NFL PlayoffsSAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Colin Kaepernick did the passing and running, and Aaron Rodgers just couldn't keep up.
By: Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Colin Kaepernick did the passing and running, and Aaron Rodgers just couldn't keep up.
Kaepernick outplayed the reigning NFL MVP and former Super Bowl champion in one sensational, record-setting playoff debut and led San Francisco right back to the NFC championship game with a 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers in an NFC divisional game Saturday night.
Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree. Next up for the Niners: a game on Jan. 20 for a spot in the Super Bowl, against the winner of Sunday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Falcons at Atlanta.
“It feels good. We're one step closer to where we want to be,” Kaepernick said. “I feel like I had a lot to prove. A lot of people doubted my ability to lead this team.”
And what a playoff debut it was by the second-year pro making just his eighth NFL start. No doubting Jim Harbaugh's big midseason gamble switching quarterbacks now.
Rodgers never got in sync for the Packers (12-6), finishing 26 of 39 for 257 yards with two touchdowns.
Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to topping the rushing mark of 119 yards set by Michael Vick in 2005 against St. Louis. Crabtree caught TD passes of 12 and 20 yards in the second quarter and wound up with nine receptions and 119 yards for the Niners (12-4-1) in the NFC divisional matchup.
Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon each added 2-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter for the No. 2 seed NFC West champions, slim favorites on their home field in a rematch of Week 1. They added to their memorable night by setting a franchise postseason record for yards rushing, 119 of those by Gore to complement Kaepernick.
Rodgers, the former Cal star passed up by San Francisco with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, never got going. Rodgers rooted for the Niners as a kid in Northern California.
This was another early exit for the Packers, who lost in the divisional playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants a year ago and were denied a chance to defend the title they won after the 2010 season.
Falcons 30, Seahawks 28
ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left and the Atlanta Falcons bounced back after blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, defeating Russell Wilson and the gutty Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday.
The Falcons (14-3) appeared ready to allow the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left.
But Matt Ryan completed two long passes after the kickoff, setting up Bryant's winning kick and sending the Falcons to the NFC championship game for only the third time in franchise history. They will host the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.
Ryan, who had struggled in his first three playoff appearances, had just enough time to rally the Falcons. He hooked up with Harry Douglas on a 29-yard pass in front of the Falcons bench, and coach Mike Smith quickly signaled a timeout. Then, Ryan went down the middle to his favorite target, tight end Tony Gonzalez, a Hall of Famer-to-be playing what could've been his final game.
Gonzalez hauled in the 19-yard throw, and Smith called his final timeout with 13 seconds remaining. Instead of risking another play and having the clock run out, he sent Bryant in for the field goal try.
Patriots 41, Texans 28
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, Shane Vereen scored twice and the New England Patriots overcame a 94-yard return by Danieal Manning on the opening kickoff to take a 31-13 lead over the Houston Texans after three quarters of their AFC divisional playoff game Sunday.
Shayne Graham kicked a 55-yard field goal on the final play of the first half after a short punt by Zoltan Mesko gave the Texans the ball at their 38-yard line. That cut the lead to 17-13.
But the Patriots (12-4) scored on two of their three series in the third quarter on an 8-yard run by Stevan Ridley and a 5-yard pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd.
After the Patriots took a 24-13 lead with Ridley's touchdown, both teams punted before the Texans (13-4) started a drive at their 10-yard line. They moved to the New England 37 with the help of a 22-yard completion from Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson. But five plays later, Rob Ninkovich jumped and intercepted a pass over the middle intended for James Casey.
Ravens 38, Broncos 35
DENVER (AP) — Baltimore's Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime Saturday, ending the NFL's longest game in 26 years and giving the Ravens a 38-35 win over the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoffs.
The Ravens (12-6) forced overtime on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation, after Jones slipped behind a pair of Broncos defenders along the sideline.
Late in the first overtime, Peyton Manning threw across his body on second down and Corey Graham picked off the ball to give the Ravens the ball on the Denver 45.
Two plays later, the first overtime ended and the teams switched directions, and after three Ray Rice runs up the middle, Tucker sailed his game-winner through the uprights with room to spare.
Baltimore will travel to either New England or Houston for the AFC title game next Sunday, as linebacker Ray Lewis’ career extends at least one more game.
The last NFL game that went to two overtimes was on Jan. 10, 2004, when Carolina beat the Rams 29-23 in St. Louis on the first play of the second quarter.
Leading 35-28 with 1:15 left in regulation, the Broncos punted to Jones, the Pro Bowl returner who was overshadowed all day by Trindon Holliday. He made a fair catch at the 23 with 1:09 to go.
On third-and-3 from his own 30, Flacco wound up and found Jones down the right sideline for the stunning score. Tony Carter let Jones go and Rahim Moore tried to go up to bat it down, but mis-timed his jump.
The Broncos got the ball at their 20 with 30 seconds left, but Manning took a knee to send the game to OT. Denver also went into overtime in the playoffs last year, when Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard TD on the first play to beat Pittsburgh.