As if the game ending in a tie wasn’t disappointing enough for the 49ers, the team lost starting quarterback Alex Smith to a concussion. Smith’s injury was expected to keep him out a few weeks, but ultimately cost him his starting job with second-year man Colin Kaepernick coming in and bringing a different style of play on the offensive side of the football.
Smith talked about finally reaching the Super Bowl as a backup rather than a starter via Steve Corkran of MercuryNews.com:
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bittersweet,” Smith said Wednesday. “Yeah, I want to be out there. It’s what you work for coming into the season. That was the mindset. That was the goal for me.”
With Kaepernick playing extremely well since becoming the starter, the 49ers have been red-hot winning five out of the seven games started to end the regular season and two straight playoffs wins over the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.
The record-setting performance against the Packers in the NFC Wild Card game officially put Kaepernick in the spotlight. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns while throwing two touchdowns passes in order to lead San Francisco to victory over Green Bay.
Ironically enough, Smith was playing at a high level before going down with one of the best passer ratings in the NFL. Smith played in 10 games throwing 1,737 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions with a passer rating of 104.1.
Obviously, Smith’s numbers didn’t merit the benching by head coach Jim Harbaugh, but the move to start Kaepernick has paid off and as a result the team is headed to the Super Bowl and favored to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.