The Green Bay Packers spent the offseason learning how to slow down the read-option. Now, they just need to figure out how to defend the pass.
Instead of shredding the Packers with his legs, Colin Kaepernick showed his lethality through the air on Sunday, passing for a career-high 412 yards in a 34-28 49ers win.
In the process, he and the 49ers mollified concerns that the passing game would be dormant in Michael Crabtree's absence.
While the No. 2 wide receiver position is still a question mark, Anquan Boldin proved he's more than capable of replacing Crabtree's production up top, catching 13 balls for 208 yards and a touchdown.
He put on a receiving clinic, gashing the Packers for gains of 43, 30 and 22 yards while also making a one-handed grab in the red-zone, catching a 10-yard touchdown on third down and hauling in the game-clinching ball on fourth-and-2 late in the fourth quarter.
Last year, Kaepernick clicked with Crabtree right away and now he's developed instant chemistry with Boldin, which was evident on the fourth-down play late in the game. Coach Jim Harbaugh said the play was designed to be a “quick-hitter” to Boldin in the flat, but when it broke down, Kaepernick waited for his top receiver to go inside and find the soft spot in the zone.
“It's the way they've been practicing,” Harbaugh said, referring to the pair's instant synergy in camp.
Kaepernick also found rhythm with tight end Vernon Davis on Sunday, another positive development for the passing game. In 10 games with Kaepernick under center last year, Davis averaged only two catches for 40 yards per contest. But against the Packers, he caught six balls for 98 yards, including two touchdowns.
“We had a lot of time during OTAs and minicamp to really build that chemistry that we needed to build,” Davis said.
In this win, Kaepernick showed exactly why coaches, fans and pundits are calling him a revolutionary quarterback. He makes the 49ers insanely difficult to plan for.
The Packers succeeded in their mission to shut down the run. They held the 49ers to 90 yards rushing and limited Kaepernick to only 22 yards on the ground. But this time, Kaepernick showed the Packers a new fold, stretching the field for big-yardage gains through the air, an option that wasn't available with Alex Smith under center.
Of course, the team's depth at receiver continues to be an issue. Kyle Williams was the only receiver other than Boldin to record a reception and he only caught three balls for 36 yards.
But with Boldin, the 49ers are just as talented at receiver as they were last year with Crabtree and, as the season progresses, they'll only get better. Mario Manningham is returning in October and at some point in November or December, Crabtree will be joining the cavalry, too. Maybe, he'll be back on the field just in time for another playoff game against the Packers?
Boldin and Crabtree on the same field. Now try to draw up a game plan to stop that.
Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.