Reading the keys: 49ers/Packers

Here's how the 49ers fared in keys to the game identified before San Francisco's huge 30-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, giving the Niners their first win in Green Bay since 1990 and snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Pack.

Make like difficult for Aaron Rodgers
YES:
Did the Niners ever. Rodgers hardly looked like the world-beating NFL MVP he was last year, and it was because the Niners kept steady pressure on him and never allowed the skilled QB to get in a rhythm all afternoon. Rodgers was sacked three times and harassed many more times into early throws, and the Niners got at least a half-dozen hits on him. They also forced Rodgers into a killer interception that gave the momentum back to San Francisco after the Packers had rallied to get back in the game. Rodgers finished with decent numbers, but they belied his struggles and the actual impact of his performance. He left the field a beaten quarterback, which hasn't happened often over the past three years.

Set the tempo with ground game
YES:
The Niners came out running and never stopped, piling up 186 yards rushing while averaging a fat 5.8 yards a pop. The beatdown started midway through the first quarter and it never really ended as the Niners controlled the ball and the flow of the game, ultimately finishing with a 33:00 to 27:00 edge in time of possession. With Frank Gore's churning power runs complemented by Kendall Hunter's darting quickness, the Niners assumed command early and never let go of it while leading from start to finish.

Contain the big plays of WRs Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson
YES:
Rodgers had 61 completions of 20 yards or more last season, but he had only two of those Sunday – and just one of them to the dangerous Jennings/Nelson combo. That was a 28-yarder to Nelson that was insignificant in the outcome. Nelson averaged only 12.8 yards on his five receptions, and Jennings was completely shut down as a big-play threat, finishing with five receptions for 34 yards – a paltry 8.6 average. The longest reception for Jennings – who has more 25-yard and 40-yard receptions over the past five years than any other NFL player – went for just 10 yards.

Stretch the field and spread the offense with Moss, Manningham and Davis>
YES:
The Niners played a controlled passing game, but Alex Smith got the ball down the field several times, completing a 29-yarder to Vernon Davis and 20-yard strikes to Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree. That was enough to stretch the Green Bay defense that was riddled for 377 yards by the Niners, including 211 yards passing by Smith, who did a nice job spreading the ball around to seven different targets while competing 20 of 26 passes.

Win the turnover battle
YES:
There was only one turnover in the game – and it was a big one recorded by the Niners. Just as Green Bay had gotten back in the contest and appeared to be taking the momentum away, NaVorro Bowman made an athletic interception of Rodgers over the middle midway through the fourth quarter, and it set up a clinching 23-yard touchdown run by Gore on the very next play.

Superiority on special teams
YES:
Sure the Niners allowed a 75-yard touchdown return of a punt by Randall Cobb, which was the only reason this game still was undecided in the fourth quarter and ended up looking closer on the scoreboard than it actually was. But the Packers got the benefit of an obvious penalty on that play that was flagged and then inexplicably overturned, and besides that one play, the rest of the day belonged to San Francisco's specialty units. Cobb gained only two yards on his other two punt returns, Andy Lee boomed his punts for a 51.2 average, and Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter both made nice gains out of San Francisco's only two returns of the afternoon. And then there was the incomparable David Akers, who tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal to go along with his other FGs of 40 and 43 yards. Akers outscored his Green Bay counterpart, Mason Crosby, 12-2.

Get hot in the red zone
YES:
The 49ers were a perfect 2-for-2 scoring touchdowns when their offense got in the red zone, quite an upgrade over last year, when they scored red-zone TDs just 40.7 percent of the time, which ranked 30th in the NFL. The Packers – who were third in the NFL last season in red-zone efficiency – also scored touchdowns both times they entered the red zone, but getting a push here against the high-scoring Packers was a win for the 49ers.


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