SAN FRANCISCO — Colin Kaepernick had shown flashes of brilliance in his short stint as the 49ers' starting quarterback, but a lot of people wondered if he was too young, too inexperienced to lead his team in the blinding flash of the NFL postseason.

Too young? Kaepernick was simply too good — too good for the visiting Green Bay Packers and nearly too good to believe. He passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 181 — an NFL record for quarterbacks, playoffs or regular season — and two more scores as the 49ers ran away with a 45-31 victory at Candlestick Park.

"He's an athlete," tight end Vernon Davis said of his talented teammate. "I look at Colin as an athlete, not just a quarterback."

With the victory, the 49ers advance to next Sunday's NFC championship game. Depending on the result of today's game, they will either travel to Atlanta or host the Seahawks at Candlestick Park.

The 49ers fell behind on the first series of the game when Kaepernick threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Some fans later insisted they never lost faith.

"Even thought we were down, we felt the 49ers had the momentum the whole time," said Gene Koehler of Rohnert Park. "I wasn't even that worried when we threw that interception."

For Cyndy Grim of Sebastopol, the early 49ers' mistakes were a blemish on the game. "There were so many faults and errors that we made and we still won. We could have done so much better" and yet the Niners still won by 14 points.

Saturday's win brought back memories of the 49ers' heyday, when Joe Montana and Steve Young slung touchdown passes to Jerry Rice. With Kaepernick under center, coach Jim Harbaugh's Niners churned out 579 yards of offense. Their 323 rushing yards — halfback Frank Gore also eclipsed 100 — established a franchise postseason record.

For one half, San Francisco's offensive outburst wasn't enough to separate them from the high-powered Packers. Trading touchdowns for two quarters, the teams were tied 21-21 until David Akers, the 49ers' embattled kicker, sent a 36-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired in the first half.

Green Bay tied the score at 24-24 in the third quarter, but the 49ers dominated after that. They were more balanced, more athletic and they had Kaepernick, who overshadowed Rodgers, the Chico product and Cal star who was NFL Player of the Year in 2011.

This game has Niners fans believing in a Super Bowl run, and a chance at the team's sixth NFL championship. Harbaugh knows his players will have to pass another stern test to get there.

"We want to study for the test," he said. "You know, whoever that is we're playing. Have a great week of preparation and compete like maniacs. This is a do-or-die, win-or-go-home kind of situation."

The 49ers passed the test Saturday, so they get to study for another week.