OK, Green Bay Packers fans, the team is fine. No need for panic here or call for the heads of coaches.
Yes, the defense was on the field way too much yesterday; yes, the inability to cover Anquan Boldin is inexcusable; yes, Jermichael Finley drops the easy ones and then comes back to score a touchdown; yes, the running game was pretty much nonexistent.
But as badly as the Packers played yesterday, they still had a chance to win the game on the road against the conference champion without two of their most valued defensive players – Casey Hayward and Morgan Burnett.
Bad things happened yesterday: Eddie Lacy‘s fumble deep in Packers territory; the defensive backfield simply seemed lost in covering at times; Clay Matthews’ hit out of bounds on Colin Kaepernick and the ensuing scrum.
Chalk it up to the first game of the year. There were plenty of signs that this is still a good football team:
• Aaron Rodgers – he continues to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. His ability to escape the rush, extend plays and hit receivers between the numbers is uncanny.
• Clay Matthews – despite his “effort” penalty on the hit against Kaepernick, he still showed up play after play in helping to contain the Niners’ run game and laid hits all over the field. He’s definitely worth the money the Packers gave him in the offseason.
• Jordy Nelson – the guy hasn’t played since the beginning of August and comes out and destroys the Niners. His sideline catch was textbook and will be shown over and over.
• Randall Cobb – he continually showed up big for the Packers and his stretch for a touchdown early in the game showed why he will continue to be an asset to the Packers attack.
• David Bakhtiari – matched up most of the game against Pro Bowler Aldon Smith, the Packers rookie left tackle held his own. Bakhtiari’s quick feet and battle mentality is admirable and if he continues to show this kind of effort, he’s here for the long haul.
• Eddie Lacy – yes, he fumbled early in the game and was benched because of it. But when he got his opportunity in the second half, he made the most of it – carrying the Packers to a touchdown drive with a catch and long run. He capped that drive with a diving touchdown. Given time, one can see that if this guy stays healthy he will be a longtime contributor. The Packers drafted him to carry the rock in the fourth quarter and to score touchdowns when they get into the red zone. He showed yesterday he can produce in those situations.
• Tim Masthay – not only is the guy one of the best punters in the league, he’s shown he can kick off. On top of that, he’s shown the grit to stick his nose in on tackles. Everyone says kickers are different. This guy isn’t different – he’s a football player.
The Packers will win their share of games this year and though it would have been nice to get that first one, they have to move on to start preparing for the Washington Redskins.
My guess is that the Packers and 49ers will meet again down the road. When they do, expect the same type of battle we saw yesterday, but don’t be surprised if the Packers are better at that point.