Michael Crabtree finished his session on the podium, speaking briefly about his role in the 49ers’ Kaepernicking of the Green Bay Packers, when the principal author followed him to the podium.
“Come on, Kap,” Crabtree smiled, “let ‘em know something.”
As expected, though, Kaepernick did not. If anyone had not already comprehended how he transformed the NFC divisional-round playoff game with the Packers, nothing he could say would change that.
[INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers 45, Packers 31]
Plus, he wouldn’t have said it even if he could have. He guards the nuclear secrets as well as he runs, and . . . well, you saw the rest.
181 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries AS A RUNNER. He topped that twice at Nevada, but those were in routs over poor teams (Nevada-Las Vegas and Idaho). This was different. This was the NFL Playoffs, where the chips weigh more when you throw them into the middle of the table.
And while his passing statistics were more pedestrian (17 of 31, 263, two scores, one pick-six to jump-start the Packers), he left Candlestick Park as the master of an ever-growing domain.
In a season devoted to young quarterbacks, and a three-year sea change in NFL offenses to incorporate more read-option, he took center stage. He broke a rushing record that one would have presumed belonged or would eventually belong to Michael Vick, or Cam Newton, or Robert Griffin III, or Russell Wilson.
He bent a game to his will, by bending his game to involve more of his feet. The 49ers had tried to hide their newfound love of the Kaepernick read-option by not showing much of it against New England, Seattle or Arizona, but used it like a new Christmas toy against the Packers.
[MAIOCCO: Roman at forefront of 49ers' offensive stars]
They used it so much, and Kaepernick rewarded their judgment so well, that all the pregame questions about Justin Smith and David Akers and Carlos Rogers and Aaron Rodgers . . . well, he rendered them very moot indeed.
In fact, he was so good that he brought the rest of the box score with him. The 49ers ran the ball 43 times, and Frank Gore was 23 for 119 as an adjunct to his quarterback. Michael Crabtree still got targeted 11 times, but caught nine balls for 119 and both passing scores. And though Jim Harbaugh credited the special teams and defense before getting to the main event (in the night’s biggest surprise, the first player he mentioned was C.J. Spillman), he knew what had been accomplished with Kaepernick’s game.
The NFC Championship had just been redefined.
As the pundits had been shut out this week (everyone wondered whether Kaepernick could handle the big stage, but nobody specu-guessed that he could run all over it), so shall it be again.
If Atlanta beats Seattle, there will be talk about home field advantage in the Georgia Dome, and the Falcons shaking their legacy of playoff failure. If Seattle beats Atlanta, there will be talk of the mystical third game between the same opponents, Seattle’s ruthless beating of the 49ers in Week 16, and of course, one more round of What’s Your Deal?
But the heart of the argument will be, “What do the Falcons/Seahawks do with THIS Colin Kaepernick?”
The Kaepernick whose two biggest running games as a pro before this came in the tie with and loss to St. Louis . . . the Kaepernick who struggled to complete half his passes against the stern Seattle secondary . . . the Kaepernick whose essential rookie status would be a question in every game . . . those days are done.
He will not rush for another 181 this coming week. He can’t. To expect even half that seems utterly daft.
But knowing that he can and will torture Seattle’s Casey Bradley and (in a happy circumstance) Atlanta’s Mike Nolan all week long. Kaepernick is no longer a question mark; he is an exclamation point at the end of a sentence with all caps.
DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS! is the new diktat of the NFL Playoffs. GO ON! WE DARE YOU!
And if someone can, more power to them. But for the moment, it is hard to imagine how that gets done. The 49ers spent two weeks scaring the clientele with all its unknowns, but now it has a known that seems to dwarf all other considerations.
At least for the moment. This is also a team that hasn’t won three consecutive games all year. That seemed like a point of condemnation earlier in the week. Now it seems just one more statistical anomaly made moot – and mute – by the Kaepernick Paradigm.
“Let ‘em know something,” Michael Crabtree? Hell, he’s shouting as loud as he can.