Blame a late night producing Monday morning sportscasts and a red eye flight home but at last, here's my analysis of another rough opening day thanks to the San Francisco 49ers. They beat the Packers 34-28 in the first game of the last season and rickety, tired Candlestick Park. It was a gorgeous day in the city by the bay and in a spirited, even chippy match between two NFC favorites, the Packers made the big mistakes and the Niners made the big plays.
Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick traded touchdown passes, one each in each of the first three quarters. After San Francisco settled for three early in the 4th, Rodgers drove the offense for a go ahead score, an Eddie Lacy two yard dive over the top and a 28-24 lead. The 49ers struck right back and put up the final 10 points of the game.
While so much attention was paid this off-season to the read option, a coaching staff seminar down at Texas A&M, plenty of practice time throughout camp, the defensive brain trust forgot about one thing, Kaepernick can also throw the ball pretty well. His 412 yards scorched the Pack, over 300 yards were collected by a pair of receivers. Tight end Vernon Davis has done this before, six for 98 and two scores but the big man on Candlestick point Sunday was former Baltimore Raven Anquan Boldin. Acquired in a trade as Michael Crabtree went down with an achilles tear and Mario Manningham also got hurt, Boldin stepped right in with his new team with fantastic production. 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. Granted the Packers secondary took some hits with Casey Hayward out with a bad hamstring and right before the game, Morgan Burnett's hamstring pull had him as a late scratch. M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian started at the back end and they were simply overmatched. Many of Boldin's grabs came over the middle, some with decent coverage, other times he was alone in holes of zones with room to run. The pass rush was more intent on containing Kaepernick rather than sacking him, although they got him twice, but with time or on the move, he completed 27 of 39 without a mistake, earning a passer rating of 129.4.
Rodgers finished with a respectable 333 yards and three scores for a 102.6 rating, but was victimized by Jermichael Finley's hands on a first half interception. The offense was almost too efficient on their scoring drives, covering 80 yards in 1:47 in the first quarter, capped by Randall Cobb's extra effort stretch at the goal line on a five yard score. They covered 62 yards in 1:16 to tie the game at 14 as Finley atoned for his mistake with a second effort 12 yard scoring play. In the third quarter, Green Bay moved 69 yards in 2:48, Jordy Nelson grabbing an 8 yard strike. Nelson, coming off knee surgery in early August, wound up with 7 catches for 130 yards including an amazing leaner up the sideline for 37 yards. The final TD drive, 76 yards in 2:30 put the Pack in front in the fourth quarter. But those rapid, no huddle series helped tip the time of possession stat heavily toward the Niners (38:35-21:25).
Lacy's first TD was offset by a critical fumble at his own 14 in the second quarter, a turnover cashed in by Boldin's TD catch when McMillian missed an open field tackle on the short, over the middle route. That was a key series for another reason, curious decisions and a blown call. The Pack had the Niners stopped for a 4th and 1 at the five but a procedure penalty was accepted by McCarthy, giving San Fran two more cracks. On the next play, Kaepernick scrambled to his left toward the sideline where Clay Matthews went airborne well outside the field of play and threw down the quarterback hard. Tackle Joe Staley went after Matthews and drew a flag. The referee, Bill Leavy, said the dead ball penalties offset giving the Niners yet another crack at third and 6. He later admitted that because both fouls occured after the play, the down should have counted. That it happened before halftime certainly didn't impact the final outcome, but it drew a lot of conversation in the locker room after the game. A call not made left Tramon Williams upset. Boldin's final catch of the day, for 15 yards, came on a 4th and 2 call with three minutes left. Kaepernick scrambled again to his left and Williams said Boldin clearly pushed off to gain separation for the grab.
For the third time in a calendar year, San Francisco got the better of the Pack but this was far more competitive than the NFC Divisional Playoff in January.
The only injury of note was Nick Perry who left the game late with a stinger.
A fan died at the game, falling off an elevated pedestrian walk in the first half.
The Packer inactives were Hayward, Burnett, Nate Palmer, Sam Barrington, Lane Taylor, Brandon Bostick and Josh Boyd.
When the dust settled, Mike McCarthy offered up this opening day summation.
Next up for the Pack, RGIII. Robert Griffen the third brings his Washington Redskins to Lambeau, their first visit to Green Bay since 2007.