Monday, January 6, 2014
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — While Michael Crabtree partied to rap music in the triumphant San Francisco 49ers' locker room, Colin Kaepernick managed to sneak away through a side door.
Always elusive, that 49ers quarterback.
The defending NFC champions are two wins away from another trip to the Super Bowl after beating the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in a wild-card game Sunday at frigid Lambeau field.
It's on to Carolina next week in the divisional round for the Niners (13-4).
"We owe them," Kaepernick said simply, referring to a 10-9 loss on Nov. 10 to the Panthers.
San Francisco avoided a few close calls. There were a couple potential game-changing interceptions that were dropped by the depleted Packers defense.
In the end, Kaepernick came out on top — again — against Green Bay (8-8-1).
Facing a blitz on third-and-8, he scrambled 11 yards out of trouble to set up Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal as time expired. He threw for 227 yards, including a 28-yard TD pass to Vernon Davis, and ran for another 98.
Crabtree had eight catches for 125 yards for San Francisco.
"It's a team game and it's going to take a little bit from everybody," Crabtree said. "I think we got those key players and I think we put it together."
Five things learned from the 49ers' fourth straight win over the Packers:
CLUTCH COLIN: In a memorable playoff debut last January, Kaepernick ran for a quarterback playoff-record 181 yards and two touchdowns. In the season opener in September, the strong-armed quarterback threw for a career-best 412 yards and three scores.
This time, Kaepernick did his damage on the ground and through the air.
Kaepernick tore through the Green Bay defense for a 42-yard run, getting a break at one point after Davon House whiffed on a tackle, to set up Gore's 10-yard touchdown run that helped give the 49ers a 13-10 halftime lead.
"It was unbelievable, the way he was getting the edge. I mean, just clutch," Harbaugh said. "Colin Kaepernick, I think we can all agree, is a clutch performer."
Harbaugh said Kaepernick decided to take off after seeing his receivers "were getting grabbed and I think Colin saw that and took matters into his own hands."
BRRRRR: Bitterly cold temperatures turned Lambeau Field into a green-and-gold ice box. It was 5 degrees at kickoff, and the winds made it feel like minus-10.
But all in all, the worst of an arctic front that was expected to plunge Wisconsin into a deep freeze avoided the Packers game. And the conditions didn't seem to have too much of an effect on the quality of play.
"I won't lie to you. It got pretty cold," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "But as I said earlier in the week, there's no better way to warm up than to get this 'W.'"
OUT OF MAGIC: In the bitter cold on their home turf, the cardiac Packers ran out of fourth-quarter magic.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 177 yards and a touchdown, and the injury-riddled defense held its own against the 49ers until the down-to-the-wire drive.
"Personally, it's frustrating not to play your best game. Tough conditions," Rodgers said. "But defense holds them to 23 points — we should win that game."
A season full of adversity, which included nearly two months without Rodgers because of a left collarbone injury, came to an end. Still, Green Bay still finished the regular season 3-1 with dramatic, come-from-behind wins to nudge its way back into the playoffs.
HIGH BAR: There are high standards for the Packers — expect nothing less for a team that plays in a place nicknamed "Titletown."
Just getting into the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for this battered squad, though some players might need some time to get over the loss.
"We have one goal here, a couple goals — one is to win the division, and the other is to win the Super Bowl," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "I think we can take positives from it. A lot of young guys can build off of it. But I wouldn't say it's a successful season."
DAWSON'S KICK: Dawson finished with three field goals, hitting from 22 and 25 in the first quarter.
But a game-winner as time expires does wonders for a kicker's confidence. Dawson called it the biggest kick of his career.
"I've waited a long time to win a playoff game, and I finally got to do it. It was worth the wait."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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