Heading into the midseason mark, the San Francisco 49ers are amongst the league's biggest threats at 5-2. In seven games this season, the 49ers have faced three top-10 NFL Power Ranked teams in the Giants, Seahawks and Packers, emerging victorious on two accounts.
In what was arguably San Francisco's prettiest win of the season, the Niners toppled the Aaron Rodgers led Packers at Lambeau Field. It was a huge statement to go on the road and knockoff Green Bay in Week 1.
This enormous road win ignited the 2012 season for Harbaugh's Niners.
When facing the reigning league MVP, the 49ers put together perhaps their their most crisp victory this season. They came out hot in Week 1 and stole a hard-fought win over a competitive team.
The San Francisco 49ers really had their identity on display in this one. They played mistake-free, ball-control football and it assisted them greatly. There was only one turnover in the game, and it was in favor of the Niners.
Even though Alex Smith was pressured and sacked, there were no interceptions or lost fumbles. By not turning the ball over, San Francisco took the turnover margin and helped the team win field position throughout the day.
When offensive drives end without turnovers, it at least allows All-Pro punter Andy Lee to be a factor. This kind of three-phase team win characterized who the 49ers are at their core.
Starting from their second drive of the game, the Niners maintained an aggressive up-tempo offensive attack. The play-calling by Greg Roman was terrific as San Francisco got everyone involved on offense.
Frank Gore spearheaded the offensive attack with 16 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. The downhill rushing attack by the 49ers wore the Packers down through the course of the game. And it opened up opportunities for Alex Smith and this passing game.
Smith got another offensive star involved in tight end Vernon Davis. The Pack did limit him to 43 yards on three grabs, but could not keep No. 85 out of the end zone. Having both Gore and Davis be factors in the same game is usually a very good sign for the offense.
The 49ers also got Randy Moss involved, as he finished the day as the team’s second leading receiver. It was the best we’ve seen Moss utilized thus far, as he moved the chains three times and scored San Francisco’s first touchdown.
Moreover, the 49ers' red-zone offense was rolling. The team at one point amassed five straight scoring drives and San Francisco led the entire game.
In Week 1, the 49ers had a great opportunity to display the depth of their secondary, particularly at cornerback. The first three corners—Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver—all had great games, finishing Nos. 2-4 in tackles on the day.
Rogers, Brown and Culliver have very good games in coverage, matching up against a very competitive Green Bay receiving corps. San Francisco’s secondary played disciplined football, and took away their receiving options all day.
The Niners corners did a great job diagnosing routes and getting position on receivers. Their performance helped the 49ers pass rush immensely and prevented Aaron Rodgers from finding a rhythm.
Alex Smith had the perfect “Alex Smith” day.
The 49ers quarterback finished 20-of-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Smith pulled the trigger on throws, and ball placement was excellent on more than a few occasions.
Smith also asserted himself in this game, looking confident pre- and post-snap. He helped lead this new-look offense, displaying the offseason improvements right away. Smith was finding his wide receivers early and often, which was the team’s biggest issue in 2011.
On the team’s first scoring drive—a Randy Moss touchdown—seven of Smith’s eight completions were to wide receivers. The Niners QB completed 15 of his 20 passes to wideouts on the day. Smith took what the defense gave him, played lighthearted and had fun.
Creative, timely play-calling and an efficient ground attack also aided Smith.
The 49ers played a sound game fundamentally, as their blocking and tackling was first-rate.
They did not miss tackles, which is something the Packers receivers like to take advantage of. The 49ers defenders did not allow them any room to make plays, as they wrapped guys up at the point of the catch.
The 49ers also did a great job blocking for Alex Smith and the running game. The offensive line provided their QB with time in the pocket and opened up lanes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. They were physical with the Packers front, and won their individual matchups.
Overall, the 49ers were aggressive at the point of attack and extremely physical with Green Bay. They had to play fast to keep up with the Packers, but they often beat them to the punch.
Against the Packers, the 49ers got great play from their hellacious linebacker unit. In multiple aspects, San Francisco’s linebacking corps played an exceptional game. The standouts in particular were NaVorro Bowman and the outside backers.
Bowman was flying around the field all game, making tackles, finishing with a team-high of 11. He had significantly more reps than his counterpart, Patrick Willis. Bowman was relied upon to play coverage in dime and nickel situations.
He even baited Aaron Rodgers into a critical late-game interception.
Ahmad Brooks came through with a number of clutch pressures and even had a very timely sack in the fourth quarter.
Aldon Smith started being disruptive not more than four minutes into the game. The second-year pass-rush specialist set the tone early with a sack. He flushed Rodgers out of the pocket and ran him down, letting the reigning MVP know No. 99 was going to be a problem that day.
As a complete unit, they worked cohesively to stop the run, and accounted for two sacks and an interception.
These teams could very well see one another in an NFC title game this year, which is what made this such a great showing for San Francisco. The Packers have a very dominant team, led by arguably the best quarterback in the game. The Niners brought their hard-nosed demeanor to the Packers at Lambeau and came out ahead.
The 49ers had a chance to display their new-look offense and it was a success. Meanwhile, they were also able to show the doubters that this defense is for real and it’s here to stay.
It was a true team win, with everyone stepping up and playing his role.