NFL Playoffs: The running quarterback has arrived in the NFL

The Green Bay Packers know how the Sooners felt in the Cotton Bowl. Colin Kaepernick is helping to change the game, and the colleges know how the game can change.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 19, 2013
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photo - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs for a 56-yard touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the third quarter of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: FXP130
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs for a 56-yard touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the third quarter of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: FXP130

That's another reason Kaepernick's performance dropped NFL jaws. A guy with seven pro starts lit up the Packers for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-31 passing, plus an NFL QB-record 181 yards rushing and two more TDs.

The play that perhaps changed pro football was Kaepernick's 56-yard touchdown run off a shotgun option, which the colleges call a zone read for dubious reasons, since almost every play in football includes reading a zone.

While the Packer front line defenders chased a tailback who didn't have the ball, Kaepernick broke into the clear and ran away from Green Bay's defensive backs.

“We're going to look back 10 years from now, this was the point where quarterback evaluation in the NFL changed,” Fox analyst Howie Long said after the 49ers' 45-24 victory. “It's a nightmare for defenses.”

Long's sidekick, Terry Bradshaw, called it some of the best quarterbacking he's ever seen.

NFL defenses are not designed, culturally or structurally, to deal with such quarterbacks. The Packers looked as helpless as Kansas State looked in 1971, trying to stop the Oklahoma wishbone. Get this: Kaepernick wasn't touched by a Packer on 178 of his 181 yards. He spent the day running free, then either sprinting out of bounds or into the end zone.

But pro coaches are smart. They'll come up with some tonic to counter the likes of Kaepernick. Colleges can borrow such intellectual property, though if you don't have the horses, no strategy can save you.

Running quarterbacks have always been thought to have short shelf lives, because while college football has a few carnivores, every NFL locker room has a dozen.

That's why the oft-injured Griffin, at 217 pounds, and the shortish Wilson, at 206, were not considered extraterrestrials.

But Kaepernick is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. Linebacker big and DB fast. So even if defensive coordinators figure out how to get a shoulder pad on him, there's no great assurance his block will come off.

Good luck, Falcons. But you'll get no sympathy from the college crowd.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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