It's hard to come up with this after what feels like a devastating gut-punch loss...maybe because it was a pretty icky loss. The good news is that there's a lot to learn from this game going ahead and that there are 15 more games remaining for the Green Bay Packers.
What's the worst that can happen?
Please, don't answer that question.
After the jump, the impact plays of the Packers' loss to San Francisco, their first loss in a season opener since 2006.
The first play is, quite obviously, Randall Cobb's punt return for a touchdown. There were some pretty close calls with this one, and if your first instinct upon seeing the flag was to go "This isn't going to count", nobody blames you. Who knew that the refs were going to announce that there was no foul for an illegal block in the back?
While about the entire kick return unit deserves credit for springing Cobb to his huge play, there were two pivotal blocks in particular. The legality of the blocks is ambiguous, to be certain, but without them, Cobb may never have reached the endzone. Terrell Manning and Brad Jones both put their assignments on the turf, and (unfortunately not in this GIF) Andy Lee missed a tackle along the sideline, allowing Cobb to race into the endzone, cutting San Francisco's lead to 23-15 (after a successful 2-point conversion).
Cobb's return TD opened the gates for the Packer offense and swung the momentum of the game. However, a very rare Aaron Rodgers turnover deep in Green Bay territory by Navorro Bowman put the defense on the field. The defense (which was highly ineffective against San Francisco's passing game) finally caved with a devastating TD run by Frank Gore just one play after the turnover that put SF on top for good.
(also via assets.sbnation.com)
You can see on this play exactly where the linebackers where (which is to say, nowhere in the ZIP code). The lead blocker on the play (Bruce Miller) springs Gore by forcing Charles Woodson and D.J. Smith to slow down and alter their route to Gore. A.J. Hawk appears to want nothing to do with the play (or takes that bad of an angle, you make the call). Without Miller's well-timed fall (and Morgan Burnett's EPIC FAIL of a tackling attempt inside the 5), Frank Gore does not reach the endzone. Tramon Williams manages to lay the boom on Gore, but unfortunately, that hit came too late to affect the outcome of the play. SF 30, Green Bay 15. Ugh.
Aaron Rodgers was able to connect with James Jones for a 10 yard gain with 6 minutes remaining, but the Green Bay offense was unable to do much more afterwards. The 49ers led from start to finish and won 30-22.
While the Randall Cobb PR TD and the Rodgers strike to James Jones for a score were both pretty spectacular plays, unfortunately, the 49ers were able to more than match the Packers in terms of impact plays for Week 1. Whether it was stifling any semblance of a stable running game or making connections to Jermichael Finley difficult, SF's more than answered the call, and Green Bay's defense looked...exactly like it did last season, except without the multiple forced turnovers.
The good news is Clay Matthews is awesome, right?