The 49ers quickly quelled any doubt their success in the 2011 season was a fluke, defeating the Packers on the road. San Francisco took an early 23-7 lead on two touchdown passes from quarterback Alex Smith and three field goals from David Akers. Smith completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Frank Gore shouldered the rest of the offensive load with 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Linebacker Patrick Willis and the 49ers defense held the Lions to less than 300 yards of total offense. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis (Maryland) had five catches, including two touchdown passes from Smith. The 49ers quarterback completed 20 of 31 passes for 226 yards and extended his franchise-record streak of passes without an interception to 216.
Week 3 (Sept. 23) at Mall of America Field: Minnesota Vikings 24, 49ers 13
After two convincing wins to open the season, the 49ers fell flat in Week 3. Smith, who finished with 204 yards passing, and Gore, who had 63 rushing yards combined for three turnovers, hurting an offense that had just 280 total yards. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw two touchdown passes to tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 86 yards as Minnesota handed the 49ers their first loss of the season.
With all the talk about Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow, it was 49ers backup Colin Kaepernick who proved to be the true threat in the wildcat attack. The quarterback scored the first touchdown of the game on a 7-yard carry in the second quarter as San Francisco routed the Jets. Kaepernick, Gore and Kendall Hunter led a rushing attack that totaled nearly 250 yards on the ground, and the 49ers defense forced four turnovers from the Jets, who had only 145 total yards of offense.
Week 5 (Oct. 7) at Candlestick Park: 49ers 45, Buffalo Bills 3
As good as the 49ers' offense was in their win over the Jets, they were even better against the Bills. They racked up a franchise-record 621 yards while becoming the first team in NFL history to pass and rush for 300 yards in the same game. Alex Smith completed 75 percent of his passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, and the San Francisco defense held the Bills to just 204 total yards.
Week 6 (Oct. 14) at Candlestick Park: New York Giants 26, 49ers 3
After two scoring 79 points in wins over the Jets and Bills, the 49ers only managed to score three points in a blowout loss to the Giants in San Francisco. Akers converted a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter, but the 49ers didn’t score again as the defending Super Bowl champions accumulated 26 unanswered points to close the game. Smith threw three interceptions in the loss.
Week 7 (Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park: 49ers 13, Seattle Seahawks 6
On a night where both teams struggled offensively, the 49ers struck when it mattered most. Trailing, 6-3, at halftime, the 49ers defense clamped down, keeping the Seahawks off the scoreboard for the final two quarters. Smith found tight end Delanie Walker for the game's only touchdown in the third quarter and orchestrated another scoring drive in the fourth to seal the seven-point win.
Week 8 (Oct. 29) at University of Phoenix Stadium: 49ers 24, Arizona Cardinals 3
Smith nearly completed a perfect game against the Cardinals. He was 18-for-19 for 232 yards, setting an NFL record for the highest completion percentage in a single game. He found wide receiver Michael Crabtree for two touchdowns and Randy Moss for a third as the 49ers dismantled the Cardinals on the road. Their defense excelled, too, holding Arizona to just 7 rushing yards.
Week 10 (Nov. 11) at Candlestick Park: 49ers 24, St. Louis Rams 24, OT
Entering the 2012 season, there had only been 17 ties in the NFL since overtime was instituted in 1974. This game was the 18th. Akers sent the game to overtime with his 33-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, but both he and Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed field-goal attempts in overtime. The 49ers also lost Smith, who suffered a concussion in the first half.
Week 11 (Nov. 19) at Candlestick Park: 49ers 32, Chicago Bears 7
Playing without Smith, the 49ers faced off against the Bears with Kaepernick — making his first career start — under center. The second-year pro passed the test, throwing for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. The 49ers defense held Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler to just 107 yards passing and two interceptions as they cruised to an easy win.
Week 12 (Nov. 25) at Mercedes-Benz Superdome: 49ers 31, New Orleans Saints 21
Kaepernick again started in place of Smith at quarterback, but his performance against the Saints wasn't quite as flawless as it was the week before. He threw for 231 yards and scored two touchdowns — one through the air, one on the ground — but he also threw an interception. The San Francisco defense bailed him out though, holding Saints quarterback Drew Brees to 267 passing yards and returning one of their two interceptions for a touchdown.
Week 13 (Dec. 2) at Edward Jones Dome: Rams 16, 49ers 13, OT
Three weeks ago, these two teams ended in a tie. This week, they almost did it again. Rams kicker Zuerlein tied the game as time expired in regulation, sending the 49ers and Rams to overtime for the second time this season. Neither team scored for the opening 14:34 of overtime, but Zuerlein avoided another tie with his 54-yard game-winning field goal with 26 seconds to play.
Week 14 (Dec. 9) at Candlestick Park: 49ers 27, Miami Dolphins 13
With Kaepernick still at quarterback, the 49ers turned to the ground game to defeat the Dolphins. Gore ran for 63 yards and a touchdown, and backup running back Anthony Dixon also scored a touchdown. Kaepernick finished the scoring in the win, scrambling for a 50-yard touchdown. He also completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards.
Week 15 (Dec. 16) at Gillette Stadium: 49ers 41, New England Patriots 34
Leading the Patriots, 31-3, with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter, it looked like the 49ers had all but clinched a win and a postseason berth. But the Patriots stormed back, scoring four unanswered touchdowns to tie the game at 31. The 49ers held on, though, scoring the next 10 points to capture a seven-point victory in Foxboro and secure their place in the playoffs.
Week 16 (Dec. 23) at CenturyLink Field: Seahawks 42, 49ers 13
The 49ers and Seahawks scored a combined 23 points in their first matchup this season. In the second game, they totaled 55. Seattle cruised past San Francisco, scoring the first 21 points of the game to take a commanding lead they would never relinquish. The 49ers didn't score their first — and only — touchdown of the game until there was 1:40 remaining.
Week 17 (Dec. 30) at Candlestick Park: 49ers 27, Cardinals 13
With the NFC West title on the line, the 49ers came through with a win. Crabtree was responsible for 172 of Kaepernick's 276 passing yards, catching eight passes and hauling in both of the quarterback's touchdown passes. Gore rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown, and the 49ers captured their second consecutive division crown.
NFC divisional round (Jan. 12) at Candlestick Park: 49ers 45, Packers 31
Move over Michael Vick. Kaepernick staked his claim at being the premier running quarterback in the NFL against the Packers, piling up an NFL-record 181 yards on the ground. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more, accounting for 28 of the 49ers’ 45 points. Gore added 119 rushing yards and a score in the victory.
By the start of the second quarter, it looked like the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes were disappearing. Quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons opened up an early 17-point lead, and they took a 10-point advantage into halftime. But Gore and the 49ers defense brought San Francisco back into the game. Gore rushed for two second-half touchdowns and the defense shut out Atlanta after the break, sending the 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.