GREEN BAY, Wis. — Colin Kaepernick beat the Green Bay Packers for the third time in 12 months, as the San Francisco 49ers rode their quarterback to a 23-20 wild-card playoff victory at frigid Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Phil Dawson kicked a 33-yard field goal to deal the Packers their fourth home playoff loss under coach Mike McCarthy.
The reigning NFC champions set up a rematch with the Carolina Panthers next Sunday in Charlotte. Carolina scratched out a 10-9 victory at San Francisco on Nov. 10. The 49ers ride a seven-game winning streak into the divisional playoff meeting.
Kaepernick froze Green Bay’s defense with a pump fake, tucked the ball and scrambled to his left for the open field, gaining 11 yards and a pivotal first down to the Packers’ 27 on a third-and-6 play with 1:07 to go.
Kaepernick had seven carries for 98 yards and passed for 227 yards. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree had eight receptions for 125 yards.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked four times but repeated pulled himself off the frozen turf to completed 17 of 26 passes for 177 yards.
Dawson, who was 11-for-11 in the regular season, kicked his third game-winner in his first season with the 49ers.
The Packers tied the game 20-all with 5:09 remaining on Mason Crosby’s 24-yard field goal, the third score in a seven-minute span in the fourth quarter following a scoreless third. Seven minutes earlier, the Packers took a 17-13 lead on fullback John Kuhn’s second touchdown run of the season, a 1-yard plunge that capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive kept going by Rodgers’ 26-yard connection with wide receiver Randall Cobb on fourth-and-1 from the 49ers’ 20.
That score was matched on San Francisco’s next drive. With 10:31 left in the game, Kaepernick hit tight end Vernon Davis for a 28-yard touchdown for the fourth lead change in the game, staking San Francisco to a 20-17 advantage. Davis was matched up in single coverage against inside linebacker A.J. Hawk on the score. Kaepernick’s 24-yard run down the left sideline set up the score.
Rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who was limited to 41 yards in his NFL debut at San Francisco in Week 1, had 21 carries for 81 yards by the middle of the fourth quarter but Green Bay’s offense didn’t get another chance.
Crosby’s 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half cut the Packers’ deficit to 13-10.
Trailing 10-7, Kaepernick’s season-long 42-yard run slashing off left guard out of the Pistol formation, carried the 49ers to the 12-yard line. Running back Frank Gore punched it in two plays later, charging up the middle out of a three-tight end formation and easily into the end zone as San Francisco regained a six-point lead.
The Packers moved the chains for the first time in the game with a 6-yard completion from Rodgers to Kuhn with 11:42 left in the second quarter, on a drive that began with cornerback Tramon Williams’ interception of Kaepernick at the Green Bay 13.
The conversion sent the Packers into the hurry-up with the 49ers caught in their nickel defense. Rodgers completed five consecutive passes for 40 and Lacy added seven carries for 25 yards to drive inside the 10-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 5, Rodgers rolled right and fired a touchdown to Nelson with 5:50 left in the half.
San Francisco ran 25 plays in the first quarter and had the ball for nearly 10 minutes but led just 6-0 with 2:17 remaining on a pair of Dawson chip-shot field goals (22, 25). Green Bay produced six yards on nine plays with three punts on its first three drives.
Crabtree caught four passes for 70 yards on San Francisco’s opening drive.
NOTES: Packers LT David Bahktiari (concussion) was replaced by Marshall Newhouse in the fourth quarter. … 49ers LB Aldon Smith (muscle cramps) left the game in the first half but returned in the third quarter and recorded a quarterback sack. … The 49ers’ four regular-season losses were to teams still alive in the postseason (Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina, New Orleans). … Packers CB Sam Shields was assisted to the sideline by trainers and taken to the locker room on a cart with a knee injury on the 49ers’ first offensive possession. He was replaced by second-year CB Davon House. … Packers OLB Clay Matthews (thumb) and 49ers CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring) were inactive. … OLB Mike Neal (knee) left for Green Bay after the first defensive series. OLB Andy Malumba (knee) left the game briefly in the third quarter. Because of the personnel shortage, defensive coordinator Dom Capers briefly used four down linemen. … 49ers PK Phil Dawson kicked a 22-yard field goal to cap San Francisco’s first drive. The 49ers outscored opponents 46-0 this season on game-opening drives.