- Colin Kaepernick
- San Francisco 49ers
- 49ers 45, Packers 31
- 263 PASS YD, 2 TD; 181 RUSH YD, 2 TD
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- Joe Flacco
- Baltimore Ravens
- Ravens 38, Broncos 35 (2OT)
- 18-for-34, 331 YD, 3 TD, 0 INT
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The Pregame Pressure
Though Colin Kaepernick had done plenty to justify Jim Harbaugh's decision to start him at quarterback over Alex Smith, there remained doubters. After all, it was in the divisional round last January when Smith delivered the signature performance of his career in a memorable shootout victory over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Now Kaepernick was tasked with staring down Aaron Rodgers and a Green Bay Packers team that seemed to be hitting its stride. In just the eighth start of Kaepernick's career, the San Francisco 49ers needed the second-year signal-caller to do something special.
Entering Saturday's divisional-round matchup against the Denver Broncos, Joe Flacco was facing pressure on two levels. From a team standpoint, anything less than playing in the AFC Championship Game would be considered a failure after the Baltimore Ravens came so close to a Super Bowl berth last January. From a personal standpoint, Flacco knew taking down Peyton Manning's top-seeded Broncos would be a huge addition to his résumé with free agency looming. Flacco had struggled on the road all season. Now he needed to be great on a day when the wind chill in Denver was 2 degrees.
The In-Game Performance
Kaepernick did more than outplay Rodgers, the reigning league MVP. Kaepernick delivered one of the greatest all-around days by a quarterback in the long history of the NFL. After an early pick-six, he was completely unstoppable out of the read-option. His 181 rushing yards set an NFL record for a quarterback. Kaepernick added 263 yards through the air and was personally responsible for four Niners touchdowns in a 45-31 win at Candlestick Park. It was hard not to be in awe of Kaepernick, who officially established himself as one of the game's greatest young stars.
Flacco has earned his fair share of criticism during his five seasons with the Ravens, but he's almost always been a strong playoff performer. He proved it again against the Broncos, completing 18 of his 34 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-35 double-overtime win. Flacco also threw the biggest pass of his career, a rainbow deep ball hauled in by Jacoby Jones for a miraculous 70-yard score late in regulation. With one powerful toss, Flacco tied the game, forever blighted Rahim Moore and virtually guaranteed the Ravens will put his great-great grandchildren through college.
The Post-Game Pick
You couldn't have asked for more from Flacco, who outplayed Peyton and served as the driving force in upsetting the hottest team in the NFL. But Kaepernick's day was one of legend, the type of performance that could be viewed as the blueprint for what's expected from the quarterback position going forward. Flacco stepped up and powered an upset. Kaepernick looked like a player sent from the future. Yes, the 49ers quarterback gets the nod in this matchup. -- Dan Hanzus