When the 49ers and Panthers meet this Sunday in the NFC Divisional Playoff round, the team’s respective quarterbacks have top-notch defenses to prepare for, not each other.
Newton said it best in his weekly press conference.
“I’m a fan of him, but I don’t have to prepare for Kaepernick,” the former No.1 overall draft pick said. “I’m more worried about trying to prepare for
READ: Playoff Action Sets Kaepernick Apart from Newton
Entering Sunday’s road playoff game, Kaepernick has big-time rushing ability on his side. He especially revs his running up in the playoffs. With 32 carries for 362 yards in his postseason career, the 49ers signal-caller averages 11.3 yards per rush. It’s the highest average in NFL history for all players with at least 30 rushing attempts.
Kaepernick made a statement with his arms and legs last week. The young quarterback is fresh off a 98-yard rushing performance against the Packers in a 23-20 win.
Kaepernick could be more aggressive in running with the football this week. Greg Roman hinted at it in his weekly conversation with the press.
“I don’t know that we want to talk about strategy, but I definitely think that Colin is prepared to tuck the ball and run if given the opportunity,” San Francisco’s offensive coordinator said. “I think we’ve all seen that. It’s a do-or-die situation in the postseason. So, if you haven’t noticed, we’ll do anything to win.”
The 49ers have never won back-to-back road playoff games in the postseason, but Kaepernick’s ability on the road lends itself to the team accomplishing that feat. Kaepernick already has two postseason road wins, the most in franchise history.
With a win over the Panthers, Kaepernick would become the fourth signal-caller in league history to win each of his first three playoff starts on the road.
To pull off the victory, Kaepernick’s play-making ability must be supreme.
“When you have a quarterback of Cam Newton’s ability in this type of game, I think he’d be apt to run maybe a little bit more than he would normally,” San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “They may even call more of the quarterback runs for him, the quarterback powers and lead draws.
“We’re anticipating more of those from them. So, yeah I think Newton’s a playmaker and we’ve all got to be aware of him.”
Bowman, one of the players Newton specifically mentioned, anticipates new wrinkles in Carolina’s offensive attack.
“I just expect them to come out and give them their best shot,” the All-Pro linebacker said. “They’ve had two weeks to look at us, so we’re expecting some different looks we haven’t seen.”
Bowman has been utilized to spy opposing run-first quarterbacks at times in his four-year career, but he also stressed that it’s not solely on his shoulders to stop Newton from rushing the football on broken plays.
“That’s everyone’s job,” Bowman said. “It starts up front with those guys doing their job. If he gets away, it trickles down.
“We have to keep that in mind the whole game.”
PHOTOS: Carolina's Starting Lineups
Bowman also commented that the Panthers have “every run you can think of.”
Both teams have complete rushing attacks with elite running backs included.
But when it comes down to running quarterbacks, Sunday’s playoff game will feature two of the league’s best.
Newton led all quarterbacks with 585 rushing yards in the regular season. Kaepernick ranked fourth among all passers with 528 rushing yards. The biggest difference between the two, Newton had 111 attempts with 5.2 yards per rush, while Kaepernick had 92 attempts and 5.7 yards per carry.