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49ers vs. Packers: Green Bay's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 1

Brian CarriveauContributor IDecember 5, 2016

49ers vs. Packers: Green Bay's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 1

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    The Green Bay Packers got off to a disappointing start to their 2012 season after losing to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.

    A 30-22 loss meant the Packers start their season at 0-1, which equals their regular-season loss total from a season ago when they went 15-1.

    There were a few silver linings for the Packers, but not enough of them to feel good about themselves after a loss to open their season.

Winner: Randall Cobb

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    Perhaps the biggest reason the Packers have to be positive following their loss to the 49ers was the performance of second-year phenom Randall Cobb.

    Cobb not only continued to have the same type of success he had on special teams a year ago, he added a big day on offense to his repertoire as well.

    Just when the game was looking out of reach, Cobb had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown with 11:35 remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the Packers within one score of the 49ers, 23-15.

    But Cobb's contributions on offense may have been equally impressive. He was the Packers' leader in receptions with nine for 77 yards.

    It was the way that the Packers utilized him on offense that was a breath of fresh air, however. From lining up in the slot to the offensive backfield, he's being used as a multidimensional threat.

    Cobb was motioned out of the backfield and caught passes downfield, as well as on screen passes. The Packers are making a concerted effort to create mismatches with Cobb against slower linebackers.

    Green Bay showed a few times during training camp and the preseason that they were using Cobb in the backfield, but nothing like the amount they did on Sunday. It should be really interesting to see how they use him going forward.

Loser: Dom Capers and His Unchanged Defensive Issues

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    The Packers had a lot of the same issues they had in 2011 with a defense that was far too porous.

    For starters, they allowed 186 yards on the ground for an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Running back Frank Gore in particular had 112 yards on 16 rushes (seven yards per carry).

    The Packers also allowed quarterback Alex Smith to complete a very high percentage of his passes (20-of-26) for 211 yards and two touchdowns. 

    There were a lot of issues in the defensive back seven with almost every member of the secondary at fault for a negative play here or there. Between penalties for pass interference and finger-pointing for blown coverages, it was not a good outing.

    The Packers gave up the most yards in the NFL last season, and for a 49ers offense that was nothing special a year ago, Green Bay sure made them look special on Sunday.

Winner: Clay Matthews

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    Clay Matthews was just about the only member of the Packers defense who can say he put it all on the line in Sunday's loss.

    With 2.5 sacks, he was the only Packers' pass rush, outside of a few blitzes by Charles Woodson.

    The Packers had many issues rushing the passer a year ago and didn't even get all that much production from Matthews with only six sacks in 2011.

    If the 49ers game was any indication, Matthews should put up better numbers than last season after seeing some success against 49ers left tackle Joe Staley.

    It was the same old Matthews everyone has become accustomed to with his nonstop motor and hustle being the main reason for putting pressure on Alex Smith.

Loser: Penalties

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    The Packers had an unsightly 10 penalties for 77 yards on Sunday, and when you reach double digits in penalties, that's simply unacceptable.

    More than anything, the issues with penalties came as unexpected. The Packers had tied for the fewest penalties in the entire NFL last season, as Bill Huber of Packer Report pointed out on Twitter.

    Whether it was pass interference penalties by Charles Woodson and Jarrett Bush on defense or pre-snap infractions like a false start by Marshall Newhouse on offense, they all added up to disaster for the Packers.

    The defensive infractions allowed drives by the 49ers to stay alive, and the penalties on offense stopped the Packers' drives in their tracks.

    When penalties were an issue early in head coach Mike McCarthy's coaching career, he helped engineer a turnaround that saw the Packers become one of the more disciplined teams in the NFL. It's worth watching how penalties affect the Packers going forward.

Winner: Enough Offense to Win

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    Even though the Packers were thoroughly outplayed in nearly every phase of the game, there was enough offense to win.

    Most of the damage came in the fourth quarter when the Packers were down and forced to pass the football, but Aaron Rodgers still looked good in directing the two-minute offense.

    There were mistakes to be sure, but by throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, the aerial attack kept the Packers in the game.

    The turnovers and dropped passes can't continue to be a problem, but with 30 completions, there was enough offense to keep the chains moving.

Loser: Losing the Turnover Battle

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    The Packers and the 49ers came into Sunday's matchup as the two best teams in turnover margin last season.

    The 49ers were plus-28 and the Packers were plus-24 in 2011, and it didn't come as a surprise that the team that won the turnover battle on Sunday won the ballgame.

    The only turnover in the game was Aaron Rodgers' fourth-quarter interception picked off by linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The pass was floated over the middle of the field with just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

    The timing of the turnover couldn't have come at a worse time as the Packers were only down by one score, but running out of time to mount a comeback.

    On the very next play, Frank Gore rumbled to a 23-yard touchdown run to make it a two-score game once again.

    Complicating problems with the Packers' only turnover is that they didn't force one on defense either.

    The Packers had plenty of issues on defense last season, but intercepting passes was not one of them when they led the league in that category. They need to get back to picking off opposing quarterbacks to help get them back on track.

Winner: James Jones' Fourth Quarter

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    Two first-quarter passes intended for wide receiver James Jones fell incomplete, but Jones more than made up for it by having a big-time fourth quarter.

    With the Packers down 30-15 with less than nine minutes remaining in the game, Rodgers found Jones open on three consecutive plays. The last one resulted in a touchdown that pulled the Packers within one score once again.

    Jones was the Packers' leader in receiving yardage with four catches for 81 yards on Sunday for an average of over 20 yards per catch.

Losers: Donald Driver, Alex Green, D.J. Williams

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    The absence of wide receiver Donald Driver was particularly notable, but he was joined by two other Packers that played much bigger roles on offense during the preseason.

    Both Driver and tight end D.J. Williams played sparingly on Sunday and running back Alex Green didn't play at all.

    As a player who's the Packers' all-time leading receiver and has been a mainstay on the Packers offense for more than a decade, failing to see Driver catching passes was a sight that not many fans have seen before.

    The lack of use by Driver also raises questions why the Packers invested a roster spot into their veteran receiver at the expense of cutting young players if they aren't going to utilize him.

    As for Williams and Green, both of those skill position players had good training camps and appeared ready to play more frequently in 2012. How they factor into the Packers' plans going forward remains to be seen.

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