The jury might still be out on whether Colin Kaepernick is a great quarterback or not, but it doesn’t really matter. The San Francisco 49ers displayed the complete package in their 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers, yet still needed a field goal with time expiring from Phil Dawson to find themselves in the divisional playoffs.
The game ended with only 3 points separating the two teams; a fourth consecutive win for the 49ers over the Packers, two of them coming in the postseason. They’ve now done it on the frozen tundra. But the question that needs to be asked is how come it was so difficult for them considering just how superior they looked for most of the game?
Maybe it had something to do with Aaron Rodgers pulling off incredible throw one after another. He was sacked four times, he had his pocket collapse on him again and again, but that didn’t stop him from pulling off some impressive escape routines, leading to big throws, finishing the game completing 17-of-26 for 177 yards and a touchdown. He had run support from Eddie Lacy (81 yards on 21 carries), but the team lost five defensive players during the game not to mention their previous absentees. Any time the 49ers needed points badly, they were able to march down the field and get them.
It ended with Phil Dawson kicking a 33 yard field goal, his third of the game after getting six points in the first quarter from close range. Time expired, and the 49ers capped the game off with a five minute drive, consisting of 14 plays for 65 yards. It didn’t go smoothly, but Kaepernick, on a so-so day on a so-so season considering the expectations, delivered twice on third down – once with a big pass to Michael Crabtree and then again by running for 11 yards. Not a great game from him (16-of-30, 227 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 98 rushing yards) but he made things happen when it mattered the most.
It’s incredible to think the Packers’ defense managed to keep the 49ers on only 23 points and still lose. However, despite Kaepernick’s heroics, he’s a small cog in the machine, unlike the way the Packers are built around Rodgers. The offensive line keeps plays alive for him (although he was sacked three times), he has a great running back to rely on and a defense that is good enough to make up for his mistakes and let him have another shot at winning the game.
The 49ers move on to play the Panthers in Carolina, a team they lost to 10-9 back in November. Everyone expects the same kind of physical battle a second time around, and the ability to make adjustments and improvements being the deciding factor in the reunion. Looking sluggish and making mistakes against a terrible Packers defense wasn’t costly when it came down to the final seconds, but there’s a very good chance that another sloppy performance from Colin Kaepernick is going to make things a lot more difficult against the Panthers.