SAN FRANCISCO Colin Kaepernick left the Green Bay Packers' defense in his dust Saturday night, and Michael Vick, Roger Craig and several old rushing records were back there, too.
The 49ers' quarterback opened the game with a worst-case scenario an interception that left him sprawled on his stomach swiping at cornerback Sam Shields, who dashed down the sideline for a 52-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead for Green Bay.
Catastrophe? Not for this quarterback, who's shown a knack for bouncing back from bad plays this season.
He did so so quickly in the 49ers' 45-31 win. Kaepernick scored two touchdowns with his legs one of them for 20 yards on the possession immediately after his interception and two more with his right arm, and he set the NFL's postseason rushing record for a quarterback.
His 181 yards were 62 more than Vick's total in 2005 with Atlanta. And they were 46 more than former 49ers running back Craig, who set the franchise's rushing mark for a postseason game in 1989.
The 49ers, who hogged the ball and hammered the Packers' defensive line throughout, steamrolled their way to 352 yards on the ground, setting team playoff records for rushing and total yards (579). They ran 75 offensive plays to Green Bay's 56 and held the ball for 38 minutes.
For the second straight season, the 49ers are a victory from going to their sixth Super Bowl and will await the winner of today's Seattle-Atlanta game. If it's the Falcons, the 49ers will visit Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. If the Seahawks win, they will visit Candlestick Park, the third and decisive meeting between the NFC West rivals this season.
After the early interception, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he simply told Kaepernick there was a lot of football left to play nearly 58 minutes to be exact.
"He does a great job of responding," Harbaugh said. "He's done that every time there's been an interception he's responded with scoring drives. I think that's rare. I think that's a rare quality, and so far he's shown the ability to come back."
Kaepernick's big day also provided some vindication for Harbaugh, whose gamble to play the talented but green second-year quarterback over veteran Alex Smith earlier this season has been by far the team's biggest story line.
Earlier this season, Kaepernick had a critical miscue in St. Louis a bad pitch the previously moribund Rams recovered for a touchdown. Kaepernick responded with a 50-yard run in that game, and afterward Harbaugh said he was encouraged by the way the quarterback handled the adversity.
Kaepernick bounced back the same way against Green Bay, but this time he kept on running.
As the season drew to a close, the 49ers quietly reduced Kaepernick's carries and virtually eliminated the read-option plays that were a staple of the game plan when he entered games early in the season.
Saturday, Kaepernick frequently lined up in the Pistol, the formation he mastered at Nevada, where he rushed for more than 4,000 yards.
In the third quarter, as the Packers were beginning to shows signs of wear, Kaepernick must have felt as if he were back at Reno. He faked an inside handoff, then darted around to the outside, where he found only green grass in front of him.
His 56-yard score broke a 24-24 tie, and the 49ers never trailed again.
"The (defensive) end came down, our receivers blocked the corner and the safety there was nobody else left," Kaepernick said.
What's perhaps most promising as far as the 49ers' Super Bowl hopes is that Kaepernick had plenty of help in the team's ground attack.
Frank Gore, who did not have a 100-yard rushing performance after Week 9 last season, seemed as fresh as ever Saturday, carrying 23 times for 119 yards.
Rookie LaMichael James added three carries for 21 yards, and Anthony Dixon scored on a two-yard run.
"I think he's done a great job at keeping his body fresh," tackle Joe Staley said of Gore. "I mean, we're late in the season now, and he's still running like it's Week 1."
49ERS REPORT CARD
Offense: The 49ers dominate the game clock and eventually dominate the Packers defense. The 49ers have one of the most physical offensive lines in the NFL, and it controls the ball for 38 minutes. Michael Crabtree (119 yards) stands out in the passing game. Grade: A-
Defense: With a big assist from the offense, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Co. hold Aaron Rodgers to just 257 passing yards and intercept him once. Grade: A-
Special teams: C.J. Spillman's strong game includes pouncing on a muffed punt to set up a 49ers touchdown. David Akers is good from 36 yards at the end of the first half and punter Andy Lee has another strong game. Grade: A
Overall: For the second straight year, the 49ers find themselves one win away from their sixth Super Bowl. This time, they're playing the ground-and-pound style that suits them best.