At halftime Sunday and well into the fourth quarter I had high hopes that the Green Bay Packers would be able to pull out a win against the San Francisco 49ers, even though I had written this down as a loss when the schedule came out back in the spring.
It was not to be, but I did see signs that the Packers have made progress since the horrible performance back in January. Winning on the road on opening day versus the team that drubbed them out of the playoffs was a tough task, but that’s what it may take for the Packers to make it to New Jersey for the first (and I think last) Super Bowl at an outdoor stadium where there is the potential for actual winter-like conditions.
Offense: The Packers moved the ball fairly well (at times) against one of the better (if not the best) defenses in the league. The offense did their part in giving the Packers a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. In fact, my optimism was boosted when the Packers got the ball with 1:32 left in the first half and tied the game with a signature end-of-half touchdown drive.
The final Packers touchdown drive was great (all no-huddle until they were at the SF 2) with a stellar pass/catch from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy doing a great job running the ball (5 carries for 26 yards) on the drive.
Defense: The read-option that killed them in the playoffs was a non-factor. I didn’t break it all down, but after rushing for 323 yards(7.5 YPC) in January, SF was held to 90 yards (2.6 YPC) on Sunday. The defense definitely contained Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore, but that came at a cost. (hint The UGLY)
Special Teams: Sadly, our best special teams performance was put in by Tim Masthay. He averaged 46.2 yards per punt and 44.8 net on six punts and had touchbacks on all but one kickoff (not counting the squib to end the half)
Offense: OK, not bad per se, but Rodgers was just 21/37 (56.7 percent) with an interception. Without three drops, the numbers would have been a more Rodgers-like – 24/37 (64.8 percent) with no interceptions. Finley was hit in the hands and should have made the catch and SF took advantage. That, combined with Lacy’s fumble, made it tough to overcome.
Defense: The D had trouble getting off the field on third down all afternoon. six times SF converted on 3rd and 5-plus. No takeaways.
Special teams: The kickoff coverage team gave up 30 yards each on the two returnable kicks. Thankfully, Masthay was able to kick it deep most of the day.
Offense: While Mike McCarthy committed to the run, the lack of production in the first half was remarkable. Five yards on five rushes on first down in the half with one fumble is just horrible. That type of performance in the run game led to the offense going three and out five times on 12 total drives on Sunday, hence time of possession was an awful 38:25 to 21:35. The offense did virtually nothing on non-touchown drives. That makes it tough on the D, which leads to …
Defense: 400-plus yards passing for Kaepernick. Boldin had 13 catches for 208 yards, including one on a devastating fourth down conversion late in the fourth quarter to essentially seal the game for SF.
Special Teams: The average starting field position for the Packers was just inside their own 20. It was only that good due to the 49ers missed field goal in the first half. Penalties negated any decent return yardage and an ill-advised kickoff return from five yards deep in the end zone late in the game led to a final three and out from the nine yard line.
Overall, there is plenty of blame to go around for coming up short on Sunday. A game that the Packers nearly pulled out while having so many shortcomings is disappointing, but a rematch in the playoffs may swing in the Packers direction. I thought going into this game that the Packers would come up short so I wasn’t shocked, but to have it in reach and fall short, was frustrating.
RGIII and the Redskins come to Lambeau Field next week, so the Packers better improve in all three phases of the game or they could be looking at 0-2.