SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Colin Kaepernick repeatedly raced past the Green Bay defense on option runs. Frank Gore barreled over the Packers on more traditional plays.
A week after holding 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson in check, the Packers were run over by the San Francisco 49ers and sent home from the playoffs with a 45-31 loss Saturday night.
The Packers (12-6) came into the game brimming with confidence after holding Peterson to 99 yards in a 24-10 win last week that set up this rematch of a week one meeting with the 49ers. That confidence only increased after Sam Shields returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive. That would end up being about the only bright spot of a historically bad night for the Green Bay defense that gave up the most total yards (579), yards rushing (323) and second-most points in the playoffs in franchise history.
Led by Kaepernick’s quarterback-record 181 yards rushing on a mix of scrambles and zone-read runs that are becoming the rage in the modern NFL, the 49ers gashed the Packers defense all game.
Kaepernick scrambled for a 20-yard score in the first quarter as he frequently capitalized on a defense that often didn’t have a spy watching the mobile quarterback. Then he set the rushing record for a quarterback in the playoffs when he faked an inside handoff to Gore and raced untouched for a 56-yard score that gave San Francisco a 31-24 lead late in the third quarter.
Then it was the power running that took over from there with Gore and Anthony Dixon each running for short scores that turned this highly anticipated rematch of a Week 1 meeting into a blowout.
But San Francisco is a completely different team than the one that beat the Packers in Green Bay in September with the elusive Kaepernick having replaced Alex Smith at quarterback. The Packers seemed unprepared for the zone read plays and scrambles that Kaepernick feasted on, and they now will have all offseason to figure out how to handle them in the future.
They even struggled when the Niners went to the air, allowing Kaepernick to throw for 263 yards and two first-half touchdowns to Michael Crabtree. That all proved to be too much for even last year’s NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to overcome. He threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, but was also intercepted once and couldn’t keep up with Kaepernick.