extra pressure. Once the 49ers established their running game through Frank Gore, finishing with 90 yards and two touchdowns, Kaepernick began finding much more room for throws to Davis (5 catches, 106 yards, 1 touchdown) and Michael Crabtree with 57 yards on six catches.
Being kept in the pocket, the initial game plan for the Falcons, didn’t hurt Kaepernick, who showed he is quite a capable pocket-passer behind a very dominant offensive line, keeping guys like John Abraham off their quarterback all night. Kaepernick averaged 11.5 yards per pass attempt when inside the pocket though, his highest rate since his first start in Week 11. The read option worked very well, with Kaepernick faking the Falcons defense almost every time, allowing the 49ers’ running backs 5.2 yards per play and two touchdowns while focusing on Kaepernick.
No team has ever won the Super Bowl without winning three consecutive games during the regular season. The 49ers will try to beat those odds, hoping that five back-to-back win streaks in 2012 will be enough to disproof this theory. Pulling off the second greatest comeback win in conference championship history, coming back from 17-0 in the second quarter, a point less than the Colts beating the Patriots after being down by 18 in the 2006 AFC Championship game.
Defenisvely, everything that didn’t work early on, as Matt Ryan simply sliced through the 49ers’ defense by passing to Julio Jones and Roddy White while everyone kept focusing on Tony Gonzalez, stopped and turned around in the second half. During the Falcons’ attempt of coming back at 24-28 down, he 49ers defense put Matt Ryan under duress on six of his final 12 dropbacks. They didn’t need to blitz, using five pass rushers on one of those plays only once, but simply improved their route coverage while the pocket quickly collapsed around Ryan, who was much more conservative in his throwing during the second half.