NFL: Colin Kaepernick finds his form as the San Francisco 49ers get a second chance

Last season's Super Bowl runners-up are aiming to go one better this year

Not many teams get a second chance to win a Super Bowl. The most recent losers to return to the NFL's end-of-season decider were the Buffalo Bills in 1994. But the San Francisco 49ers could buck that trend.

The sense of anti-climax, a tough schedule the following season, a low draft ranking – many factors count against Super Bowl runners-up. And the class of 2013 also had the mortification of being the first San Francisco team in six Super Bowl visits to leave the field without the Vince Lombardi Trophy. None of which, though, seems to have mattered to this 49ers squad.

They have already done better than last season's winners, the Baltimore Ravens, who failed to make the play-offs.

In that Super Bowl in New Orleans, the 49ers launched a late rally that fell just short of delivering victory, and they have come back again this season from losing two of their first three games and suffering a two-game mid-season wobble. Their 12-4 won-lost record would have normally have been good enough to win their NFC West division but for a dominating performance from the 13-3 Seattle Seahawks.

Today, they play away to the Carolina Panthers in the divisional play-off round after coming through the extreme polar weather in last Sunday's wild-card game win in Green Bay, where they beat the home-town Packers 23-20 with a last-gasp field goal. The 49ers have won their last seven games and are regarded as favourites to beat Carolina.

The 49ers have kept their key performers such as self-styled 'cold killer', linebacker Patrick Willis, his defensive partner NaVorro Bowman, running back Frank Gore and maturing quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick was the 36th pick in the 2011 draft after a college career at the unfashionable University of Nevada, and was the back-up last season when an injury to starter Alex Smith gave him a chance that he took with both hands and legs, showing an ability to run with the ball as well as throw it.

Nevertheless, he had started only seven professional games before this season and he struggled early on, with seven turnovers in his first four games, and an unimpressive pass-completion rate.

But he has rediscovered last season's play-off form, and head coach Jim Harbaugh backs him to adjust to today's forecast rain after mastering last weekend's tundra conditions. "He just looked like he was running and having fun like he was the only one on the field, and he can throw a ball through the elements, the wind," Harbaugh said. "In the rain, bad weather, footing, or elements of precipitation, he can pierce a defense."

One of the 49ers' four regular-season defeats was against today's opponents at Candlestick Park. "We owe them," said Kaepernick.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Internal Project Manager - Business Analyst, Financial Services

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the best known and most pr...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer
 SQL, C#, VBA, Linux, SQL Se...

.NET Developer

£650 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer ASP.Net, C#.net, WCF, WPF, .N...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment