49ers coach Jim Harbaugh spent last week downplaying the effect the cold weather would have on his team’s NFC wild-card game at Green Bay.
When it came to game time, he said Monday, it actually helped highlight some of the positives in the 49ers’ last-second, 23-20 victory.
Chief among them: “We’ve got a good bad-weather quarterback,” Harbaugh said.
Playing with bare arms in single-digit temperatures, Colin Kaepernick accounted for 325 total yards – 44 more than the Packers. He threw for 227 yards and ran for 98on seven carries as the 49ers advanced to Sunday’s divisional round against the Carolina Panthers.
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Kaepernick had a 42-yard scamper, his longest of the season, in the second quarter and an 11-yard gain on the 49ers’ final drive that helped set up Phil Dawson’s 33-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Kaepernick is 3-0 in the past two seasons against the Packers, with two wins coming in the playoffs, but this one left a unique impression on his coach.
“The thing I didn’t envision really going into the game – and I didn’t envision when we drafted Colin – was just how unbelievably effective he would be on a bad field,” Harbaugh said Monday. “He was running like a gazelle, and at times just looked like he was running, having fun, and like he was the only one on the field.”
The frigid conditions did affect traction at Lambeau Field, which put defensive players at a disadvantage, having to react to the quick cuts and movements of ballcarriers and receivers. Kaepernick’s agility and long strides gave him an even bigger advantage.
Harbaugh, though, sounded just as impressed with Kaepernick’s throwing, particularly with the cold making the football feel harder and therefore more difficult to grip.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 30 passes and did throw an interception, but he maintained his trademark velocity on his touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the fourth quarter. Seeing Davis one-on-one against linebacker A.J. Hawk on a seam route, Kaepernick threaded the pass 28 yards through a tight window of two defenders.
Asked what defines a good bad-weather quarterback, Harbaugh answered: “Being able to throw a ball that pierces through the elements, the wind. He’s shown that in the rain. He can pierce a defense with velocity and tight spirals.
“And (he) also really did a nice job with the touch on the ball as well. It’s got to be difficult to catch the ball at times, and I thought he really laid it in and placed it extremely well, and that’s hard to do.”
Harbaugh also lauded the 49ers’ defense for holding Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 177 passing yards and singled out punter Andy Lee for his performance as the holder on three field goals by Dawson.
“I’ve been a holder in NFL games in cold, snowy, windy type of conditions, and it is not a great feeling when you’re sitting there as the holder wondering how the ball is going to come back,” Harbaugh said. “There were a couple that kind of came back with a little wobble, hot, that he had to reach for or reach back for, and I thought he did an excellent job.”
That said, talk about the 49ers being a good bad-weather team may not help much this week as the 49ers prepare to play the Panthers. Early forecasts for Charlotte this weekend include possible rain but with temperatures in the mid-50s.