Harbaugh looked like a genius when Kaepernick ran all over the Packers in a 45-31 victory, turning in one of the great performances in playoff history.
It wasn’t so much that he passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns. What really stood out was what he did when he kept the ball himself. Kaepernick scored two touchdowns — including a 56-yarder in which he looked more like Michael Johnson than a football player — and finished with 181 yards rushing, a postseason record for a quarterback.
He also showed plenty of flare, celebrating his scores by flexing his right arm and kissing his biceps — a move that quickly became a social media sensation known as Kaepernicking.
“He’s super fast, athletic and he can throw the ball,” 49ers running back LaMichael James said. “But once he takes off, he’s faster than a lot of running backs and linebackers. He’s an incredible athlete.”
While certainly aware of their team’s proud background, most of these San Francisco players were molded by adversity. The 49ers went eight straight seasons without a winning record or trip to the playoffs under Harbaugh arrived in 2011 from nearby Stanford and immediately turned things around.
The team went 13-3, won the NFC West and advanced to the conference championship, where a fumbled punt return in overtime led to a wrenching 20-17 loss to the New York Giants.
San Francisco doesn’t want another chance to get away.
“This opportunity is rare,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “It doesn’t come that often even if we were here last year. The (eight) years before that we were at home and didn’t make the playoffs. Just to have that opportunity again to be here is one of those things we don’t take for granted. We know that window for chances like that are slim and we have to take advantage of the opportunity.”