GREEN BAY, Wis. – Sure, it was brutally cold, as advertised. But the story Sunday at Lambeau Field was not the arctic conditions.
The game itself was a classic in any climate.
Colin Kaepernick and Aaron Rodgers kept it entertaining with each quarterback supplying plenty of dynamic plays to be remembered in the rich playoff history of the two organizations.
But it was Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal as time expired that propelled the 49ers past Green Bay and into the divisional round.
The 49ers will travel to meet the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at 10 a.m. (PT). The winner of that game will play the New Orleans-Seattle winner in the NFC Championship game.
The 49ers entered the game with three consecutive victories over the Packers, including one in the playoffs last season and a season-opening 34-28 triumph at Candlestick Park on Sept. 8.
Kaepernick gave the 49ers a 20-17 lead with 10:31 remaining on his 28-yard scoring strike to tight end Vernon Davis between the coverage of linebacker A.J. Hawk and safety Morgan Burnett. Kaepernick kept that drive alive with a 24-yard scamper on a third-and-4 play.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 30 passes for 227 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He also rushed 7 times for 98 yards. Meanwhile, Rodgers completed 17 of 26 attempts for 177 yards with 1 touchdown and no interceptions.
The Packers came back to tie the game at 20-20 on Mason Crosby’s 24-yard field goal with 5:06 remaining in regulation.
Rodgers showed a little magic in the fourth quarter when he miraculously got out of the grasp of 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald to hit Randall Cobb for a 26-yard gain on a fourth-and-2 play to the San Francisco 4.
Two plays later, fullback John Kuhn had a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Packers a 17-13 lead with 12:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Packers put together an impressive go-ahead drive with running backs Eddie Lacy supplying a great deal of the work. Lacy finished with 81 yards on 21 carries.
Kaepernick, who was born in Wisconsin and grew up a Packers fan, did not seem to be affected by the cold. The game opened with a temperature at 5 degrees with a wind-chill factor of minus-10. Yet, Kaepernick did not wear long sleeves or gloves.
Kaepernick, who rushed for the most yards for a quarterback in an NFL game in history, showed his running skills in the second half. He took off on a 42-yard gallop to set up the 49ers’ first touchdown of the game.
With the Packers’ defense preoccupied with Kaepernick, who gained 181 yards rushing against Green Bay in the playoffs a year ago, Frank Gore took the handoff on a read-option play and scooted 10 yards into the end zone to give the 49ers a 13-7 lead with 2:48 remaining in the first half.
Rookie tight end Vance McDonald made a big block on linebacker Nate Palmer, and Gore struggled past the tackle attempt of safety M.D. Jennings as the 49ers finally capitalized on a red-zone scoring chance.
The 49ers dominated the first 18 minutes of the game, but they only had a 6-0 lead to show for it as a couple of impressive drives stalled deep in Packers’ territory.
Kaepernick made the first mistake of the game when he put too much air under a deep corner route for tight end Vernon Davis. That allowed Packers cornerback Tramon Williams enough time to undercut the route to make the interception.
Then, Williams got the Packers’ first hit on Kaepernick when he put his head down and dished out a little extra punishment to Kaepernick, who was credited with the tackle on the interception return.
The Packers went the first 18 1/2 minutes of the game without a first down. That changed, as Green Bay put together a 14-play, 70-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes, 18 seconds.
Aaron Rodgers’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, just beyond the fingertips of 49eres cornerback Tramaine Brock, was the first touchdown of the game. The Packers led 7-6.
In the first quarter, the 49ers settled for Phil Dawson field goals of 22 and 25 yards after long drives stalled deep in the red zone. On the second drive, Packers cornerback Davon House appeared to get away with a pass interference penalty against Michael Crabtree in the end zone.
After the 49ers took a 13-7 lead on Gore’s touchdown, the Packers answered with a nine-play, 59-yard drive that was capped by Mason Crosby’s 34-yard field goal to cut the 49ers’ lead to 13-10.
Rogers sits: Cornerback Carlos Rogers missed his first game since signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 2011. Rogers was unavailable due to a right hamstring strain, which he sustained late in the 49ers’ regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals.
Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock started at cornerback, and Perrish Cox took over as the 49ers’ nickel back to cover the slot receiver. The 49ers cut Cox on Nov. 12 to activate Eric Wright. The 49ers re-signed Cox on Monday after the Seattle Seahawks released him three days earlier.
Hot Crabtree: It looked like last year’s playoffs all over again for Michael Crabtree, who came out strong in the first quarter. On the 49ers’ first drive of the game, Crabtree had four catches for 70 yards on a drive that ended in a field goal. Last postseason, Crabtree had nine catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns in a divisional playoff victory over the Packers.
He finished the game with 125 yards receiving on 8 catches.
This ‘n’ that: The 49ers continued to have major difficulties with the play clock. The 49ers called two timeouts on offense on their first series of the game. Then, the 49ers had to burn a timeout to avoid a delay penalty before their first snap of the second half. Kaepernick was late with the play because he was not wearing the wristband with the plays on it. The 49ers burned their second timeout of the second half with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter. . .
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith experienced cramping, which led to a lot more playing time for backup Dan Skuta. After being announced as questionable to return, Smith came back into the game in the middle of the third quarter. . .
Packers cornerback Sam Shields sustained a knee injury on the 49ers’ first drive and did not return to action. House replaced Shields in the lineup. House was later injured in the fourth quarter. . .
After the 49ers fell behind 17-13 in the fourth quarter, LaMichael James had a 37-yard return to the 49ers’ 37. . .
Vernon Davis’ fourth-quarter touchdown was his sixth in six postseason games.