This match-up between NFC superpowers was arguably the best game on the schedule for Week 1, and it did not disappoint. The 49ers were able to edge the Packers on the strength of Colin Kaepernick’s best game passing the ball in his career. The Packers came out determined to stop the run, and they did that. Clay Matthews had an excellent game (with seven tackles and one sack). However, his impact was best felt containing the edge and not allowing Kaepernick to run around the edge. As expected, the Green Bay defense played zone almost exclusively throughout the game. When they did play man they didn’t really attack the line of scrimmage. Instead, they sent a lot of three man rushes and kept a spy on the athletic 49er quarterback. The one time the Pack did play man and decided to bring pressure up front, “Kap” escaped and ran for 15 yards around the left edge. The important thing here is that Dom Capers put a lot of effort into containing Colin Kaepernick and his running ability. All of the work he put in during the off-season game-planning for the read-option seemed to work in this game, the only problem was that they could not stop Kaepernick from shredding their zone defense.
Anquan Boldin ate the Packers’ secondary alive with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in his 49ers debut. He was simply sitting down in the middle of the zones, or running in back of the linebackers and in front of the safeties. He was pretty much unstoppable through the whole afternoon. Vernon Davis did a good job providing an extra set of hands in the red zone as he hauled in two touchdown passes. The lesson to be learned here is that San Francisco can be a dominant team. If you come in determined to stop them from running the ball, they can still beat you by throwing the ball. If you play man-to-man and try to cut down on Kaepernick’s long throws down the field, then the Niners will simply stick the ball in the belly of Frank Gore and run it down your throat. This is a very lethal combination.
Aaron Rodgers did the best he could against a solid defense. He hooked up with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb seven times each (for 100+ yards and a touchdown apiece). But really, the Packers’ four touchdown drives were almost like lightning in a bottle. What I mean by that is they weren’t able to sustain too many drives outside of those four. The touchdowns drives were usually answers to long San Francisco drives and other than that there were a lot of three and outs. The Green Bay offensive line did a serviceable job protecting Aaron Rodgers for a majority of the game. Their biggest breakdown came on the Packers’ second to last drive. Although Rodgers was not sacked on the drive, the front four was able to get enough pressure on him to disrupt his rhythm and cause him to fire the ball too early. Then, on the last play of the game on a Hail Mary try, Aldon Smith pressured him and caused an incomplete pass. The three-man rush got to Rodgers much to early on the final play and it ended up costing them a chance to win the game.
Of course, the most talked about thing coming out of this game will be the improper enforcement of personal foul penalties early on in the second quarter. Clay Matthews hit Colin Kaepernick a little too late and a fight broke out on the sidelines. Both teams were flagged and the down was replayed. The down should not have been replayed though since each penalty was a dead-ball foul. The down and distance should have been 4th and 2 if the penalties were enforced correctly. Since it was not, the following play ended up being a 6 yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis. The kicker about this whole series is that earlier (right before the third and 6 that produced the two offsetting penalties) the Packers had the 49ers stopped on a third down play. However, San Francisco was flagged for an illegal formation. Rather than declining the penalty and bringing up a 4th and 1, Mike McCarthy decided to accept the penalty and push the ball back to the third and 6 (following me so far?). That, of course, lead to the next play that produced the two offsetting penalties which then lead to the touchdown. To clarify, the whole situation with the personal fouls could have easily been avoided had Mike McCarthy simply declined the illegal formation penalty. So before the Packers fans get really sore over another improper ruling that cost them a game, they should remember that the whole situation was only created after Mike McCarthy allowed the drive to continue. Furthermore, if the penalties were enforced properly, it would have resulted in a four point swing (a three point field goal instead of the seven point touchdown). Seeing as how the 49ers won by six points, the outcome of that play did not directly impact the result of the game. At best, it still would have been a 30-28 victory for San Francisco.
At the end of the day, each team played a pretty good game. It might be fair to say that the 49ers are just the better team of the two and that is why they won. If Green Bay plays like they did this week for the rest of the season, they could probably win 11 or 12 of their games. They were just victimized by a superb passing performance from a very talented quarterback and were decimated in the middle by a skilled receiver who makes his money in the middle of the field. Neither team has much to be ashamed of; it was a pretty clean and entertaining game.