ATLANTA -- Colin Kaepernick proved Sunday that he's no one-trick thoroughbred.
With the Atlanta Falcons so determined to keep the 49ers quarterback from galloping free, Kaepernick simply found other options on his read-option play.
And that proved confounding for the Falcons, who succeeded in stopping Kaepernick from running wild ... and not much else.
"I think we did a pretty good job of keeping him under wraps and minimizing his big-play ability," Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. "He is a heck of a player for as young as he is. We wanted to make him one-dimensional by forcing him to make throws out of the pocket. At the end of the day, you have to tip your cap to him."
The Falcons tipped their cap to Kap after the quarterback looked nothing like he did a week earlier. Against the Green Bay Packers, he had 181 rushing yards. Against the Falcons, he had one designed run for minus-2 yards. (He also had a 23-yard improvised scramble.)
The 49ers planned for this kind of game. Running back Frank Gore said he heard all week how Atlanta was going to have a spy shadow Kaepernick. That meant the Falcons would have a defender -- the "spy" -- responsible for staying in front of the mobile QB in case he tried to run, and Gore was a willing double-agent.
"I just knew after hearing the Falcons say all week, 'Spy on Kap. Spy on Kap. Spy on Kap,' that there would be some opportunities," the running back said. "So I told him today: Just make sure you take care of yourself. Be great and make good decisions."
Kaepernick helped maximize the confusion of the read option by showing his passing would be a threat, too. He completed 16 of 21 attempts for 233 yards and a 127.7 passer rating.
That's why Sunday's quarterback looked different from the one who faced Green Bay. "The difference is ultimate conflict we can create when he's throwing like he's throwing," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.
Kaepnerick's only designed run in this game came midway through the third quarter. On a first-and-10 play from the Falcons' 25, he tried to run around right end, but linebacker Akeem Dent hit him for a 2-yard loss.
Without lanes to run in, Kaepernick had to stay patient.
"When Frank's running for 5, 6, 7 yards, it's not hard to be patient at all," the quarterback said. "I'll keep giving it to him when he's running like that."
Gore had 90 yards, as well as his first career two-touchdown playoff game.
By the end, the Falcons defense looked stupefied. All that attention to Kaepernick's legs came at a price.
"You put your resources into one area," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "One of our main goals was to stop the quarterback from running the football. We did not cover the tight end as well as we needed to. Those were plays that I felt they made, and it wasn't necessarily the wide receivers or the running back."
Contact Daniel Brown at email@example.com