Despite having a better regular season record, the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) had to travel to the NFC North division champions Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) for a Wild Card playoff game. San Francisco missed some opportunities to score touchdowns early on in the game played in frigid weather conditions at Lambeau Field, but the offense came through in the end when it mattered most. Just like in the regular season finale against the Cardinals, the 49ers won the game 23-20 on a P. Dawson’s game-winning field goal. Colin Kaepernick had success against the Packers on the ground and in the passing game, but he did missed a few throws and he could have been intercepted more than just once. The 49ers had a total of nine drives and scored 23 points on offense, 2 TDs and 3 FGs.
1st drive: Own 27, 13:28 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
The 49ers started on offense with F. Gore’s 6-yard run. From that first play on it was all Kaepernick and Crabtree. Kaepernick completed passes to Crabtree for 14, 12, 13 and 31 yards. That 31-yard completion came on 4th-and-6 from GB 35-yard line. In between Kaepernick ran two times on designed runs for a combined loss of three yards. Actually, his second run came on a miscommunication with RB F. Gore on a play in which Kaepernick eventually lost four yards. With the 31-yard Kaepernick to Crabtree completion the 49ers advanced to GB 4-yard line. The 49ers tried to score with play-action plays, but the Packers were prepared and didn’t bite on the run. Kaepernick’s pass intended for V. Davis on 1st-and-goal was nearly intercepted in the end zone, on second down he had to throw the ball away and his third pass intended for Crabtree, who was held on the play, was broken up. The 49ers had to settle for a FG.
2nd drive: Opp 49, 7:06 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 3-0
On the 49ers’ second drive the featured wide receiver was A. Boldin. Again, with great field position to start the drive, the 49ers quickly moved deep into Packers’ territory. The 49ers had 1st-and-10 from GB 11-yard line. Kaepernick tried to pass a quick WR screen to his right, but the Packers took it away, Kaepernick was forced out of the pocket and ran out of bounds behind line of scrimmage which went down as a sack. F. Gore then gained four yards to make it 3rd-and-6. This time Kaepernick looked for Crabtree again, the ball was incomplete and Crabtree didn’t get the penalty call he was looking for. The 49ers had to kick a FG for the second time.
3rd drive: Own 41, 0:34 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 6-0
Kaepernick scrambled for eight yards to start this drive and end the first quarter. F. Gore ran for two, Kaepernick completed a 17-yard pass to A. Boldin and Gore ran for three more yards to move inside GB 30-yard line. On 2nd-and-7 Kaepernick threw a deep pass along right sideline intended for V. Davis, the ball was underthrown and intercepted. As it turned out it was game’s only turnover.
4th drive: Own 32, 5:50 left in the 2nd qrt, SF down 7-6
Down by one, the 49ers quickly responded. The play of this drive was Kaepernick’s 42-yard scramble to set up 1st-and-goal from GB 13-yard line. F. Gore made a key block on the play. K. Hunter gained three yards before F. Gore got 10 yards and a touchdown from the pistol formation.
5th drive: Own 18, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 13-10
The 49ers opened the second half with their first punt of the game. Kaepernick was off-target with his first two passes and was sacked for a loss of five yards on third down play.
6th drive: Own 18, 12:40 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 13-10
Kaepernick ran for 16 yards on the first play and connected with M. Crabtree for 22 yards on third play of the drive. Later on, Q. Patton lost a yard on a run play. Kaepernick was pressured on second down and dumped off a pass to TE G. Celek for six yards. On third down he couldn’t avoid the pressure and was sacked for a loss of eight yards. The 49ers decided to punt again, this time from GB 38-yard line.
7th drive: Own 49, 4:58 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 13-10
Kaepernick was off-target with his first pass of the drive. Pass intended for M. Crabtree was underthrown. On third down he looked for Crabtree again, but five yards weren’t enough for a first down, punt time again.
8th drive: Own 37, 12:06 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 17-13
After three drives which ended with a punt the 49ers finally clicked on offense. It was Kaepernick again with a long scramble run that kept the drive alive, on 3rd-and-4 he ran for 24 yards. Kaepernick’s next pass was incomplete, but defensive holding penalty put the ball on GB 28-yard line. On first down Kaepernick found TE V. Davis with a perfect pass for a 28-yard touchdown.
9th drive: Own 20, 5:06 left in the 4th qrt, score tied 20-20
With the score tied, the 49ers got the ball back with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick was nearly intercepted on third play of the drive when he tried to complete a pass to A. Boldin. On the next play, facing 3rd-and-10 Kaepernick avoided the pressure and stepped up in the pocket to connect with Crabtree for 17 yards. With his next pass Kaepernick went with Gore for 11 yards which gave the 49ers another set of downs with just two minutes left to play. Next big play from Kaepernick came on another third down play with eight yards to go. Kaepernick faked a pass and scrambled for 11 yards. F. Gore runs forced the Packers to burn remaining time-outs, ran down the clock and set up P. Dawson’s game-winning FG.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers had 63 offensive plays in just nine drives and scored 2.6 points per drive. Kaepernick connected with V. Davis for one touchdown and was intercepted once. He was more effective running with the ball, mostly on scrambles. Here are overall drive stats for Sunday game against the Packers compared to 2012 regular season (playoffs included) and 2013 regular season. Reminder, TO is a number of turnovers committed only by quarterback. In 16 regular season starts in 2013 Kaepernick lost four fumbles and was intercepted eight times.
On Sunday Kaepernick lined up under center on 53.9% of all offensive plays. He ran the offense from the pistol on 17.5%, in line with 2013 regular season average, but considerably lower rate compared to 2012 Divisional Playoff game against the Packers (45.3%) and in their Week 1 matchup in 2013 regular season (50.7%). This time the 49ers ran 11 plays from the pistol, six of them were pass plays, Kaepernick ‘ran’ on designed read-option play once, that play broke down and he lost four yards on the play.
Kaepernick completed just over 50% of his pass attempts in difficult weather conditions but was 8 of 13 when he targeted M. Crabtree for 125 yards (55% of his total passing yards) and a 93.4 passer rating. For the most part of the game Kaepernick had time to throw, but was more effective on the ground when he decided to run on a designed pass play. On four scrambles he gained 85 yards. He was sacked three times and gained 8.1 yards per pass play.
Kaepernick was again very effective on 3rd/4th downs. In his pro career he’s been outstanding on critical downs with a 100.8 passer rating. Against the Packers he attempted six passes and completed four of them for 65 yards.
Kaepernick scrambled twice on third downs for 24 and 11 yards, both times good for another first down. Each of the two scramble plays came in the last two drives. He was sacked twice and ran once for -4 yards (miscommunication play with RG F. Gore). Here’s a breakdown of all Kaepernick’s 3rd/4th down plays with comparison to 2012 and 2013 season:
Colin Kaepernick was pressured on just 6 (16.2%) of his 37 total dropbacks, based on my count. He attempted three and completed one pass for six yards when under pressure. The rest of the pressure plays resulted in three sacks. He did scramble four times, but all of his scramble plays weren’t the result of opponent’s pressure. As he did many times in the regular season, Kaepernick left the pocket before the pressure got to him.
Kaepernick attempted 30 and completed 16 passes with one interception which leaves him with 13 incompletions. Here’s a breakdown of his incompletions:
Colin Kaepernick ran on three designed run plays against Green Bay. He gained one yard (QB sweep), lost four yards on a miscommunication play and ran for 16 on QB draw, but gained, as already mentioned, 85 yards on four scrambles.
In last season’s Divisional playoffs Kaepernick ran for 181 yards as the 49ers beat the Packers 45-31. At the start of this season, back in Week 1, he beat the Packers through the air with 412 passing yards and 3 TDs. On Sunday, Colin Kaepernick did a little bit of both as he passed for 227 and ran for 98 yards to help the 49ers beat the Packers 23-20. Kaepernick had all day to throw but missed a few throws, one of his passes resulted in interception. He was nearly intercepted on two other occasions, but was lucky enough to get away with just incomplete passes. He will have to be more accurate with his throws to give the 49ers a chance to further advance in the playoffs, better weather conditions will probably help, but tougher competition definitely won’t.
Next for the 49ers is a game against Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoffs. The last time this two teams met was Week 10 game in San Francisco. It was a defensive battle in which the 49ers lost 10-9. Without M. Crabtree and also V. Davis, who had to leave the game in the middle of the second quarter due to concussion, Kaepernick didn’t find answers for third ranked defense (according to Football Outsiders) and had one of the worst performances of the season. The Panthers are well-rested team, hungry for a playoff win. The 49ers on the other side are coming off a difficult win on the road in cold weather conditions and now have to travel cross-country for an early game. In order to get another road win in the playoffs, the 49ers will have to play much better on offense, especially in the red zone.