Green Bay Packers: Heroes and Zeroes vs. the San Francisco 49ers
Week 1 of the Green Bay Packers’ season is now in the books.
After a 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Green Bay is 0-1 for the first time since 2006, when the team finished with an 8-8 record.
As with any game, there are fingers to point, and there is praise to share.
The following are my biggest heroes and zeroes from the Packers' loss.
(All stats credit to espn.com)
Hero: Randall Cobb
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
We may have just witnessed Cobb’s maturation from raw, athletic rookie to explosive, full-time playmaker.
Like last year’s opener against the New Orleans Saints, Cobb chalked up a return for a score that changed the momentum at the time (technically, this shouldn’t have counted because of a missed block in the back, but it was still a great return).
But this year, he did more than just provide a spark in the return game. Cobb caught all nine passes thrown at him for a total of 77 receiving yards.
His elusiveness allowed him to run free for open passes, and Green Bay ran a couple plays specifically designed to unleash Cobb’s athleticism.
It looks like Cobb will indeed play a bigger role in the Packer offense this season.
Zero: Cedric Benson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
All the hope surrounding Cedric Benson’s signing and three straight 1,000-yard seasons was flushed straight down the toilet Sunday with Benson’s poo-poo performance.
On nine carries, he only gained 18 yards for an average of two yards per carry. His longest rush was four yards, and he did not contribute anything to the receiving game.
A case could be made that Benson simply didn’t get enough carries to get into a groove. That may be. But Mike McCarthy gave Benson five carries in the first quarter for a total of 11 yards.
After that, McCarthy realized nothing was happening anytime soon and only gave him four more touches, none of which came in the fourth quarter.
The Packer offense is up-tempo. It can’t wait around for Benson to warm up, especially when the team was trailing like it was Sunday.
Hero: Clay Matthews
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
After a seemingly off-year for in 2011 in which he only recorded six sacks, Matthews got back to his old form Sunday.
He had 2.5 sacks in the season opener, and the 49ers were 0-3 in picking up first downs after suffering a sack Matthews was involved with.
Matthews didn’t just rack up sacks. He consistently put pressure on Alex Smith, not allowing him to stay comfortable. Matthews ended up with four of Green Bay’s six quarterback hits.
Zero: B.J. Raji
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
In a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is the primary run-stuffer. He’s the biggest guy on defense, and he’s supposed to eat up tons of space and blockers to shut down the running game.
So when the 49ers rushed for 186 yards against the Packers, primary blame has to be placed on Raji.
The San Francisco offensive line manhandled Raji and the rest of the Green Bay down linemen. The 49ers only needed 32 rushing attempts to gain their 186 yards, good for a 5.8 average.
At the center of the line of scrimmage, Raji only accounted for one tackle, and it wasn’t even a solo tackle.
As the nose tackle, Raji needs improve his play if the Packers want to become a top defense again.
Hero: Tim Masthay
You never want to punt the ball six times in one game, but Masthay made fans feel a little better with his spot-on boots.
After a slow start in 2011, Masthay came out of the gates roaring for 2012.
He averaged 48.2 yards per punt, one of which boomed for 60 yards. He pinned the 49ers inside the 20-yard line four times, and three of those were within 10 yards of the end zone.
Had Masthay not consistently pinned the 49er offense with long fields to drive, the loss could have been even more lopsided.