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Colin Kaepernick sets record; San Francisco 49ers win

No one is doubting Jim Harbaugh's quarterback decision now.

Colin Kaepernick ran roughshod all over the Green Bay Packers in his first NFL playoff start, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 45-31 win. The 49ers are headed back to the NFC Championship Game, but they didn't need a last-second touchdown to get there this time.

Kaepernick rushed for an NFL-record 181 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 attempts, including two kneel-downs. He threw for another 263 yards and two scores on 31 attempts. To put it another way: Kaepernick gained more yards than the entire Packers team. And it wasn't even close.

Green Bay's defense simply had no answer for Kaepernick's speed and running ability. After an early interception returned for a touchdown, the 49ers ripped off six touchdowns and a field goal in their next nine drives. When the Packers tied the score at 24 early in the second half, the 49ers answered with three long touchdown drives.

The 49ers were too physical for the Packers on both sides of the ball. Green Bay was lucky just to keep the game close, considering how much San Francisco dominated up front and how clueless its defense appeared for everything the 49ers threw at it.

It's hard to watch Kaepernick's performance and not think that the quarterback position is changing. Players like Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton won't reinvent the game. But there is no denying that teams are doing a better job using these quarterbacks' unique, multifaceted skill sets early in their careers. The NFL is infamously conservative, but it is also a league of evolution. Kaepernick's strong arm, blinding speed and San Francisco's creative offense looks a little different than anything we've seen.

To repeat: No quarterback has ever rushed for more yards in any NFL game. Kaepernick did it in his first playoff appearance.

This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen. But it just did, on a huge stage. Change can be a beautiful thing.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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