49ers key matchup No. 1: Kaepernick vs. Rodgers

January 11, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights five 49ers-Packers matchups to watch Saturday, 5 p.m., at Candlestick Park.

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Tale of the tape
Kaepernick (7): 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, second season, Nevada
Rodgers (12): 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, eighth season, Cal

Aaron Rodgers grew up as a fan of the 49ers in Chico. He wore a Joe Montana jersey under his pads at Cal.

Colin Kaepernick is a native of Wisconsin. He showed up for an interview with NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner this week sporting a Milwaukee Brewers hat.

As fate would have it, the Northern California kid is a Super Bowl-winning hero in Wisconsin. And Kaepernick, whose family moved to Turlock when he was a youngster, is carrying the hopes of the 49ers, a franchise rich in quarterback tradition.

The 49ers brought in Rodgers for a pre-draft visit in 2005 before going with Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Things have worked out exceedingly well for Rodgers, who became a starter in 2008 after sitting behind Brett Favre for three seasons. In 2010, Rodgers led Green Bay to the Super Bowl title.

Kaepernick did not have to wait nearly as long, as he moved into the 49ers' starting role at midseason. He got his opportunity in the middle of his second season when Smith sustained a concussion, and coach Jim Harbaugh decided to make the move permanent after seeing Kaepernick in two starts.

With all the plots and subplots to play out Saturday night in the NFC divisional-round game at Candlestick Park, it's a good bet that the game will come down to the production of the quarterbacks.

When the 49ers and Packers met in Week 1 of the regular season, Smith threw for fewer yards, but NaVorro Bowman's interception of a Rodgers pass was the pivotal fourth-quarter play in the 49ers' 30-22 victory.

Over the past two seasons, Rodgers had 288.3 yards passing per game with 84 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. In the Week 1 meeting against the 49ers, Rodgers completed 30 of 44 passes for 303 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

And that was a good day for the 49ers' defense.

"He's awful tough to defend," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "After watching him a lot in the offseason once we knew that was our first game and now going back to that, he reminds me of Dan Marino in the pocket with his quick, accurate release. And he reminds me of Steve Young out of the pocket.

"And that's a hell of a tough combination to defend. And we've got to do a good job in our rush lanes of not letting him get out too much. We've got to do a good job of plastering in coverage that if he does run around we don't lose our guys. And try to limit the big plays that he can make on the move. I don't have a great answer for you. We've just got to try and not let it happen."

With Rodgers on the other side of the field, Kaepernick realizes that could put more pressure on the 49ers' offense to get into the end zone and rely on struggling kicker David Akers for extra points.

"Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback," Kaepernick said. "You see what he does on the field. You see the performances he's been having, so you can't say enough about the guy. We're going to have to go out and put up points."

While the Packers are clearly counting on Rodgers to lead the way, the 49ers expect to lend a lot of support to Kaepernick. After all, this is a team that is led by its defense and running game. But Kaepernick provides the 49ers with a big-play threat with his strong arm and ability to tear off long runs, too. Kaepernick will have to be good on third downs to keep drives alive. The 49ers held a six-minute edge in time of possession over the Packers in Week 1. The 49ers would like to keep the ball out of Rodgers' hands as much as possible.

"I have complete confidence in him, and you have to," 49ers Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis said. "There's no room to have any doubt at all that he's going to go out and play his best football.

"It's up to us to make sure our offense can go out there and just play loose. We know we have the type of defense that can play lights-out and keep the game where it should be. The good thing is, we've seen him do it and we've seen the offense do it."

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