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The Packers' next meaningful game came about eight months later when they returned to Candlestick for a Week 1 chance at revenge. This time, Green Bay was determined to keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but that strategy proved no more effective. The quarterback picked apart coordinator Dom Capers' defense for 412 passing yards, easily his career high.

"He played a great game, was able to see the field the right way," said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who grabbed 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in his first game with San Francisco. " ... (The Packers) had been killed in the playoff game by him with his legs. So I guess they were determined not to let him run. They gave him a lot of pass options. So it'll be interesting to see what they try to take away this time."

It's one of the factors likely to determine who advances to the second round of these playoffs.

Can Capers, a highly respected Xs-and-Os guy who has spent 12 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator and nine as a head coach, find the right balance against Kaepernick? Or is this simply a nightmarish matchup for Green Bay?

Rod Woodson, a Hall of Fame defensive back who will be analyzing the game at Lambeau for Westwood One radio, believes the 49ers can dent Capers' crew another time.

"Kaepernick has taken control and had big games against this Green Bay defense, and I don't see any reason that it couldn't happen again," Woodson said. "I'm not saying it will happen, but there's no reason that it couldn't happen, and especially with Clay Matthews out of the mix. Now their best linebacker is A.J. Hawk, a middle 'backer."

Matthews, a dominant pass rusher at outside linebacker, will miss the game after undergoing right thumb surgery on Dec. 29.

It's hard to fathom exactly why Kaepernick has been so lethal against the Packers. Neither the quarterback nor his offensive coordinator was particularly helpful in pinpointing a reason.

Kaepernick: "Really can't say why. It's just worked out that way. We've played well when we've played against them."

Greg Roman: "That's probably just happenstance, really. I think Colin played really well and I think everybody around him played really well as well. Every game's different."

Clearly, neither man wanted to provide bulletin-board material for the Packers, just as McCarthy's pride prevented him from fully acknowledging how badly Kaepernick has hurt his team.

It's true that the Packers' defense has been vulnerable the past two years. They ranked 25th in the NFL in yards allowed in 2013, 22nd in 2012.

But something about Kaepernick seems to expose their weaknesses. Since he replaced Alex Smith as the 49ers' starter in Week 10 last year, no quarterback has logged 400-plus combined yards against Green Bay -#8212; except Kaepernick, who has done it twice.

Woodson notes that the Packers' secondary tends to struggle against big, physical receivers, and the Niners have three in Boldin, Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Crabtree didn't play in Week 1, but neither did starting Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett.

More to the point, facing the likes of Detroit's Matthew Stafford, Chicago's Jay Cutler and Minnesota's Christian Ponder has done little to prepare the Packers for Kaepernick.

"If you don't see those types of quarterbacks too often, it takes you by surprise," Woodson said. "If you look at their division, they don't really have any real dynamic quarterbacks that are that athletic like Colin Kaepernick. He's one of those guys that can get out on the edge of the defense and make a lot of big plays."

And unfortunately for Green Bay, Kaepernick has been on a roll. Between Week 2 and Week 11 this season, he eclipsed 200 passing yards just once. The 49ers went 5-4 in those games.

Since then he has averaged 232.5 yards per game. He has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception in that span, and the 49ers won all six of their games down the stretch. For the Packers, Colin Kaepernick looks a lot like the wrong quarterback at the wrong time.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.