Key to the game
Safeties coach Darren Perry made it all seem so easy.
How do you stop the read option?
"I think it's more important for everybody to understand what their responsibility is," Perry said on Thursday. "If you're a pass defender, secondary run support, then you have to play your responsibility, first and foremost. Not getting nosy and not going outside the scheme, and something that you're not required to do – that's how teams get beat. Everybody has a responsibility, there's a pitch guy, a quarterback guy, there's a pass guy. Everybody should be aware of what their responsibility is and shouldn't have a problem executing."
Oh, it was a problem.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran circles around Green Bay's defense. When Kaepernick ran the option, he almost always made the right choice — and made the defenders look silly in the process. Kaepernick would put the ball in the belly of the runner, see the outside linebackers crashing inside, pull the ball out and take off around the corner. When the defenders were frozen, he'd hand it off to Frank Gore. And when he dropped back to pass, he killed the Packers with his arm and his legs.
Kaepernick finished with an astounding 181 yards on 16 carries. That's the most rushing yards ever for a quarterback, regular season or postseason. Gore, a sledgehammer of a runner, gained 119 yards on 23 attempts.
"The execution for the 49ers on the read option was excellent," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Really, our issues were bigger than that with Colin. We did not do a very good job of keeping him in the pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket for a number of big conversions there in the first half. We weren't able to get off the field."
The 49ers moved the chains on 8-of-13 third-down opportunities. With San Francisco's power running game, the fear was the Niners would get a steady diet of third-and-1 and third-and-2. Instead, five of the third-down conversions came on third-and-8 or longer.
"Killed us," Charles Woodson said.
On the Niners' first touchdown drive, Kaepernick flipped a pass to Gore for 45 on third-and-10 and then scored on a 20-yard run on third-and-8. It was a huge answer after Kaepernick's pick-six put the 49ers in an early hole.
"He does a great job of responding. He has done that," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Every time there's been an interception that he's thrown, or safety or turnover. He's responded with a scoring drive. I think that's rare. I think that's a rare quality. And so far he's shown that he's got that ability to come back."
The Niners tied the game at 14 when Kaepernick hit Crabtree for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. When they took a 21-14 lead, Kaepernick ran for 15 on third-and-9. When they took a 24-21 lead, he ran for 18 on third-and-10 — even with Erik Walden serving as a spy.
"He was running all over the field," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "He's big, strong, athletic, throws the ball well. Runs the ball extremely well. We didn't really have a whole lot of answers for him."
0: Carries by DuJuan Harris after getting the first two touches of the second half. He finished with 11 carries for 53 yards and his 18-yard touchdown.
1: Only one Packers receiver finished with an average of better than 9.2 yards per reception, James Jones, who had four catches for 87 yards (21.8 average). Jordy Nelson averaged 9.2 on five catches, Greg Jennings 9.0 on six catches, Jermichael Finley 8.8 on four catches and Randall Cobb 4.8 on five catches.
4: Quarterbacking performances of two touchdown runs and two touchdown passes in playoff history: Colin Kaepernick against Green Bay, Jay Cutler against Seattle in the 2010 playoffs, Otto Graham in the 1954 championship against Detroit and Graham again in the 1955 championship against the Rams.
5: Runs allowed of 18-plus yards: 56, 20, 19 and 18 by Kaepernick and 26 by Frank Gore.
6: Turnovers in the Packers' playoff losses in 2011 and 2012, or 3.0 per game. The Packers had 30 giveaways in 32 regular-season games the past two seasons, or 0.94 per game.
12: Where Kaepernick stands in career rushing yardage by a quarterback in NFL playoff history. Not bad for one game.
181: Rushing yards by Kaepernick, the most ever gained by a quarterback — playoffs or regular season. Toss out two end-of-game kneeldowns, and it's 14 carries for 183 yards, a ridiculous 13.1-yard average.
266: Yards on back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives by the 49ers, which covered 80, 93 and 93 yards. 323: Rushing yards by the 49ers. The previous Green Bay record for most rushing yards allowed in a playoff game were the 277 yards by the Chicago Bears in 1941. And that was the only 200-yard game allowed by the team in a playoff game.
444: Total yards by Kaepernick, including his 263 through the air. That's 92 more than the Packers, with Green Bay's total of 352 inflated by a meaningless 77-yard touchdown drive at the end of the game.
579: Total yards by the 49ers. The previous Green Bay record for most yards allowed in a playoff game were the 531 by Arizona in the 2009 playoffs.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.