Colin Kaepernick was the San Francisco 49ers’ No. 2 quarterback through Week 10 of 2012.
10 football weeks later, Colin Kaepernick is the 49ers’ starting quarterback in Super Bowl XLVII.
In just his 10th career NFL start, Kaepernick has led his team to football’s promised land, the pinnacle of championships in American sports.
Let’s take a look at the second-year pro’s road to the Super Bowl.
Week 10 @ St. Louis Rams
Kaepernick came off the bench in place of an injured Alex Smith in the third quarter.
He overcame some early jitters and ineffectiveness and led two 60-plus yard drives in the fourth quarter. He brought the 49ers to within three points of St. Louis via a rushing touchdown in the first, and facilitated David Akers’ game-tying field goal in the second.
Kaepernick then put Akers in position for a game-winning FG in overtime. Akers unfortunately missed, the game ended in a tie and Kap didn’t receive his due accolades for generating a comeback in his first real NFL action.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t such a bad start to one’s professional career.
Week 11 vs. Chicago Bears
Primetime television was no match for one Colin Kaepernick.
The Chicago Bears arrived at Candlestick Park and immediately regretted that they did.
In his first official start—on Monday Night Football no less—Kaepernick humiliated the vaunted Bears’ defense. He threw for 243 yards, two touchdowns and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes in a 32-7 beat down.
His quick-strike, big-play performance against the league’s most dominant and ball-hawing passing defense was truly worthy of a near-perfect 97.5 QBR. He proved that he was a quarterback with poise and a winning arm, and not just a dangerous one with his legs.
So much for thinking inexperience would lead to faltering on the big stage.
Week 12 @ New Orleans Saints
Kaepernick went into the buzz saw that is the Superdome and came out with a victory. Although, it was how he accomplished that feat that made it all the more impressive.
The 49ers quarterback enjoyed some early success with a rushing touchdown and 7-0 lead against the Saints. He could not, however, generate a scoring drive for the next three series of the first half. His ill-advised interception with 38 seconds left in the second occurred after Drew Brees has just engineered a 14-7 advantage.
No matter—Kaepernick took inspiration from his defense’s interception-return TD and rallied for the second half. He orchestrated a go-ahead scoring drive with a TD pass to Frank Gore and 21-14 lead that the 49ers would not relinquish.
Weeks 13 @ St. Louis Rams
Kaepernick suffered his first defeat in an overtime loss to the Rams. It looked to be a personal one as well. An intentional grounding and lost fumble led directly to a safety, touchdown, two-point conversion and 10 St. Louis points.
Remarkably, Kap powered through that adversity and 10-point Rams’ comeback with a critical 50-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Akers kicked a go-ahead field goal with less than two minutes remaining.
Yes, there were some costly turnovers and offensive futility. But it was the defense’s inability to stop St. Louis—and not Kaepernick’s mistakes—that caused this 49ers’ loss.
Week 14 vs. Miami Dolphins
Some would call this outing quite the lackluster performance. Kaepernick produced just 183 yards passing and zero touchdowns through the air.
On the other hand, he did complete 78.3 percent of this throws in a purposefully efficient passing attack. Kaepernick also refrained form turning the ball over and flashed his brilliance with 50-yard, game-icing TD run in the fourth.
Prolific, no, but yet another NFL win to write home about.
Week 15 @ New England Patriots
Make no bones about it: San Francisco’s 41-34 win over the Patriots was Kaepernick’s best performance to date.
He went into unwinnable territory and launched four touchdown passes against a Patriots team that just didn’t lose at home or late in the season. It had boasted two separate 20-game win streaks—one for December battles at Gillette Stadium and one for games in the second-half of the schedule.
Kaepernick merely scoffed at those “unbeatable” records. He first helped produce a 31-3 lead with three TDs of his own through three quarters. Then, after New England stormed furiously back to tie things at 31-all, Kap responded with a TD to Michael Crabtree on an all-out Patriots blitz.
It proved the game-winner and cemented Kaepernick as the next big thing in professional sports.
We’d call that call that one poised, productive and prolific performance by the second-year gunslinger.
(This section was sponsored by the letter P.)
Week 16 @ Seattle Seahawks
This game was over before it even began.
San Francisco opened things up with a foolish pass-first game plan. Seattle was ready, and subsequently unleashed an offensive blitzkrieg and 21-0 lead over the 49ers at just the 14:05 mark in the second quarter.
Kaepernick was certainly ineffective at times. But abandoning the run and encountering a ferocious Seahawks team one week after traveling to New England doomed the 49ers from the very beginning.
Plus, his interception at the start of the fourth came when Seattle already had a dominant 35-6 advantage.
This was a 49ers obliteration, and by no means a Kaepernick-induced loss.
Week 17 vs. Arizona Cardinals
Kaepernick concluded his regular-season campaign by simply getting it done.
He bounced back from the 42-13 drubbing a week prior and produced a winning outing. He tossed two touchdown passes to Crabtree and earned a 114.6 efficiency rating after totaling a season-high 276 yards passing.
There were some stumbles of the incompletions variety in the early goings to be sure. Yet, Kaepernick rallied for the cause and took it to a formidable Arizona defense—despite its sorry overall status—to the requisite extent.
Heck, it was just his seventh-career start. And didn’t he just lead the 49ers to a No. 2 playoff seed in said seventh-career start?
Divisional Playoff vs. Green Bay Packers
Well, where do we even begin?
Let’s try this: Not only did Kaepernick win his first ever postseason game, he did so in record-setting fashion.
Kaepernick rushed for the most yards by a quarterback in NFL history against the Packers in the divisional round. He amassed a ludicrous 181 yards and two touchdowns via an equally ridiculous 11.3 yards per carry. One of those went for a 49ers’ record 56 yards as well.
And as awe-inspiring as those numbers are, we must not stop there.
The supposed playoff neophyte overcame a first-quarter pick-six, did not unravel and merely generated 94.7 QBR—yes, 94.7—in his first postseason action. He threw two more TDs to Crabtree and dominated the Packers when it mattered most.
Divisional playoff victory, check. Could he do so again in the NFC Championship Game?
NFC Championship Game @ Atlanta Falcons
Many an analyst would cite the 49ers defense as the primary reason for San Francisco’s win over Atlanta.
To be sure, the 49ers shut out the Falcons for the entire second half after surrendering 17 early points. It picked off Matt Ryan, recovered a fumble and broke up two consecutive passes inside their own 10-yard line with just over one minute remaining.
That said, the 49ers still had to score. And in a game decided by only four points, all scoring means were vitally important.
Kaepernick orchestrated the read-option to perfection. He astutely read the Falcons’ defensive formations and correctly handed off to Gore and LaMichael James to the tune of three touchdown runs.
He also played turnover-free football, connected with the 49ers’ most dynamic weapon for 106 yards and one TD (a la Vernon Davis), and earned another 90-plus QBR in the postseason.
And with all due respect to Alex Smith—and we mean that sincerely—Kaepernick accomplished what the former starter could not last season.
NFC Championship Game victory, check. Could he do it one more time on the world’s biggest stage?
Just who is Colin Kaepernick?
To put it this way, the second-year pro is a rare amalgamation of physical attributes, high cognitive functioning and comprehensive gridiron talent.
Kaepernick isn’t just a 6’4’’, 230-pound athletic freak that runs a 4.53 40 and throws the pigskin 65 miles per hour.
He wins with his legs, wins with his arm, wins with his brain, wins in the regular season, wins in the playoffs and does it all with a persona and attitude that parents would love their children to embody.
(The jury is still out over the impending patent on his “Kaepernicking.”)
And now he’s prepared to secure a win in the Super Bowl for the sixth time in San Francisco 49ers history.
Colin Kaepernick is a winner.
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