49ers vs Packers: 10 Things We Learned from San Francisco's 30-22 Win
The San Francisco 49ers really know how to make themselves feel at home, regardless of how far away from home they may actually be.
After toppling the Green Bay Packers 30-22 at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Jim Harbaugh's squad sent a startling wake-up call to anyone left sleeping on the defending NFC West champions.
San Francisco proved throughout 2011 they could handle their business on the road, but few of last year's road wins came in as convincing a fashion as this.
Especially when you consider the Pack hadn't lost a regular-season matchup at Lambeau since October of 2010.
The impressive, well-rounded play from the men in Red and Gold speaks for itself, but there are plenty of things we can say we learned from Sunday's action.
Alex Smith's Significant Progress Hasn't Been Overly Hyped
Alex Smith's stat line on Sunday: 20-for-26, 211 yards, 2 TD, 125.6 passer rating.
It was one game, but it's one hell of a start for No. 11. He picked up right where he left off in the NFC playoffs, and distributed the ball with near perfection the entire contest.
Alex did sail a couple of throws, but it appeared he was going to make sure no pass attempts would fall into the laps of the Packers' ball-hawking defenders.
Other than that, he was on the money, once again committing zero turnovers in a game. Alex was willing to take what the defense was giving, as designed, and it was more than enough to head back to the Bay Area with a win
According to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, the 49ers QB set the franchise record for consecutive passes thrown without an interception (dating back to last year), previously held by Steve Young, with 185.
Aaron Rodgers Will Pay for His Friendly Wager One Way or Another
TMZ recently reported that Rodgers agreed to a bet with R&B group Boyz II Men that would require the All-Pro QB to sport an Alex Smith 49ers jersey if the Packers lost on Sunday.
If this is true, it will be interesting to find out Rodgers owns up to his wager.
If he did indeed agree to such a bet and isn't donning the Red and Gold on Monday, it'll be awhile before he lives it down.
If he does wear the jersey, I wouldn't be surprised if head coach Mike McCarthy has his superstar QB running a few extra laps after practice this week.
The 49ers Secondary Has Clearly Become a Strength
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith and the pass rush remained a factor throughout the game as expected, but it was the 49ers secondary that shined the brightest.
Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell's unit was the only area of the 49ers D that presented questions marks in 2011, but he didn't wait long to put them to rest this year.
Even when the defensive front was unable to put pressure on Rodgers, Green Bay's signal-caller still struggled to find open receivers.
When he did, the secondary responded with blanket coverage much of the game.
Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver each batted balls on potential big plays, with Culliver's coming on fourth down to clinch the win.
It's evident this unit has put in the required work this offseason to understand defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's complex defensive schemes in full.
Replacement Refs Piled Up a Season's Worth of Botched Calls in 60 Minutes
The crew of replacement referees at Lambeau on Sunday did nail a couple of tough penalty calls, but they were quickly lost in a sea of miscues.
The pass interference calls were as inconsistent as I've ever seen. At times, it looked as though they wanted to let the two teams go at it. Then, they would throw a flag just for the sake of it.
Then there was the 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Packers WR Randall Cobb. The referees made a correct call on what was clearly a block in the back on 49ers RB Anthony Dixon, but decided to pick up the flag.
These among many, many more.
One thing we can say is that the screw-ups affected both squads equally, it seemed. San Francisco may have ended up on the worse end, but this was an all around embarrassment for this crew of referees.
What We Saw from Randy Moss Was Only the Tip of the Iceberg
The 49ers offense wasn't injected with a heavy dose of Randy Moss, partly because it wasn't necessary.
When the future Hall of Fame WR stepped on the field, his presence was felt.
Moss hauled in four catches on the day, totaling 47 yards. The main highlight was his 14-yard TD catch from Alex, when the QB found him wide open in the end zone.
That seemed to be the story of the day for Moss. When he was on the field, he was open.
Green Bay seemed so concerned with the 35-year-old beating them deep that Moss was eating them up on intermediate routes. He was only targeted four times, but he caught each pass with ease.
No. 84 is going to be causing some serious headaches for defensive coordinators this year.
Opponents Will Struggle to Game Plan for the 49ers Offense All Year
With or without Randy Moss, this offense has some serious weapons.
Frank Gore was his reliable self (16 carries, 112 yards, 1 TD), and Kendall Hunter did some damage of his own in the running game with 41 yards on nine rushes.
Even backup QB Colin Kaepernick got in on the action with a 17-yard scamper just before halftime.
And that's just the running game, which went for 186 yards on the day.
Alex found six receivers in all, including newcomer Mario Manningham on four different occasions.
With everybody doing their part, opponents will have to stay on their toes at all times.
RB Brandon Jacobs and WR Ted Ginn Jr. didn't even suit up, nor did rookie LaMichael James.
The 49ers ran numerous offensive sets throughout the game, and most everyone looked comfortable doing it.
San Fran even beat the Pack in total yards, with 377 to Green Bay's 324.
David Akers Wasn't Satisfied with Record-Setting Performance in 2011
Less than a year after shattering NFL kicking records, Akers found himself with a chance at a record-tying 63-yard field goal as the first half was about to expire.
He nailed it.
Akers needed every inch, but the football bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights, becoming one of four kickers to boot a 63-yard field goal in an NFL game.
Akers, along with All-Pro punter Andy Lee (51.2 average on five punts), was brilliant on Sunday. He added two more FGs of 40 and 43 yards, going a perfect 3-for-3 in the game.
Vernon Davis Chose the Right Profession
Vernon Davis was the recipient of one of Alex Smith's two touchdown passes, but he's going to take a good ribbing for the celebration that followed.
If you haven't seen it, click here.
Davis hauled in a nice throw-and-catch to give the 49ers a 16-point lead at the time, but it appeared he mistimed his jump when dunking the ball over the crossbar, and botched the attempt completely.
If you look close, you'll notice Davis begins his ascent from the letters in the end zone. I wonder if Michael Jordan could nail that dunk in a full set of football pads.
I wouldn't doubt it.
NaVorro Bowman's Sophomore Season Wasn't a Fluke
Perhaps no play was bigger than Bowman's interception after the Packers had trimmed the 49ers lead to eight points and taken the ball back.
With tying the game on his mind early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers sent an uncharacteristically ill-advised pass over the middle and into path of the 49ers All-Pro inside linebacker, who seemed to have surprised Rodgers by dropping into coverage.
Bowman also had 11 tackles and two passes defensed on the day.
One game into his third NFL season, this guy has quickly become one of the top linebackers in the league, and he validated that assessment in Green Bay.
Aside from their numbers, there's really no telling he and five-time All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis apart.
Kyle Williams Isn't a Liability in the Return Game
Williams had been waiting a long time for this, if only to wash away whatever pain that lingered from the NFC Championship Game.
He fought through the criticism of his mistakes and latched on to his team's support, not only making the 49ers 53-man roster to start the season, but finding himself right back where it all started—returning punts.
Williams looked calm and comfortable—just like in the preseason—fielding punts. He also returned the only one he didn't fair catch for 20 yards.
Ted Ginn Jr. is undoubtedly the team's most dynamic threat in the return game, but it was a relief to see Williams step up and fill the void without any issues.
I expected as much, but it was relieving nonetheless.
The 49ers Are the Team to Beat in the NFC
Bold statement? Maybe, maybe not.
Regardless, out of the NFC's four playoff teams who advanced to the Divisional Round last season, San Francisco is the only one who came out victorious in Week 1.
The Packers lost at home, obviously, and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants failed to defend their home turf against the Cowboys on Wednesday night. The New Orleans Saints dropped one at home, too. Against the RGIII-led Redskins, no less.
So, who is going to challenge this talent-laden 49ers squad for NFC supremacy?
Of course, the Packers will be around come January. Most teams look much different come playoff time then they do in the first week of the season.
Still, it's growing abundantly clear that the 49ers are the NFC's team to beat, and a win next week against the Lions at The Stick will only cement that status.
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