Colin Kaepernick spent the divisional playoff game running through the Green Bay Packers defense and the offseason running through the Packers' minds. Green Bay's offseason, it seems, has been dedicated to making sure its defense never gets gouged like it did Jan. 12 when Kaepernick ran for 181 yards - an NFL record for a quarterback - and scored two touchdowns in a 45-31 win at Candlestick Park.
The team's coaches headed to Texas A&M in the offseason for a tutorial on how to stop the read-option attack. And they used their first-round draft pick on defensive end Datone Jones, who faced plenty of read-option defenses while at UCLA. The Green Bay Press-Gazette recently wrote about how Jones is well-suited to stopping quarterbacks like Kaepernick and Washington's Robert Griffin III.
"I thought he was pretty good," Jones said of Kaepernick's playoff game against Green Bay. "But I don't think they're going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season."
Here's the rub: Kaepernick may hold the single-game rushing record for a quarterback. But unlike Griffin's Redskins, the read-option was only a part - sometimes a small part - of the 49ers offense. He averaged six carries per game in his seven regular-season starts. In arguably his best game of the regular season against Chicago, he ran the ball four times for 10 yards. Yes, that number jumped to 16 carries against the Packers in the divisional playoffs. But a week later against the Falcons, he had two carries for 21 yards.
In my memory, Kaepernick took only one really big hit while on the hoof last season. It came on a handoff from Alex Smith in a blowout of the Bills and resulted in a lost fumble. Otherwise Kaepernick mostly avoided big hits. That's the beauty of the read-option - if there's no room to run, Kaepernick will hand it off up the middle. The reason the 49ers ran so much against the Packers is that Green Bay couldn't stop it. If the Packers commit themselves to stopping Kaepernick's runs, he has the option to go elsewhere.
As Pete Dougherty also notes in his story, a lot of the damage Kaepernick did against the Packers came not on designed runs but on broken-down pass plays. In the first half of the game, he scrambled five times for 75 yards, including a touchdown.
It also should be noted that Kaepernick hasn't remained idle this offseason while opponents are figuring out ways to stop him. He's gotten a bit bigger in the weight room, and he's also trained to increase his speed. That is, he's trying to stay one step ahead of the Jones, the Packers and everyone else trying to catch him.
-- Matt Barrows