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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
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

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week