GREEN BAY, Wis. — Colin Kaepernick said he never felt the cold, despite forgoing long sleeves amid subzero wind chills at Lambeau Field.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback was born in Wisconsin, after all. And he looked right at home in Sunday's NFC wild-card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, outdueling Aaron Rodgers — again — with his exposed arm and his legs in a 23-20 triumph.
"Whenever we needed a play, he got it, whether it was throwing the ball or running," 49ers running back Frank Gore said, standing next to Kaepernick at the postgame podium. "Tough guy. A quarterback like that — you'll do whatever for him."
Kaepernick finished 16-for-30 passing for 227 yards with a touchdown and a second-quarter interception to Tramon Williams that appeared to wake up the Packers after their sluggish start on a day when the temperature at kickoff was 5 degrees with a minus 10 wind chill.
But the most important play Kaepernick made was with his legs — avoiding a seven-man rush and scrambling for 11 yards on third-and-8 to get the 49ers into range for Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal as time expired.
The 49ers' winning streak is at seven as they head to Carolina for Sunday's divisional playoff date with the NFC South champion Panthers, who won 10-9 in San Francisco on Nov. 10.
"We owe 'em," Kaepernick said.
The Packers owed the 49ers, who ended their 2012 season in the divisional playoffs last January and beat them again in this season's opener.
The Packers were in position to take the lead late with first-and-goal at the 49ers 9-yard line before settling for Mason Crosby's tying field goal from 24 yards instead with 5:06 to go.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," said rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who had the crowd of 77,525 chanting his name with 81 hard-earned yards but didn't touch the ball on the last goal-line sequence.
Kaepernick got the ball back, caught a break when Micah Hyde couldn't hang onto what could have been a game-changing interception and hit Michael Crabtree for a 17-yard gain to convert third-and-10 on the next play.
Crabtree was the target on the pivotal third-and-8 play, too, but Kaepernick didn't like what he saw, picked up a block from Gore and got the yardage he needed anyway.
"To put a drive together like that under any conditions is big time, but especially today with all the factors working against us," Dawson said. "Going that way, the wind was a little bit in our face."
Dawson estimated his range at 46 to 47 yards, so there was no way he was booting a cold, rock-hard ball 56 yards if Kaepernick had thrown the ball away instead.
Time and again, Kaepernick found ways to answer the big plays of Rodgers, who finished 17-for-26 passing for 177 yards and a touchdown in his second game back from a broken collarbone.
"Personally, it's frustrating not to play your best game," Rodgers said. "Tough conditions, but the defense held them to 23 points. We should win that game."
Instead, it's on to Carolina for the Panthers, whose second-ranked defense will take the latest shot at stopping Kaepernick.
"He was just Colin today," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. "What you see is what you get."