49ers 34, Packers 28: Game Balls and Lame Calls

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Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was a positive for the Packers, except for one play that landed him on the Lame Calls list.
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was a positive for the Packers, except for one play that landed him on the Lame Calls list.

For the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, the 2013 season opener looked a lot like how the 2012 season ended.

In January, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick racked up 181 yards on the ground, thanks in part to the read-option. The Packers schemed for Kaepernick’s legs this time around, holding him to just 22 rushing yards, but the rocket-armed quarterback did more than enough damage with his arm, throwing for a personal-best 412 yards and three touchdowns against a shorthanded secondary.

“If intimidation is your game plan, I hope you have a better one,” Kaepernick said after the game.

Losing a close Week 1 game against a team that many consider to be the best in the NFL is no reason to panic. But clearly, the Packers and 49ers don’t like each other.

Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco before becoming the head man in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers, a California native, was once bypassed by the 49ers with the No. 1 overall draft pick in favor of Alex Smith. Rodgers has risen to the NFL elite by playing with a chip on his shoulder and proving people wrong.

But as things currently stand, Rodgers is 2-3 against his hometown team with all three of those losses coming in the past 12 months.

I try really hard to avoid my Twitter timeline during Packers games, or any sporting event, for that matter. It seems like people tweet just to tweet, just like if you’re watching with your friends at a bar, there’s always one guy who talks just to talk.

And after losing three consecutive games to to the same team in one year’s span, much of the Packers’ passionate fan base erupted over Twitter far before the game had even come close to reaching its conclusion. It’s certainly not just Packers fans that do this; I’m a Packers fan myself and will never group everyone into the same group by saying, “Packers fans” are this or that.

But there are, in fact, good players on the other 31 teams, as well. The Packers came close to going undefeated in the 2011 season, but that shouldn’t be the expectation. They’re going to lose games, and opposing players are going to make good plays. It’s football.

Perhaps over the course of my time on Twitter, I’ve followed too many fans or just some of the wrong ones. Reading the comments here on the site, I know there are plenty of realistic fans out there. For a fan, being passionate about your team is great, but how could someone watch the Packers on Sunday and rush to the conclusion that they have no chance whatsoever against the 49ers like my Twitter timeline suggested throughout the game and following the game on Sunday?

The Packers turned the ball over twice; the 49ers didn’t turn the ball over. The Packers held a lead in the fourth quarter after a touchdown plunge by Eddie Lacy. They were in position to win the game, despite playing far from flawless football, especially early in the game.

Perspective is a great thing.

Game Balls

QB Aaron Rodgers

Against a defense that many consider to be the best in the league, Rodgers was right on the money throughout most of the afternoon. He missed on a couple throws, but his lone interception wasn’t his fault in the slightest.

Rodgers was only sacked twice and had tremendous control of the offense. He and his receivers targeted the once-elite Nnamdi Asomugha throughout the afternoon, totaling 333 yards through the air. Coming off an impressive individual showing against a top-notch defense, I’m sensing a big day for Rodgers in the home opener against the Washington Redskins.

WR Jordy Nelson

Despite missing most of training camp, Nelson was the team’s leading receiver in Week 1, bringing in seven catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. It’s to the point that when Nelson gets the ball, the first defender in his way might as well be invisible.

Nelson is simply too big and strong for most defensive backs to bring down in the open field. Between his acrobatic, toe-touch grab on the 49ers sideline in the fourth quarter and his go-up-and-get-it grab in traffic down the right sideline in the first half, Nelson was one of the teams most valuable players on Sunday.

WR Randall Cobb

Cobb caught seven balls for 104 yards, including the team’s first touchdown of the season. He was targeted a team-high 12 times and made several difficult catches on the afternoon.

If there’s one Packers receiver that seems to be a good bet for a big day no matter what the opposing defense does, it’s Cobb. He certainly looks like Rodgers’ go-to guy, and the team utilizes his skill set by moving him all over the formation. I predicted that Cobb would catch 100 passes if he plays all 16 games, and he’s on pace after catching seven balls in the opener.

LT David Bakhtiari

In his first regular-season game as the Packers’ starting left tackle, Bakhtiari fared pretty well against Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and the league’s top front seven. Left tackle was going to be a question mark coming into the season even before Bryan Bulaga suffered a torn ACL.

Now, with a rookie protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, the Packers are skating on thin ice when it comes to the tackle position. If Bakhtiari or Don Barclay go down, the team would turn to Marshall Newhouse. Only one game is in the books, but Bakhtiari certainly passed his first NFL test.

Lame Calls

Botched Call on Post-Whistle Scuffle

After Clay Matthews was flagged for a late hit, the 49ers were also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The ruling was that the two penalties would offset, and they’d replay third down; however, the play should have counted since it was a post-whistle foul, meaning the play should have ended in a fourth-and-two.

This followed a questionable decision by Packers coach Mike McCarthy, bypassing a fourth-and-one in favor of giving the 49ers another crack on third down. Whether McCarthy made the right decision or not, the officials botched the ruling after the post-whistle scrum.

Turnovers: Finley/Rodgers interception, Lacy fumble

It’s really unfortunate when a quarterback throws a perfect ball to a receiver, and the play results in an interception. Aaron Rodgers threw a dart to Finley, but the ball bounced off his hands and into the arms of 49ers rookie Eric Reid. In the box score, interceptions are charged to the quarterback. But a turnover is a turnover, and this one was on Finley.

And despite Eddie Lacy scoring his first NFL touchdown in the fourth quarter, he ends up on the Lame List thanks to an early fumble. McCarthy has a short fuse with turnovers, and following the fumble, he pulled the rookie briefly in favor of James Starks. Lacy returned with the No. 1 offense, and he’s clearly the team’s lead back, but fumbles will not be tolerated by the head coach.

Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis

The 49ers are a really good team. And specifically on offense, there are a number of ways they can beat you. On Sunday against the Packers, the majority of the 49ers’ damage came from three players: Kaepernick, Boldin and Davis.

After Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards in January, the Packers made it a priority to prevent Kaepernick from escaping the pocket. And while he fell short of his personal best on the ground, he threw for a career-high 412 yards against a leaky Packers secondary. Kaenperick’s No.1 target was Boldin, whom the 49ers acquired from the Baltimore Ravens this summer, for just a sixth-round pick. In his 49ers debut, Boldin had a game-high 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. He was–and probably still is–a beast.

And Vernon Davis not only caught two touchdowns agains the Packers, but unlike last year’s season opener, the ball cleared the goalpost on his post-touchdown celebration; Davis and Boldin totaled 306 yards and three touchdowns.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • mark

    Lets not forget to give a lame call to Jeremy Ross for twice running the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs. Both of those decisions really hurt the offense. Hopefully he will learn not to do that again unless they are playing a team that is totally undisciplined on special teams.

    • Michael from Winnipeg

      Agreed. We didnt have great field position all game. Seemed like we were always starting on our 20 or less.

    • mike

      i think its time to part ways with ross and bring white up from the p.s

    • aaronqb

      According to Bob McGinn, bringing the ball out was the right call; a block was missed. That is not on Ross.

      I’m not defending Ross and think he’s marginal on the roster, but the last return is not on him.

      • ChukyChez1

        2 Packers let 2 SF gunners run right past them, to drop Ross on the 6. With all the mistakes, poor calls by MM, clock management, missed calls by Refs. We still had a chance to win.

  • wng_z3r0

    No Josh Sitton?

  • NYPACKER

    How about Sitton? Three major penalties. He just couldn’t block Justin Smith

  • John Zoul

    Offensive line did a commendable job…Lacey looked strong in the 4th qtr…Sitton, 3 big penalties in the 1st half, as he was dominated by Justin Smith…Rodgers was excellent…Finley made one great play, blew an easy 20-yard catch without being touched which created an interception, our defensive line played very well, limiting their run game to one big play-23 yards. Our middle LB’s, safeties, and anyone supposed to be covering Boldin was terrible…making Boldin look like an All-pro, which he is not…Jeremy Ross did nothing, but, make moe poor decisions, and should be seriously considered for release…Jennings was lost in coverage all day and should be cut…Jarrett Bush was similar to Jennings…
    All-in-all: Good, Bad, and Ugly…
    I like the way we came back in the 4th quarter…but, our secondary let us down all day and again on 4th-and-2 with the game on the line…

    • bubbaloo

      Secondary, what secondary? Nightmares of 2011, it Deja Vu all over again.

  • Turophile

    I’d add a GAME BALL to the D line. They held up well against the best O line in the NFL with very good RBs and they contained a truly dangerous QB.

    I’d add a LAME BALL to Capers. When it was clear he wasn’t running much, I’d be switching the corners to man coverage often. Packers corners play better in man than zone and it would have made Boldin’s job tougher. I would also have liked a little more blitz with a spy for the QB. Not huge numbers of blitz plays, because you can lose contain on Kaepernick all too easily, but just a few more ‘Jet’ calls. Finally, there is the much hated soft-zone when the other side need a lot of yards and only one go at it. Please play a soft zone that is just a LITTLE less soft, just a little.

    • Archie

      GREAT COMMENTS! Capers can’t seem to balance things out. Either he stops the pass and teams run hogwild on the Pack or vice versa. Capers gives up more “career days” to players than any other DC. Dom Capers is the reason the Packers defense is thought to be soft. How can they think guys like McMillian, Jennings and Hawk are players? I would cut all three pronto. Ditto Ross on ST.

      • Dave D

        Capers is brutal, as was said he can stop the pass or run not both. The Packer defense had a chance to make a statement;
        The Packers take the lead for the first time with 8 min and change left in the game. All they had to do was make a stop and Rodger’s and company may have put the game on ice. BUT the “D” allows a touchdown in just a few plays 5 or six perhaps. Just not a good way to start a season. Capers as I said is brutal and he needs to go.

  • Dobber

    How about Tim Masthay? Punted effectively and made a kick-ass tackle on a KO return…

    • Turophile

      Yep, give some love to that punter. Another thing that gets forgotten – when did you last see long snapper Goode make a bad snap. The guy is about as perfect as you can get every time.

  • Newhaven

    I think it’s time the polar bear gives Kerry Rhodes a call. Jennings and McMillian were pathetic!

    • http://MSN Mark

      BINGO!!!!!

  • Germ Ike Al

    I still cant believe the NFL didnt look into the brotherly collusion that allowed a #1 WR to go for a 6th round pick. I wish McCarthy had a brother who was a coach…

  • GBPDAN

    People can say what they want about not having Burnet and Hayward. ..the niners balanced that out by not having Crabtree and Manningham. Ya, Crabtree. .thats the guy we couldn’t stop last year in the playoffs when we had all our DBs. Bottom line. ..our DBs look completly confused in Zone…they basically have since Capers took over (except 2010). I am not a Dom Capers fan anymore. His scheme maybe fine and its players that make plays, BUT, if the personnel you are working with are incapable of running your scheme, then run a scheme your players work best with.no half time adjustments once again for Dom Capers!

  • Art

    How about a lame ball to the coaching staff. The refs reminded us of last year in Seattle with a bad call, but this time it was a wrong call by not changing the offsetting penalties to 4th down instead of 3rd down. Why didn’t the GB coaching staff know the rule! Lame ball to the coaching staff, can’t blame the refs.

  • James David

    GB should return WR Cobb to KR duties. Let us hope to see more of RB Lacy catching passes where he operates so well in space. Replace TE Finley with WR Boykin on third down plays to help move the chains. I want to see a better pass rush and better safety play. GB needs CB House to cover big receivers.

    • bobalou13

      Exactly, I can not for the life of me figure out why we didn’t bring in House to put on Boldin. He is by far the most physical corner we have. And while I’m at it, I wish everyone would stop with the raving about Micah Hyde. The guy is NOT an NFL corner, nor is he a nickel guy to put on a slot receiver, he’s a safety. I’m an Iowa guy and I saw a ton of him in college. Not for a minute did I think he would be anything other than a safety in the league. He is just not fast enough, never has been.

  • GBPDAN

    I agree bobalou, the should move him to saftey when Hayward gets bad…this team needs saftey help

  • Tundraboy

    I am so tired of the “fumbles” are inexcusable” theory of coaching when its is wrongly appliesd. It was not like Lacy carelesslt coughed up the ball. In fact it is on MM calling that play when (1) they were not successful running right up the middle all day and (2) were pinned back. I also wonder why Quarless does not play in general and when Finley keeps dropping passes at critical times. It is crushing as well when they kill drives. Quarless would help out with blocking.

  • Shavager

    McCarthy runs a “west coast” offense–those long TD’s from Montana to Rice were the result of yards after catch by Rice. It’s time for McCarthy to focus more on short passing game instead of the long ball so much, Rodgers needs to keep the chains moving instead of quick scores. Packers’ weakness is defense, especially secondary and Capers “D” is not great in man to man, too much soft coverage in zone. Need some better play from his defenders or some NEW defenders or a new scheme-that means a NEW coordinator. It’s a FACT JACK, the Niners know Capers’ schemes like they own his playbook, that doesn’t spell success or wins, period.

  • Shavager

    A P.S. on Ross–don’t know what McCarthy’s instructions to him were but when Kuhn was waving off a return and Ross leaves the endzone with a return that nets 10 yds–he goes to the bench until he learns different. He has talent and speed, he needs better vision and instruction especially against an opponent Packers can’t make mistakes against and stay in the game.