Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick outdueled reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a 45-31 playoff win over the visiting Green Bay Packers on Saturday.
The 49ers, behind a record day of running by Kaepernick, broke the game open in the second half for an emphatic win that put them into the Jan. 20 National Football Conference title game against the winner of Sunday's showdown between the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.
Kaepernick, who replaced injured starting quarterback Alex Smith midway through the regular season, set a National Football League (NFL) rushing record for a quarterback by gaining 181 yards, including scoring gallops of 56 and 20 yards.
He also threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree in the romp.
Kaepernick started on a shaky note in his playoff starting debut, tossing an interception on his second pass of the game that was returned 52 yards for a touchdown by Sam Shields for a 7-0 Green Bay lead.
But he recovered quickly, leading the 49ers on an 80-yard drive that he capped off with a 20-yard touchdown run to make it 7-7.
The teams traded touchdowns during an action-packed first half, with the 49ers moving ahead 21-14 after turning a pair of Green Bay turnovers into touchdowns and took a 24-21 lead into intermission after a 36-yard field goal as time ran out.
It was all San Francisco after the break as they ran roughshod over the Packers in the second half, rushing for three touchdowns as they put the game out of reach.
After Green Bay tied it at 24-24 with a 31-yard field goal, Kaepernick took charge.
The strong-armed quarterback faked a hand-off and took off to his right, using his long strides to race untouched into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown that gave the 49ers a lead they never relinquished. (Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)