Kaepernick's role will be different this time against Packers

Published: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 - 8:44 am

SANTA CLARA – When the 49ers and Packers met in Week 1, Colin Kaepernick's lone contribution was a 17-yard run at the end of the half to set up a 63-yard field-goal attempt for David Akers.

Kaepernick will have a decidedly bigger role in the rematch.

Green Bay's win Saturday over Minnesota means the 49ers will host the Packers next Saturday in a divisional playoff game that starts at 5 p.m. It will be the sixth time the teams have met in the postseason, and the first at Candlestick Park since Terrell Owens caught a touchdown pass from Steve Young as he was crunched by two Green Bay defenders with three seconds left in a wild-card game in 1999. The Packers lead the postseason series 4-1.

In Week 12, Kaepernick officially took over the 49ers' starting quarterback job from Alex Smith, who was 20 of 26 for 211 yards with two touchdowns in the 30-22 win at Lambeau Field earlier this season. Smith had a 125.6 passer rating in the game and outdueled friend and former draft-class rival Aaron Rodgers, who had two touchdowns, an interception and a 93.3 rating.

Rodgers defended Smith after the quarterback switch had been made in San Francisco.

"He's a great quarterback," Rodgers said on the NFL Network last month. "He just needs to go somewhere he gets appreciated for the skills he has, and hopefully he gets a chance next year."

There have been other, significant changes since the teams' Sept. 9 meeting.

Akers, for instance, made the 63-yarder, which put him in the NFL record book for tying the longest field goal ever. Akers, in fact, was good on all three of his attempts that day, each of them from 40 yards or more.

But the 49ers kicker has struggled terribly from that distance this season, and he is now competing with Billy Cundiff to be the team's kicker against the Packers.

Akers finished the regular season making only 69 percent of his field goals, the lowest percentage of his career. The only regular kicker with a lower rate was Green Bay's Mason Crosby, who was 21 of 33 for a 63.6 field-goal percentage. Crosby was 1 for 1 Saturday against the Vikings.

The 49ers' kicking quandary and the arm injury to Justin Smith are the 49ers' biggest story lines as they prepare for the Packers.

Smith practiced last week with a plastic brace protecting the partially torn triceps tendon at his left elbow. Smith had a season-low three tackles against the Packers in Week 1.

While the Packers readied for the Vikings, the 49ers players mostly rested during their bye week.

They prepared Thursday for the Washington Redskins, the only possible Saturday opponent they hadn't faced during the regular season. Their most extensive practice of the week, on Friday, was dedicated to the Packers.

The players had Saturday and today off, and running back LaMichael James said they'd use the time to do a bit of couch scouting of their upcoming opponent.

"We're going to be motivated," James said. "It's a playoff game. We're going to be ready to play, they're going to be ready to play. It's going to be a good game whoever we have to play. It's put-up-or-shut-up time."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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