NFC Playoffs Q&A: Experience counts

Kaepernick rushed for 98 yards on seven carries Sunday, but it wasn't scheme that allowed him beat Green Bay. "There wasn't a whole lot called out there," Harbaugh said.

In last year's playoff win over Green Bay, Kaepernick beat the Packers by scheme. He burned the Packers' defense for more than 170 yards out of the read-option. On Sunday, Kaepernick simply outran the Packers' defense. If he saw tight coverage, Kaepernick grabbed the ball and beat the Packers to the outside for first downs. What might be a 4-yard gain for Foles or a 9-yard run for Rodgers is a 20-plus-yard gain for Kaepernick.

Not only is Kaepernick fast, but he's a long-strider who eats up more yards than any running quarterback in the league. Sunday only added to his legend. With temperatures in the single digits and wind chills in the minus range, Kaepernick came out without any sleeves and refused to wear gloves. He did make one mistake, though. When he got onto the field for the start of the second half, he had to call a timeout because he forget the plastic play card he uses once he gets the play calls from sidelines.

3. What's the best hope for Saints? The running game. In a rare move, Saints coach Sean Payton emphasized the run in Saturday night's victory over Philadelphia. Despite not having Pierre Thomas because of a chest injury, the Saints rushed for 185 yards on 36 carries. Normally, the Saints are so reliant on Drew Brees' passing success, all the pressure falls on the New Orleans quarterback.

The inconsistency running the football is one of the reasons the Saints' offense struggles on the road. In the Seahawks' 34-7 home win over New Orleans on Dec. 2, the Saints garnered only 44 rushing yards on 17 carries. For the Saints to have a chance, they need to establish some kind of a running attack for balance.

The surprise Saturday was how well Mark Ingram did for the Saints. After rushing for only 386 yards during the regular season, Ingram had 97 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ingram averaged 6.1 yards a carry on 12 runs to the right side. Of course, the Seahawks are strong stopping right-side runs because they have 323-pound defensive end Red Bryant playing on the left side. Although they struggled at times against the run, the Seahawks finished the regular season as a respectable run-stopping unit. They gave up only 101.6 yards a game and 3.9 yards a carry.

4. Should the Seahawks be concerned about their offense? Pete Carroll's offense didn't look playoff-caliber toward the end of the season. Wilson averaged only 171.3 passing yards in the final four regular-season games. He completed only 57.8 percent of his passes during that stretch, much lower than his season average of 63.1. He was sacked 14 times during those four games.

The Seahawks appeared to be running out of gas at the end of the regular season, but a bye week and Percy Harvin's possible return could re-energize the team's offense. Harvin, who re-injured his surgically repaired hip in a Nov. 17 game against Minnesota, returned to practice this past week. Harvin caught one pass and had a 58-yard kickoff return in that game, his only action of the year.

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