After a Michael Crabtree fumble at the 1 yard line ruined the 49ers chances for their first lead of the game, Matt Ryan hiked the ball from his own end zone.
A quick strike wide right was defended by the arms of linebacker, Ahmad Brooks. The next play was a handoff inside that produced 4 yards. Then came 3rd and 6.
Ryan backs up and throws a ball to his trusty, Hall of Fame tight end, Tony Gonzalez. All Gonzalez has to do is turn and pick up one yard of YAC and the first down is his.
"Sorry about that," says Carlos Rogers.
A 48 yard punt is returned by Ted Ginn Jr. to the Atlanta 38, and Colin Kaepernick, who had just led one drive that should have won the game, comes back on the field to try again.
He hands the ball off four times; throws it out to Crabtree on a wide receiver screen once -- showing the team's faith that Crabtree would not fumble again -- and then hands it off to Frank Gore one last time, who takes it in 9 yards for the go-ahead score.
And, with that, Colin "The Kid" Kaepernick officially becomes "The Comeback Kid", "Kaptain Comeback."
Nothing flashy. No crazy 50 yard scramble. Though the very threat of it allowed both Gore and LaMichael James to emerge out of the backfield untouched in various runs throughout the day, as Atlanta always over-compensated for Kaepernick in the option game.
No last second touchdown. No nail-biting field goal attempt. Just a workman-like performance of perfect execution and class.
That's what we call 49er football, and, at the end of the day, there's just as much glory in it as anything else. Maybe even more, because it truly is a team effort.
Kaepernick's smooth, unselfish performance ended up being the very first 4th quarter comeback (4QC)/ game-winning drive (GWD) of his career.
And it only came in the NFC Championship Game. No sweat.
We took to the wonderful search tools at pro-football-reference to figure out what other player in NFL history could say that his very first 4QC/GWD performance came in the playoffs.
It has to be at least a somewhat rare feat, right? For a young player, starting in one of his very first professional games, to show the poise required to lead his team from behind. But how rare is it?
To start, we narrowed the search to rookies who had a 4QC/GWD in the post-season. Then did the same thing for second year quarterbacks, and third year guys, and so on up to players in their 10th year (arbitrary cut-off that I assume still gets us all the relevant data).
For each group, we perused their respective player pages to see whether their playoff comeback was also the first of their career.
After all the research, it turns out Kaepernick is only the 4th quarterback in NFL history do have his first 4QC/GWD in the playoffs.
Vince Ferragamo did it for the Rams in 1979, defeating the Cowboys 21 - 19 in the Divisional Round. His stat line for the game:
- 9 of 21 for 210 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 79.5 rating, 8.57 AY/A.
The second was Kurt Warner, who did it in 1999, also for the Rams, as they beat Tampa bay 11 - 6 (what?) in the NFC Championship Game. Warner would go on to have another game-winning drive in the Super Bowl.
- 26 of 43 for 258 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, 56.2 rating, 3.33 AY/A.
Before Kaep, the most recent quarterback to do it was Mark Sanchez in 2009 for the Jets. They defeated the Chargers 17 - 14 in the Divisional Round. His stats, too, were underwhelming:
- 12 of 23 for 100 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 60.1 rating, 3.26 AY/A.
And then finally, Colin joined the list on Sunday. Like Warner, his comeback came in the NFC Championship Game; but unlike any of the three men above, his performance was much more admirable:
- 16 of 21 (76.2%!!) for 273 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 127.7 rating, 12.05 AY/A.
Colin's game was the best of the group, even though the deficit he faced was also the largest and his number of career starts the lowest.
As most of you probably know, Joe Montana has the most 4th quarter comebacks in NFL playoff history, with 5. On Sunday, Colin Kaepernick etched his first one into the record books.
And while he has a long way to go to reach the fame and reputation of the GOAT, it is nice to at least check this first accomplishment off the list.
In only his 9th career start, the young gun who some of us affectionately refer to as "The Kid", proved he could stay as cool as Joe when faced with a 17 - 0 deficit on the road.
The 49ers snapped a 5 game road playoff losing streak, and are now headed to their first Super Bowl in almost 20 years.
What does Kap have in store for us next?
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