San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick put on a show last week. In the NFC championship Sunday, he was just as impressive with his arm and his cool, vindicating coach Jim Harbaugh.
Perhaps this is what Jim Harbaugh imagined. Perhaps, when the San Francisco 49ers traded up to take Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft, Harbaugh knew that the rangy quarterback with a bodybuilder's arms and a sprinter's legs could stand in a cauldron of sound, down 17 points, in his ninth professional game, and lead his team to the Super Bowl.
If so, then his reward is fitting. Forty-niners coach Harbaugh is taking an offense no one knows how to stop – led by a star quarterback that seemingly no one but he saw coming – to the National Football League title game Feb. 3 in New Orleans.
Last week, Kaepernick continued this season's reinvention of the modern quarterback with a record 181 yards rushing against the Green Bay Packers. This Sunday, he did nothing too far beyond the ordinary – which, in its way, was spectacular.
The Atlanta Falcons had seen what Kaepernick did to the Packers, and their defense Sunday was designed to prevent him from doing it to them. That part worked. But in the end, it didn't help them much.
Kaepernick merely showed that he could do it the Peyton Manning way, too – beating a team with his arm from inside the pocket.
For opposing teams, it presents a particularly unappealing choice: Which way do you want him to beat you?
The problem, of course, is that even when Kaepernick isn't doing anything more elaborate than handing off the ball to Frank Gore, the threat of him doing more ties defenses into knots. So Atlanta essentially told its defensive ends, "Don't let Colin go anywhere." And they didn't. But Gore did – largely because those defensive ends were watching him blow by on crucial red-zone touchdowns.
On Sunday, Kaepernick's best decision – again and again – was not to run the ball.
And when he dropped back to pass, he looked as comfortable as Sunday afternoon on a front-porch swing. A running quarterback? Only because he can run – and exquisitely. But there is also his arm.
Yes, that arm. The one that was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2009 for its pitching prowess. That tattooed slingshot that gives the impression that, just maybe, football's version of Pedro Martinez has lined up behind center.