SAN FRANCISCO — Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards, a playoff record for a quarterback, and two touchdowns and threw two touchdowns to lead the 49ers back to the NFC title game with a 45-31 win against the Packers on Saturday.
Kaepernick, the playoff first-timer, outshined a Super Bowl MVP in Aaron Rodgers, who finished 26-of-39 for 257 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to topping the rushing mark of 119 set by the Falcons' Michael Vick in 2005 against the Rams.
"It feels good. We're one step closer to where we want to be," said Kaepernick, whose team faces the winner of today's Falcons-Seahawks game in the NFC title game. "I feel like I had a lot to prove. A lot of people doubted my ability to lead this team."
Michael Crabtree caught touchdowns of 12 and 20 yards in the second quarter and wound up with nine catches and 119 yards. San Francisco, the No. 2 seed, had 579 total yards, 323 on the ground.
Kaepernick, the second-year pro out of Nevada who supplanted Alex Smith as the starter in a much-debated move by coach Jim Harbaugh, shook off an interception cornerback Sam Shields ran back 52 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco's first possession.
His 56-yard touchdown run on a read-option keeper in the third quarter — the longest by a quarterback in franchise history — gave the 49ers a 31-24 lead. He stopped in the end zone and flexed his right arm, smiling all the way back to the sideline.
"Our offensive line did an amazing job (all night)," Kaepernick said. "They shut everybody down inside. Our receivers, our tight ends, blocked great outside. And our running backs were running hard, so it made it easier on me."
Kaepernick, who finished 17-of-31 for 263 yards, also led another drive that David Akers finished with a 36-yard field goal to put the 49ers ahead 24-21 as the first half ended.
Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown three seconds into the fourth quarter to extend San Francisco's lead to 38-24.
Rodgers, who played his college ball at nearby Cal, rallied the No. 3-seeded Packers after tossing his own interception (his first in 184 passes). He threw a 20-yard scoring strike to James Jones, and DaJuan Harris ran for an 18-yard touchdown.
The amped-up crowd at Candlestick Park endured a flurry of emotions at the start.
Kaepernick's error quieted it. Shields stepped in front of his pass, shook the quarterback to the ground and scampered down the sideline to make it 7-0.
Kaepernick unclipped his jaw strap and dropped his head to the sideline while Shields waved his hands at the crowd. Rodgers pumped his fist on the Packers sideline.
Kaepernick converted two third downs to bring the 49ers back on their next drive. He bought time and scurried out of the pocket to find Gore for a 45-yard gain then darted 20 yards up the middle on third and 8 for the tying score.
When Rodgers and the Packers offense finally took the field, they didn't do much. San Francisco stopped Rodgers, who had a contingent of friends and family make the four-hour trek from his hometown of Chico, on a three-and-out that whipped the crowd back into a frenzy.
Rodgers found his groove and floated a 44-yard pass that Jones leaped to snatch over two defenders along the sideline. On the next play, Harris broke through the middle to put the Packers up 14-7.
Green Bay made its share of mistakes, too.
Jeremy Ross muffed a punt that Chris Spillman recovered at the Packers 9. Three plays later, Kaepernick found Crabtree free over the middle for a tying 12-yard touchdown.