San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for only 21 yards on two carries in Sunday’s NFC championship game, but the mere threat of his running ability played a huge role in the 49ers’ 28-24 victory over Atlanta.
After Kaepernick shredded Green Bay for 181 rushing yards, Atlanta was well prepared for his running element of the zone-read play. Let’s just say the Falcons were not going to let him carry the ball, period.
The play still worked wonderfully. It is further evidence that NFL defenses will have to address the scheme in the offseason - and the immediate question becomes whether the Baltimore Ravens can get a handle on it in the two weeks between now and the Super Bowl.
Kaepernick and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman have created a fascinating dynamic, which they pretty much saved for the playoffs. The Falcons obviously were not as befuddled as Green Bay. Yet because their defensive ends were so concerned about honoring Kaepernick, running backs Frank Gore and LaMichael James had wide lanes to the end zone on their three combined touchdown runs.
Kaepernick also showed again that he’s a genuine quarterback, not just a novelty. He completed 16 of 21 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown Sunday. His only runs were a 23-yard scrambled and a 2-yard loss in a designed QB sweep.
He was not rattled when the 49ers fell behind 17-0 and helped them overcome the bad breaks of having a field-goal attempt hit the upright and losing a fumble at the Atlanta 1-yard line. Defensive players from Utah State, who had go against Kaepernick four times in his Nevada career from 2007-10, know all about his game. The NFL is finding out now.
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