On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers entered Lambeau Field, a place they had not won since 1990, and dominated the Green Bay Packers in all phases of the game. The home team did manage a late rally to push fans to the edge of their seats, however, in the end it was an eye-opening road win for the 49ers in a game where Alex Smith outplayed Aaron Rodgers, leading San Francisco to a 30-22 victory.
Despite all the big names on the field, it was still the officiating crew that stole the show early. The officials seemed intent on giving 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh a heart attack, confirming all the concerns surrounding the use of replacement referees. On their very first punt, the 49ers were called for an illegal block above the waist, which seems almost impossible when you are punting, and later Aldon Smith was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet after it clearly was coming off due to the play. The officials also did the NFL fans a favor in turning the momentum of the game and keeping it competitive by picking up a flag on a block in the back and missing another one (during the same play) on Randall Cobb’s 78-yard punt return, turning a blow out into a nail biter.
By bottling up the Packers offense on Green Bay’s home field, the San Francisco defense made a loud statement that will be heard around the league. The line of scrimmage resembled a brick wall as it limited the Packers running attack to 45 yards.
With no option other than to resort to the passing game, Green Bay did had some success through the air but it was limited to short passes. Due to San Francisco’s sound tackling and rallying to the ball, Green Bay was never able to sustain any drives and get into any rhythm offensively. For a team that hangs their hat on the big play, the Packers were clearly frustrated with their inability to crack the San Francisco secondary, and this seemed to affect the Green Bay defense that appeared to give up late.
While the Packers offense was struggling, Alex Smith and the new-look 49er offense was moving the ball up and down the field at will. After punting on their first possession, the 49ers scored on five consecutive possessions and took the home fans out of the game early. Smith finished the day 20-for-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and unlike last year, it was the passing game that set up the running game. He took what the defense was giving him, did not force the ball and avoided any turnovers. Alex Smith looked just like the player he was last year, but with more confidence in himself and the system he is in. He did not appear flustered at any time, even when the Packers made it a eight-point game (twice).
The 49ers, led by running back Frank Gore, finished with 186 yards on the ground and had a balanced attack that kept the Packers off balance and guessing. Wide receiver Randy Moss in his 49er debut made his impact felt, despite limited action, with a 20-yard pass that set up a David Akers field goal, and later Moss scored his 14th touchdown against Green Bay. Receiver Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with seven.
It was fitting that the game came down to the Packers offense against the San Francisco defense in a one possession game with enough time on the clock for a final touchdown drive. On this day, the defense won, led by linebackers Navarro Bowmen and Ahmad Brooks making big plays late to seal the win. San Francisco will now return home to take on another pass-happy team in the Detroit Lions, featuring star receiver Calvin Johnson.
Lost in the excitement of the day was David Akers tying a NFL record with his 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half. The kick hit the crossbar and bounced up before clearing the bar. The lucky bounce energized the 49ers who stormed on the field to congratulate Akers. The punt coverage team did allow Cobb’s big return but it’s hard to tackle a guy while taking multiple blocks in the back.
The only real low point of the game came on Vernon Davis’ failed dunk attempt after his touchdown reception, resulting in a play that is sure to make the Not Top 10 this week. Overall the team looked good on offense, defense and on special team,s confirming that they are one of the most complete teams in the NFL.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found onExaminer.com.