Playing on the historic Lambeau Field, aka the “Frozen Tundra”, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who grew up as a Packers fan, relied on his legs to pull out the game, much like he did in last year’s playoff game, when he rushed for a record 181 yards. Against the Packers today, he rushed for 98 yards and passing for 227 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis, but his performance may have been even more impressive, given the frigid temperatures at one degree Fahrenheit and a stadium filled with mostly Packer fans in one of the coldest playoff games in NFL history.
In a game that saw a handful of lead changes, Kaepernick made what many are calling the play of the game in the fourth quarter, when he scrambled 11 yards on third down to keep the ball and the clock moving. With just three seconds left in the game, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh called timeout to set up the game winning field goal, in similar fashion to the team’s last second win against the Arizona Cardinals.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers, playing just his second came after a broken collarbone cost him nearly half the season, also had a good game, passing for 177 yards and a touchdown. But the 49ers defense, led by arguably the best linebacker corps in the NFL, hounded the Packer quarterback all day and was sacked four times. The Packers were also missing their top defensive player, Clay Matthews, who was out for the second consecutive week with what was listed as a thumb injury while the 49ers were missing two key cornerbacks - Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright.
Going into the game, many sports analysts and everyday fans were predicting a Green Bay upset, with cold weather conditions favoring the home team, who routinely plays in winter-like conditions, much like last week's must-win against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. But the team from California didn't appear to be stifled by the extreme wind and weather many forecasters predicted were the coldest temperatures in 10 years.
With the victory, the 49ers move on to the divisional playoffs against the quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, in a rematch of Week 10, when the Panthers upset the home team in a defensive battle, 10-9. But Sunday’s game at Carolina is expected to be a far higher scoring affair as the 49ers are riding a seven game winning streak, while averaging 26 points, including a win against top seeded Seattle at home, 19-17.
If the 49ers win and New Orleans pulls an upset against the Seahawks, the five-time Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers will play one final game at Candlestick Park. It isn’t likely, but stranger things have happened, such as the Indianapolis Colt’s stunning comeback victory against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday.