Sunday, September 9, 2012
Wrap-up: 49ers 30, Packers 22
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 30-22 victory at the Green Bay Packers in Week 1:
What it means: The 49ers affirmed their status as an NFC power, outplaying the Packers in a manner counter to suggestions some of their 2011 success was unsustainable. The game affirmed the progress quarterback Alex Smith showed last season, including when he led the 49ers past Drew Brees and New Orleans in the playoffs. Oh, and while David Akers was tying an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal, the 49ers' defense was exceeding even its own dominant standards. Any questions?
What I liked: Each season takes on its own identity. Success does not necessarily carry over. What I saw, however, was a 49ers team comfortable on the big stage after reaching the NFC Championship Game last season. The difference this time, however, was at wide receiver, a position the 49ers had to address after running low on players at the position when it mattered most last season.
Randy Moss' first-half touchdown reception over the middle showed the 49ers could get immediate contributions from their big-name offensive addition. Moss already had a 20-yard reception at that point in the game. He was more than a threat on reputation. He was a threat for how he could play. That was important for the 49ers.
Michael Crabtree, held to one catch for three yards against the New York Giants with a Super Bowl berth on the line, benefited from better talent around him. It helped, too, that the 49ers often had good pass protection early, including from left tackle Joe Staley against the Packers' Clay Matthews. Matthews did get to Smith with increasing frequency as the game progressed.
Frank Gore topped 100 yards rushing, putting away the game with an authoritative touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. Gore made his play after NaVorro Bowman's interception off Aaron Rodgers returned the momentum in the 49ers' favor following a disputed punt return for a Packers touchdown.
Akers' 63-yard field goal as the first half ended tied an NFL record while giving the 49ers a welcome boost and a 16-7 lead. The 49ers too frequently settled for field goals last season. Akers set an NFL record with 44 successful field goals last season. The 63-yarder was a kick the team could celebrate, and they did. Coach Jim Harbaugh jumped along the sideline.
The 49ers' defense made timely plays and effectively used a reconfigured sub package featuring Perrish Cox, even when it meant taking Patrick Willis off the field.
What I didn't like: The 49ers caught a tough break early when officials flagged Aldon Smith for removing his helmet. Smith's helmet was already coming off while he sacked Rodgers. Smith did not help his cause by grabbing his helmet and removing it fully as it was coming off.
Later, officials appeared to miss a clear block in the back during Randall Cobb's 75-yard punt-return touchdown to pull Green Bay within eight points in the fourth quarter. The return hurt even more when officials picked up the flag they had thrown during the return.
The officiating frustration continued when officials ruled Gore short of the first-down marker, then upheld the call on a challenge from coach Jim Harbaugh. That left San Francisco with no challenges remaining.
Enough nit-picking on the officiating. There was too much for the 49ers to like in this game.
What's next: The 49ers are home against Detroit in Week 2. They kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET from Candlestick Park.