- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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An examination of four hot issues from the 49ers' 34-28 win over the Packers:
Kaepernick’s arm: The Green Bay Packers have to be flummoxed. In their last game against the 49ers, in the playoffs in January, the Packers saw Colin Kaepernick run for 181 yards. The Packers spent the offseason trying to learn how to better defend the read-option. What happened in their opener at San Francisco on Sunday? Kaepernick ditched the read-option for the most part and threw for a career-high 412 yards. Kaepernick was brilliant. He was nearly flawless, hitting new receiver Anquan Boldin 13 times for 208 yards and tight end Vernon Davis six times for 98 yards. Kaepernick had a Total QBR of 89.8 on Sunday, the second highest of his career and the highest QBR against the Packers in the regular season since 2009. It was a message from Kaepernick that he can win with his arm just as much with his legs.
Blown call: Referee Bill Leavy said after the game he and his crew made a mistake in the second quarter. An extra third-down play was handed to San Francisco after a wild melee resulting in offsetting 15-yard penalties on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews (who clobbered Kaepernick) and San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley, who attacked Matthews in defense of his quarterback. The 49ers should have faced fourth-and-2 from the Packers’ 6-yard line, but officials spotted the ball back at the 10-yard line and made it third-and-6 again. The 49ers scored a touchdown on the next play to take a 14-7 lead with 8:57 remaining in the first half. Had it faced fourth down, San Francisco likely would have opted for a field goal. According to ESPN Stats & Information's win probability calculator, the 49ers had a 76.6 percent chance to win after scoring that touchdown. If the correct ruling was applied and the 49ers made a field goal on fourth down, their win probability would have been 64.5. Do I think Green Bay was robbed? No. It happened early. San Francisco won by six, the Packers controlled the game and Matthews started the melee with a silly, dirty hit.
49ers' defense comes up big: Yes, Green Bay scored 28 points, but this was a good day for the 49rs’ defense. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 330 yards, but the 49ers pressured him well. According to ESPN Stats & Information, when the 49ers sent extra heat on Rodgers, he converted a first down just twice on third down. San Francisco’s run defense continued to be stout. Green Bay had 63 yards on 19 carries and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. The 49ers allowed a average of 3.7 yards per carry last season. It was the third-best mark in the NFL.
Some cleaning up to do: For the most part, this was an excellent opener for San Francisco. Kaepernick was special. The receivers came up big, the offensive line was fantastic and the running game moved the chains when it wanted to. San Francisco also had success on defense. Still, there is some work to do. The 49ers had some mistakes and some lulls in the secondary. Also, San Francisco had 11 penalties for 85 yards. That’s too many for a good team. With an NFC West rivalry game approaching in Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers have some things to address.