SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the field 90 minutes before the game in shorts, and said after he blitzed the Green Bay Packers for 325 total yards in a 23-20 victory at Lambeau Field that it was not that cold. Tight end Vernon Davis, who caught a touchdown pass between defenders, said he was not surprised. Cold, pressure and tattoo needles don't cause the second-year starter to blink.
"He was just Colin today. What you see is what you get," Davis said. "He is very authentic and that is what I appreciate about him. He just brings it each and every week. I am honored to be on his side of the ball."
Kaepernick rushed for a wild-card-weekend-best 98 yards and passed for 227 in Sunday's victory. He was sacked three times and was nearly intercepted on the final drive, but a key third-down scramble helped set up Phil Dawson's 33-yard game-winning field goal.
"The last one, every gap was filled. We were in an empty pressure call and it's the right call and he gets out to his left," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "Obviously, a big play in the game to continue that drive. You're looking for a potential sack or the ball coming out on time there. We did not get it done as far as keeping the quarterback in the pocket."
The Wisconsin native said he hasn't experienced the upper Midwestern winter since he was a toddler, but was thrilled to put on a show in front of some of his family, which lives less than a 30-minute drive from Lambeau. Kaepernick improved to 3-0 against the Packers with 1,203 total yards and nine touchdowns.
"Very elusive. He's dangerous," said Packers cornerback Micah Hyde. "We've seen that in the last couple of games we've played them that if nobody's open, he tucks it and runs, and he had some huge runs tonight. He's a good quarterback. He has a good arm and everybody knows he can run to get a first down or a touchdown at any time."
--Wide receiver Michael Crabtree continues to come up big and made several strong, sudden cuts in the open field that signal he is fully recovered from the Achilles injury that sidelined him until December. He caught four passes for 70 yards on the opening drive and his eight catches for 125 yards was his best single-game effort since the 49ers' last meeting with the Packers in the postseason in January 2013 (nine catches, 119 yards, two touchdowns).
"People talk about cold weather, and it being tough to catch balls," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "But the greatest catcher of all time, Michael Crabtree, catches everything. It's unbelievable. In the northern snow lands, down to the tropic sunny scenes, he's catching the football. Where ever they throw a football, he'll be catching it. If my life depended on it, somebody had to catch a ball, I'd enlist Michael Crabtree to do it."
Crabtree's effort was particularly important with the Packers paying special attention to Davis, who had just two receptions, including a 28-yard score in man coverage against inside linebacker A.J. Hawk.
"One thing I love about this team is that when we start to struggle and it gets tough, they continue to keep on pushing and they don't give up. They give all that they have, every inch of their body, and they just keep on coming."
--The 49ers didn't have Crabtree then Davis left with an injury the first time the 49ers met the Carolina Panthers, a 10-9 loss at Candlestick Park.
With the full complement of weapons, Kaepernick said the mission in the division playoffs is payback.
"We owe 'em one," he said Sunday.
Pressuring the pocket was a theme Sunday, and outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who overcame muscle cramps to post 1.5 sacks, expects more of the same this week against quarterback Cam Newton and Carolina.
"The focus for us this week was getting pressure on the quarterback. We knew it was important for a quarterback that can hurt you when he has time," Smith said.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
--Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde was pressed into a regular role on defense and special teams because of injuries. Those contributions might be overlooked by many in Green Bay, who will instead remember the sure interception he dropped when he jumped a pass intended for tight end Vernon Davis on the 49ers' game-winning drive.
"The quarterback looked to the flat, tried to make a play on it and just dropped it," said Hyde, who moved to his right and leaped for the ball, which hit both hands but trickled to the ground.
"It's a play that could've put our offense in good field position. It's tough. Wish I could've come down with it, but you've got to live with it and try to bounce back from that play."
At the time of the play, the posted stadium temperature was four degrees. While the Packers had a few early issues with ball-handling -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers and fullback John Kuhn fumbled in the first quarter but the Packers recovered -- Hyde said the cold wasn't to blame.
"No, that wasn't a factor at all," Hyde said. "That was just a drop, and I wasn't cold or anything. It definitely was cold out, but that had nothing to do with it. Just a dropped ball."
--As per usual, the losing locker room was a joyless environment, the norm when the finality of a season-ending defeat begins to set in. That was compounded by the teeth-gnashing of Packers players who are trying to figure out why the San Francisco 49ers have their number.
"I don't know, man. I really don't," guard Josh Sitton said. "I feel like early on, on offense we just weren't executing. I don't feel like they were doing anything to stop us. It felt like we were kind of just stopping ourselves. But I really don't know."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers played in his second game after missing eight weeks with a broken collarbone and there were early portions of the game where it appeared the timing wasn't there. The Packers didn't complete a pass in the first quarter for the first time since 2004. They had six yards total offense in the first quarter before finally clicking in response to a takeaway deep in their own territory. But with first-and-goal at the 9 on what proved to be the Packers' final possession, they had to settle for a field goal. A touchdown would have pushed the Packers in front 24-20.
"Frustration. We feel like we fought our asses off to get to this game, to get in the playoffs, and we felt like it was our time," Sitton said. "We've got Aaron back, and we've been confident. It's frustrating. We thought we could make a run here."
--"I think it says a lot about our defense in how we can step up and make plays when it is time. We just stayed consistent and we didn't panic. A lot of teams don't know what to do when someone starts to drive on them, and they mess up. We didn't hit the panic button and that had something to do with why we came out with a win." -- LB Aldon Smith, on forcing a field goal on Green Bay's final drive.
--"I don't think you realize, I'm one of his biggest fans. That guy is amazing, and I'm so blessed to have him on this team. I'll never forget him coming in during the offseason. I wasn't really familiar with who he was at first, but as the offseason went on and getting to know him, he's a great guy, so to see all the success he's having thus far and to know the man he is, I'm truly blessed to have him on this team." -- 49ers LB Patrick Willis, on PK Phil Dawson.
--"It hurts. Yeah, it hurts." -- Packers coach Mike McCarthy, on Green Bay's fourth straight loss to San Francisco.
--"Tomorrow is the toughest day of the year because it's the end and guys go their separate ways. Today's probably tied for the toughest, as well. It's the last time this group of guys is going to be together. It's frustrating. We did some great things this year but we came up a little short." -- Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.