Did Harbaugh make the right decision?
On a night when Kaepernick became Keepernick, the 49ers quarterback torched the Packers with his arm and his feet, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two.
He scored on runs of 20 and 56 yards. The 56-yarder was the longest run by a quarterback in the playoffs, surpassing a 51-yard run by the Titans' Steve McNair in Jan. 2000.
"Guy's playing football, man, he's making it happen," 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree said of Kaepernick. "He's a playmaker."
Kaepernick also shattered Michael Vick's mark of 119 yards rushing -- the previous postseason rushing record by a quarterback -- with a game-high 181 yards on 16 carries.
"The offense that we have creates a lot of confusion with the quarterback we have who can run as fast as he can," said tackle Joe Staley, part of an offense that gained 323 yards on the ground and 579 total. "He can also throw the ball downfield. We want to move the chains any way we can, but it's great to move the ball with the ground game."
Kaepernick got off to a bumpy start – his second pass was intercepted and run back 52 yards for a touchdown – but he never lost his composure, upstaging Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFL's reigning most valuable player.
"Anytime your teammates have confidence in you and they feel good about what you're doing, it makes you feel like you're doing the right things," Kaepernick said.
The Packers were outscored 21-0, in the second half and had two turnovers that led to 49ers touchdowns.
"It's pretty frustrating," said Rodgers, who threw for 257 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. "To go out and play like that is disappointing. We didn't do enough on offense to help our defense."
For the second consecutive season, San Francisco has advanced to the NFC championship game where it will face the winner of Sunday's game between the Seahawks and Falcons.
"They competed like maniacs," Harbaugh said of his players, "and now we've got another week of work."
It was a big day for the Harbaugh family, with Jim's older brother, John, coaching the Ravens to a double-overtime win at Denver.
"That was a real football fight," Jim said of the Ravens' 38-35 victory. "Had a chance to watch some of it before our game. Feel great for John and his team."
The Packers saw their season open and close with losses to the 49ers. They dropped their opener to San Francisco 30-22 at Lambeau Field.
Saturday's rematch featured Rodgers, a 49ers fan in Northern California who wore a Joe Montana T-shirt under his pads as a kid, and Kaepernick, who was born in Milwaukee and grew up idolizing Brett Favre.
Crabtree caught two touchdown passes for the 49ers, and Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon each ran for a score.
Despite it being his first postseason start, Kaepernick was unflappable, even after the pick-six interception to start the game. He came back on the next possession and orchestrated an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his 20-yard keeper for a
touchdown. That came on third-and-8, and -- unlike his longer touchdown run -- was not a planned run for him.
"Man-to-man coverage, they doubled Crab, broke down and I saw a running lane," the quarterback explained with a shrug.
Put simply by Packers receiver Greg Jennings: "We lost to a better team today."