- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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1. Full circle. The 49ers opened their regular season with a 30-22 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field. They jumped to leads of 10-0 and 23-7 before the Packers made the game close with Randall Cobb's disputed 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. Alex Smith completed 20-of-26 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers, a 125.6 NFL passer rating and 85.5 Total QBR score. Smith completed 15-of-16 passes when targeting wide receivers. That's a high bar to clear for Smith's replacement, Colin Kaepernick.
2. The Kaepernick dynamic. The Packers faced option plays and zone-read plays only twice during the regular season, the lowest figure in the NFL. They allowed minus-1 yard on these two plays. The 31 other teams faced an average of 14 such plays for 87.5 yards during the regular season. Green Bay's inexperience defending these plays could work to the 49ers' advantage if they unleash an option or zone-read package. Kaepernick had a 50-yard gain in the fourth quarter on a designed run against Miami. He had a 50-yard scramble against St. Louis, also in the fourth quarter. The Packers allowed 187 yards on 24 scrambles this season.
3. Don't forget Gore. Frank Gore carried 16 times for 112 yards against the Packers in Week 1. Gore and Adrian Peterson were the only running backs to top 100 yards rushing against the Packers in a game this season. Marshawn Lynch had 98 yards on 25 carries for Seattle against the Packers in Week 3. No one else had more than 84 yards against Green Bay. Gore had six rushes for 72 yards and a touchdown running outside the tackles.
4. Fatigue factor. The 49ers needed the bye week to rest. They rely upon a smaller number of defensive players to log a higher percentage of the snaps, putting them at risk for fatigue. That was a problem for the 49ers when New England had 90-plus offensive plays against San Francisco in Week 15. Green Bay had 61 plays against San Francisco in Week 1, a typical number. The Packers possessed the ball for 70-plus plays in games against Tennessee (76), Minnesota (73), Chicago (71), Arizona (70) and Houston (70). For the 49ers, nine players participated in at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps this season. The figure would have been 10 if Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith hadn't missed the final two-plus games.
5. Kicking games in focus. The 49ers and Packers have the three kickers with the lowest field-goal percentages for the 2012 regular season. Billy Cundiff, signed by the 49ers as insurance amid David Akers' struggles from 40-plus yards, made a league-low 58.3 percent of his field-goal tries this season (7-of-12). Green Bay's Mason Crosby was at 63.6 percent, the second-worst rate. Akers made 69 percent. Those three were the only qualifying kickers below 70 percent for the 2012 season. Akers' 63-yard field goal at Lambeau in the opener was a highlight for the 49ers that day. Seems like five years ago.
2dEric D. Williams
2dEric D. Williams