By Cam Inman
SANTA CLARA -- Breakaway runs and strong-armed completions aren't all that's accompanied Colin Kaepernick's rise to stardom. He's also shown unmatched resiliency as the 49ers' so-called "Rally Kap."
Although Kaepernick has had only four passes intercepted this season, he's produced a touchdown drive on each of the 49ers' ensuing possessions, including in Saturday's playoff-opening win over the Green Bay Packers.
"We have to score, that's our whole offense mentality, that we have to bounce back from a turnover," Kaepernick said Wednesday.
In stark contrast, his predecessor, Alex Smith, has failed to produce any touchdown drives in the immediate wake of his 10 interceptions during his two seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Kaepernick's unflinching form certainly has wowed Harbaugh, especially Saturday night after the Packers seized a 7-0 lead on Sam Shields' 52-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"When a quarterback throws an interception in a game, there's just a tendency next time to double-check things," Harbaugh said. "That's not the way you want to do it.
"You want him to be trusting what he sees and cutting loose. He's shown a rare ability to not do that, to not have to double-check."
The 49ers will be counting on more of the same in Sunday's NFC Championship game against the host Atlanta Falcons, who will be determined not to let Kaepernick run wild as he did for 181 yards against the Packers.
Kaepernick's confidence rarely seems to wane, even in trying times. Remember when he botched a pitch in St. Louis and the Rams recovered for a game-tying touchdown? He dashed 50 yards to set up a go-ahead field goal on the 49ers' next series, even though that lead failed to hold up in an eventual 16-13 overtime loss Dec. 2.
"He seems to have a rare ability to bounce back," Harbaugh said.
Kaepernick responded from Saturday's lone interception with two touchdown runs and two touchdown passes for a victorious playoff debut.
After that game and again on Wednesday, Kaepernick stated he doesn't want to be "categorized" as a running quarterback. Then again, he grew up studying Michael Vick, Vince Young, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham. "They were all quarterbacks that were mobile and could make plays," Kaepernick said.
His own play-making ability earned him a spot on this week's Sports Illustrated cover. Such fame isn't going to his head. Kaepernick described the mundane routine he follows after leaving the 49ers' facility: "I go home, I watch my film, watch anything on TV but sports. I go to bed and come back and do the same the next day."
But he does scan his Instagram account to see who's been "Kaepernicking," his touchdown celebration in which he kisses the tattoos on his right biceps. "I saw a girl Kaepernicking while she was riding a horse," he said of his favorite image.
Harbaugh said of Kaepernick's ability to handle the newfound fame: "Colin does a great job of continuing in his humility."
If that ego needs a check, there's this: Only one Pro Bowl quarterback is playing in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, and that's the Falcons' Matt Ryan.
Both the 49ers and Falcons have a slew of offensive weapons at their disposal, including at tight end where the 49ers deploy Vernon Davis and the Falcons tout Tony Gonzalez.
After Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller produced a team-high eight catches for 142 yards against the Falcons on Sunday, Kaepernick might find several opportunities to utilize Davis the way the Falcons employ Gonzalez.
"As to what we think will work or won't work, we would be foolish to talk about that," Harbaugh said.
What does work, as Harbaugh gladly attests, is Kaepernick's ability to work diligently after a mistake, be it an early interception or a late-game fumble. That said, the fewer of those Sunday, the better the chance of the 49ers advancing to Super Bowl XLVII.
Patrick Willis keeps hitting and keeps avoiding flags.
John Madden analyzes
the 49ers-Falcons game.
getting used to Ryan's late-game magic.
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