The San Francisco 49ers have won five Super Bowls, more than any NFL franchise except the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. But it’s been quite a while since the 49ers reached the promised land — not since 1994 when a quarterback by the name of Steve Young was taking snaps. Now San Francisco has a new quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
Last weekend, the second-year signal caller led San Francisco past Green Bay, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more. On Sunday, Kaepernick has a chance to take San Francisco back to the Super Bowl when the 49ers meet the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship. Bill Littlefield spoke with Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle about Sunday’s matchup.
BL: Tell us a little bit about how Colin Kaepernick has flourished during this postseason?
EB: It helps that he has an absolute rocket arm, and he’s probably the fastest quarterback in the NFL. He also has intangibles, and you saw that quality against the Packers. On the fourth offensive play of the game, he threw an interception that the Packers returned for a touchdown, and he came right back and within a few minutes he was running 20 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. So that’s the type of start in someone’s first playoff game that could kind of wreck a young quarterback, but it just seems to kind of get him fired up.
BL: Will the Atlanta Falcons defense be able to deal with Kaepernick?
EB: Not based on their history this season. They played Carolina’s Cam Newton, who is very similar to Kaepernick, and Cam Newton threw the ball very effectively against them. And he also rushed for 202 yards in two games. Based on that, it doesn’t look too promising. So it’s going to be interesting to see how the Falcons attempt to defend him.
BL: Is there anybody else among the Niners who will particularly have to shine for San Francisco to be able to make the Super Bowl?
EB: Well if Kaepernick does what he did against the Packers, no. It can be a one-man show. Of course I say that somewhat facetiously. Obviously the defense is going to have to show up. And with all the hype, much of it deserved, about Colin Kaepernick, he will be making his ninth start. He’ll be on the road. There have been so many times during the season when you’re saying, ‘Well can Kaepernick handle this?’ From what I’ve seen in his first eight starts I think the answer is going to be, ‘Yes he can.’
BL: You know I just realized something. If the Niners win and then Baltimore beats New England it will be Jim and John Harbaugh coaching against each other in the big game. Did you know they were brothers?
EB: You know I actually heard about that. I didn’t know if you knew this but their father Jack Harbaugh was also a coach.
BL: Which one did their mother like best?
EB: Well, based on my limited dealings with John I would say maybe John Harbaugh.
BL: Though the 49ers are not strangers to the Super Bowl with five wins there, they haven’t won one since 1995. What would a win this year mean to Bay Area fans?
EB: Obviously quite a bit. Even with the [San Francisco] Giants winning two World Series in the last three years this is still a 49ers town. It would be a really big deal.