The Packers needed this win to stay ahead in the crowded NFC wild card race. That it was against another team battling for a wild card spot is an added bonus.
But the season ending injuries to LB Aaron Kampman and CB Al Harris really hurt. I covered that in an earlier post. Another injury to keep an eye on is that Mike McCarthy said RB Ryan Grant suffered a stinger late in the game.
It was a tale of two halves. The Packers dominated the 1st half on both sides of the ball. But in the 2nd half, the 49ers went to the spread offense with QB Alex Smith almost exclusively in the shotgun. They were able to protect Smith and give him time to find anyone mismatched in single coverage against TE Vernon Davis down the middle. Their defense made stops on 3rd downs, forcing four 2nd half punts by the Packers, but on the Packers final drive, they converted twice on 3rd down and were able to run out the final 6 minutes of the clock.
The overall stats were in the Packers favor vs. the 49ers: 484 yards on offense vs. 284, 10 for 18 on 3rd down vs. 3 for 11, and 41:39 time of possession vs. 18:21.
In the end, a good game leaves a bad taste in my mouth after the 2nd half letdown and the injuries to Kampman and Harris. My complete game recap is after the jump.
Play-by-play from NFL.com:
(13:55) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 88-J.Finley to SF 47 for 20 yards (26-M.Roman).
It was the first game back for TE Jermichael Finley and he made a big catch and run on 3rd down to keep the first drive alive.
(13:10) 25-R.Grant right guard to SF 37 for 10 yards (38-D.Goldson).
(12:33) 25-R.Grant left end to SF 11 for 26 yards (25-T.Brown, 38-D.Goldson).
I expected RB Ryan Grant would have trouble running against a very good 49ers run defense. But the offensive line opened up some big lanes for him early, and controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game. This was certainly the best game of the season for the offensive line.
(10:21) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right to 88-J.Finley (52-P.Willis).
(2:35) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short left to 32-B.Jackson.
Two 1st quarter drives went inside the 49ers 10 yard line and ended on two incomplete passes on 3rd down. They were forced to settle for 2 FGs. I wouldn't say the red zone offense has been a problem for the Packers this season, but it sure wasn't in the 1st half.
(10:07) 21-F.Gore up the middle pushed ob at GB 38 for 42 yards (36-N.Collins).
I point out this play because it was basically the entirety of the 49ers offense for the first half. They settled for a FG 3 plays later. The 49ers had 3 more possessions in the 1st half for a total of 6 yards on 12 plays.
(1:31) 4-A.Lee punts 51 yards to GB 32, Center-86-B.Jennings. 38-T.Williams to GB 38 for 6 yards (26-M.Roman). Penalty on GB-33-B.Underwood, Running Into the Kicker, declined.
P Andy Lee is very good, so it's not surprising that 4 of his 5 punts went for over 50 yards. The only one that went for under 50 was returned by CB Tramon Williams for 27 yards and set up their final FG of the half. But the punt coverage really struggled in the 1st half, and bailed the 49ers out of some bad field position.
(12:59) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right. PENALTY on GB-12-A.Rodgers, Intentional Grounding, 15 yards, enforced at SF 33.
The complaints that QB Aaron Rodgers is holding on to the ball too long won't go away after this game. Just a terrible decision to run backwards 15 yards before getting called for the penalty. And this wasn't the only time it happened. It's too bad because it took away from his otherwise fantastic game. The penalty killed a good drive, deep in 49ers territory, and they punted on the play after.
(8:59) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short middle to 85-G.Jennings for 64 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
All the lost yardage on punt returns is sometimes easily made up by Rodgers to Jennings. Just a fantastic play by WR Greg Jennings, as he made a move at mid-field that caused two members of the 49ers secondary to run into each other. Great downfield blocking by his teammates too (Jordy!!!). The replay is here.
(8:47) 11-A.Smith sacked at SF 11 for -9 yards (77-C.Jenkins).
After 49ers starting LG David Baas was hurt near the end of the 1st quarter, DE Cullen Jenkins had a big 2nd quarter against the backup.
(7:29) 4-A.Lee punts 54 yards to GB 29, Center-86-B.Jennings, downed by SF-46-D.Walker. PENALTY on GB-94-J.Wynn, Illegal Block Above the Waist, 10 yards, enforced at GB 29.
More bad punt coverage. This non-catch, the punt must have rolled 10 yards, and penalty gave the 49ers almost 60 net yards on this one.
(6:33) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short left to 32-B.Jackson to GB 34 for 16 yards (36-S.Spencer).
On 3rd and 11, Rodgers dumped off to RB Brandon Jackson for a 16 yard gain and a 1st down. I've been waiting for Jackson to break out as a receiver for 3 seasons now. A single game with 6 catches for 65 yards doesn't equal a breakout, but this might be the start of things to come. TE Donald Lee was only targeted for 2 passes, both incompletions, including another dropped pass. Maybe the running backs will be used more for checkdown passes going forward. Or maybe sure handed TE Spencer Havner will be replacing Lee in the future.
(2:33) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 87-J.Nelson for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
After Jackson's catch-and-run kept the drive alive, it eventually led to a TD for WR Jordy Nelson, his 2nd of the season. He's another player I'd love to see more involved in the offense. Here's the replay.
(:09) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers right end ran ob at SF 9 for 4 yards (25-T.Brown).
(:01) 2-M.Crosby 27 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-61-B.Goode, Holder-10-M.Flynn.
I thought Rodgers was going to run out of bounds too late, but he did manage to leave 1 second on the clock. Unfortunately it led to the 3rd FG of the half. The Packers settled for FGs on 3 drives that were inside the 49ers 10 yard line. The half could have gone even worse for the 49ers than just 23-3.
(11:28) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass incomplete short right to 21-F.Gore [52-C.Matthews].
This incompletion on 4th down was one of the few big stops for the Packers defense in the 2nd half. The two big differences in the 2nd half were that the 49ers only ran the ball twice in the half, and QB Alex Smith only ran one play from under center. Nearly every play was out of the shotgun. Mike McCarthy agreed that the shotgun gave Smith just enough time to start finding the open receivers.
(11:17) 25-R.Grant right end to GB 39 for 11 yards (38-D.Goldson). PENALTY on GB-63-S.Wells, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at GB 28 - No Play.
The Packers weren't plagued by penalties, but this turned out to be a costly one in hindsight. The 49ers offense was getting warmed up, and an extended drive would have kept them off the field. Instead, it turned into 2nd and 20. They punted 2 plays later.
(8:53) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass deep middle to 85-V.Davis to GB 28 for 29 yards (24-J.Bush).
The biggest beneficiary of the shotgun and extra protection for Smith was TE Vernon Davis. He beat CB Jarrett Bush on this play, but he burned others too.
(7:35) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass deep left to 15-M.Crabtree for 38 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
On the first play after LB Aaron Kampman tore his ACL, WR Michael Crabtree got past CB Al Harris deep for the TD. He was right there on the coverage, but Crabtree got a little separation at the end to get open. At first, it looked like he shoved Harris, but on the replay it looked like he just timed his leap better.
(15:00) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers sacked at SF 49 for -12 yards (98-P.Haralson).
Here's the other sack (technically the first one was an intentional grounding) when Rodgers held the ball too long. LT Chad Clifton had the linebacker blocked way out of the play, but Rodgers ran right into it as he scrambled to his right instead of stepping up into the pocket. And for the 2nd time in the game, another good drive into 49ers territory is sacked back into a punt.
(13:40) 7-J.Kapinos punts 38 yards to SF 1, Center-61-B.Goode, downed by GB-29-D.Martin. Yard marker changed due to change of possesssion.
(13:31) 11-A.Smith pass deep left intended for 85-V.Davis INTERCEPTED by 36-N.Collins at SF 21. 36-N.Collins to SF 11 for 10 yards (46-D.Walker).
(11:15) 25-R.Grant right guard for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
A rare great special teams moment pinned the 49ers down at their 2 yard line. Due to the field position, Smith had to line up under center (for the only time in the half), he overthrew his receiver, and right at FS Nick Collins. It led to a TD 4 plays later. These three plays within this 3 minute span pulled the game out for the Packers when it looked like they might collapse again like they did back in Tampa.
2-M.Crosby kicks 70 yards from GB 30 to SF 0. 84-J.Morgan to GB 24 for 76 yards (33-B.Underwood).
Unfortunately the previous great punt coverage is almost entirely wiped out by the awful kick coverage. And the 49ers return game had been in the dumps all season long.
(10:42) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass deep middle to 85-V.Davis for 24 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Although LB Clay Matthews couldn't have done much better in coverage, maybe the safety was late helping deep, and Smith threw a perfect pass. Davis burned nearly everyone who covered him. Except, after this TD, I thought I noticed CB Charles Woodson covering Davis. Whatever changed after this TD reception, it was his last catch of the game.
(9:11) 12-A.Rodgers sacked at GB 25 for -6 yards (99-M.Lawson).
This was a big sack on 3rd down. LB Manny Lawson got RT Mark Tauscher back on his heels, and ran inside on him for the sack. Though we could give Tauscher a mulligan on it because this was the longest he had played all season, in only his 2nd game back. I don't think he came back in the game, and I thought RT T.J. Lang, who subbed for Tauscher on at least one earlier series, finished off the game.
(8:02) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass deep middle to 88-I.Bruce to 50 for 20 yards (38-T.Williams).
(7:20) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass deep right to 15-M.Crabtree to GB 15 for 35 yards (38-T.Williams). Green Bay challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #2.)
(6:02) (Shotgun) 11-A.Smith pass short right to 21-F.Gore for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The wide receivers of the 49ers only had 110 yards combined in this game, but 55 on those two plays alone. This was the 1st drive when it seemed like they missed Harris, and some players might have been confused in coverage. The TD pass to RB Frank Gore was definitely a blown coverage as Woodson was frantically pointing to Gore's spot before the play.
(4:22) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 88-J.Finley to GB 20 for 5 yards (32-M.Lewis).
(2:32) 12-A.Rodgers right guard to SF 48 for 2 yards (56-S.McKillop).
Finally the offense was able to convert on two big 3rd down plays, and eat up the rest of the clock.