American football: Colin Kaepernick is king as San Francisco 49ers shine on NFL's weekend of wonders

San Francisco have quarterback to thank while Atlanta succeed in dying seconds

Do post season weekends come any better than the one just served up by the National Football League? All four divisional championship games were high scoring. One was won in double over-time, another after an epic comeback was thwarted at the death. In the third, a quarterback for the ages laid down the law. And in the fourth, a new quarterback for the ages may possibly have been born.

Even before Saturday evening, Colin Kaepernick, only promoted to starter for the San Francisco 49ers in mid-season, had been making a national name for himself – but primarily on account of the tattoos, many of them biblical inscriptions, that smother his back and arms, and his celebratory routine after a touchdown, featuring a flex of his right throwing arm and a kiss of the biceps.

But against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick delivered a performance that spoke even louder than the theatrics, orchestrating a 45-31 triumph against a team widely tipped to go all the way to a Super Bowl XLVII victory next month. His 181 rushing yards represented a post season record and included two touchdown runs, of 20 yards and 56 yards. He also threw for 263 yards, including a couple of touchdown passes to receiver Michael Crabtree.

Next Sunday, the 49ers travel to Atlanta for the NFC championship game against the Falcons, who contributed their share to the weekend's derring-do by entering the final quarter against the Seattle Seahawks with a 20-point lead, only for the Seahawks to come up with three unanswered scoring drives.

But trailing 27-28, Atlanta somehow pulled themselves together, snatching a 49-yard field goal with just eight seconds left, to eke out a 30-28 win. "What a way to do it," said Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. "I was on the field crying like a baby after we kicked that field goal. I've cried after a loss, but never after a win before."

The victory also brought down the curtain on the trio of rookie quarterbacks who illuminated the 2012 NFL regular season. The Colts' Andrew Luck and the Redskins' Robert Griffin III bowed out in the wild card round. Now the Seahawks' Russell Wilson has joined them: "I knew we were going to win it," Wilson said afterwards, of the moment when his team got its nose in front with just a minute on the clock. "At least, that's what I thought."

For switchback rides however, not even Atlanta-Seattle could match events 24 hours earlier in Denver. The game was supposed to see Payton Manning's Broncos march closer to a Super Bowl date in New Orleans. Instead it produced a 38-35 win for the Baltimore Ravens.

Technically, the score that settled things was a Ravens field goal, almost two minutes into the second overtime. But the moment that will live for ever was the 70-yard pass by Joe Flacco, Manning's opposite number for the Ravens, that arced over the Broncos defence into the hands of receiver Jacoby Jones. Only 31 seconds in regulation were left on the clock. "At that point," Flacco admitted, "you have to start taking shots. You have to get a little lucky."

He got lucky, and the reward is a match with the New England Patriots who defeated Baltimore in last year's AFC championship game. Once again they have to overcome Tom Brady. On Sunday the master eased the Patriots to a 41-28 win over Houston that was more one-sided than the scoreline suggests. Brady has made trips to five Super Bowls, winning three of them. No one would rule out a fourth.

News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own