SAN FRANCISCO — Colin Kaepernick did the passing and running, and Aaron Rodgers just couldn’t keep up.
Kaepernick outplayed the reigning league 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 divisional-playoff win over the Green Bay Packers on 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 today’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 for the second-year pro making just his eighth NFL start.
Rodgers never got in sync for the Packers (12-6), finishing with 257 yards passing on 26-of-39 accuracy with two touchdowns.
Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to breaking 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.
San Francisco (12-4-1) had 579 total yards with 323 on the ground, scoring its third-most points in the franchise’s storied playoff history.
“Our offensive line did an amazing job today,” Kaepernick said. “They shut everybody down inside. Our receivers, our tight ends blocked great outside, and our running backs were running hard, so it made it easier on me.”
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.
San Francisco advanced to back-to-back NFC title games for the first time since reaching three in a row following the 1992-94 seasons, with 1994 its last trip to the Super Bowl.
With the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park waving red flags reading “Quest for Six” – a sixth Super Bowl title – Kaepernick did his part and then some to deliver in the first key step. Even after an interception he threw on the fourth play of the game that Sam Shields ran back 52 yards for a touchdown.
Kaepernick topped Vick’s mark with the 56-yard keeper on an option play in the third quarter. That gave Kaepernick 163 yards on 12 carries, also setting a franchise postseason record.
Kaepernick joined Jay Cutler in 2011 and Otto Graham in both 1954 and ’55 as the only players with two rushing and two passing touchdowns in a playoff game.
David Akers kicked a 36-yard field goal moments before halftime to give San Francisco a 24-21 lead at intermission after Green Bay tried to ice the struggling veteran by calling a timeout before his kick.
Mason Crosby’s 31-yard field goal tied the game at 24 midway through the third quarter, then Kaepernick took over again. San Francisco’s defense handled the rest.
Kaepernick had 11 carries for 107 yards rushing by halftime.
San Francisco made it two victories against Rodgers and Co. this season after a 30-22 win opening week at Lambeau Field.
Most rushing yards by an NFL quarterback in a single playoff game:
181 — Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, Jan. 12, 2013 (NFC Divisional).
119 — Michael Vick, Atlanta vs. St. Louis Rams, Jan. 15, 2005 (NFC Divisional).
107 — Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia vs. Green Bay, Jan. 11, 2004 (NFC Divisional).
99 — Otto Graham, Cleveland vs. Los Angeles Rams, Dec. 24, 1950 (NFL Championship).