Colin Kaepernick began his first playoff game by promptly throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, putting San Francisco in an early 7-0 hole. The 49ers ended up demolishing the Green Bay Packers thanks to one of the better playoff performances in recent memory from Kaepernick, and that resulted in sky-high expectations for yesterday’s NFC championship game.
Kaepernick spared his team of a similarly brutal play this week, but the 49ers still went down 17-0 in a flash. By the time San Francisco got the ball for the third time, they had no first downs and were down three scores.
It’s fairly reasonable to imagine a first-year quarterback not responding well to a disastrous play like the one Kaepernick gave up against the Packers, but he showed unquestionable toughness as he dismantled Green Bay from that moment forward.
But that was last week, and the 17-0 49er deficit was not going to be aided by the previous week’s heroics. The same quarterback who had taken over mid-season and had thrown that awful pick-six against the Packers was down big in a playoff game, and San Francisco was one mistake away from being out of reach (on second thought, I’m going to go ahead and not doubt Atlanta’s ability to blow a lead).
San Francisco fans are undoubtedly in awe of their quarterback’s running back speed, his emphatic bullet passes, and his gorgeous touch passes that soar through the air and seemingly always land perfectly in the receiver’s arms. But those are all secondary to the resiliency shown by the—one more time—first-year passer.
It isn’t just that Kaepernick led the 9ers back; he never appeared fazed, and after the first two dud-ly possessions, the Kaep-Man turned it into high gear. He was definitely assisted by the Falcons’ stubborn refusal to cover Vernon Davis (on second thought, who can cover Vernon Davis?), but the Kaep-Man made every possible play and never seemed to be the least bit concerned.
After setting the all-time rushing record for a quarterback in a single game, it wouldn’t have been a stretch for Kaepernick to try and rely on his legs in a time of crisis. The Kaep-Man was cooler than ever, though, as he stepped up in the pocket and delivered strike after strike. He led them on the go-ahead drive, and he continued his refusal to play like someone who hadn’t started a National Football League game until week 7 of this season. It may be ridiculous to expect similar performances from the almost-rookie, but then again, perhaps it’s more ridiculous to expect otherwise.