Green Bay Had No Answers for the 49ers' Passing Attack
The Packers came to Candlistick with a gameplan they executed well.
But with a banged up secondary, Green Bay didn't have any solutions for a passing attack that faced some questions coming into the season. And in a fierce battle between two of the NFC's best teams, San Francisco's 34-28 win was their first step towards backing up 2012's NFC championship.
"He made a lot of great throws," Jim Harbaugh said of Colin Kaepernick, who made his first career start on opening day. "I thought he had tremendous poise."
The Packers' gameplan was to play on their own terms by shutting down the 49ers' running game - read-option included - and wear down their defense with a high-octane, no-huddle passing attack.
They did both, but still found themselves on the losing end.
Anquan Boldin's monster debut with San Francisco stabilized an otherwise sloppy performance. The 49ers are still having issues getting plays to the huddle on time, as they did in the Super Bowl. They also committed 11 penalties for 85 yards. Missed tackles in the first half nearly cost them the game.
Coming off his big performance against San Francisco in the Super Bowl, Boldin had a game matched only by his 10-catch, 217-yard NFL debut back in 2003. He finished Sunday with 13 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown.
His biggest catch was his last, as Colin Kaepernick found his new No. 1 wideout on a broken fourth-down play that would have given the Aaron Rodgers the ball with good field position down just three points.
Kaepernick scrambled right, Boldin got open in a small space, and the pair connected for a 15-yard gain that put the opening week on ice. Phil Dawson would hit a 33-yard field goal to push the lead to six giving the Pack the ball with just 26 seconds remaining.
"That was one of those rollout passes he could have tried to stick it into Anquan on the break, but he kept the play alive, just cool as could be and then made a perfect strike. I think that pretty much summed up hos whole day," Harbaugh said.
"(Boldin) played like a grown man today," said Kaepernick. "He made plays even when he shouldn't have. If he plays like that, he is going to get the ball even more."
Vernon Davis had two touchdowns and presented the Packers' depleted defense with a number of issues. Without slot corner Casey Hayward (hamstring) and safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring), Davis was able to run through the secondary at will. He spent most of the afternoon beating M.D. Jennings and fill-in Jerron McMillian down the field.
Davis finished with 98 yards and two scores amid talk from national pundits questioning the duo's chemistry.
"Like I tell everyone, we had all that time during offseason to build chemistry and just get to know each other. When you've got a quarterback, receiver's job is to develop that relationship. There should be some kind of bond, not just on the field but off the field as well," Davis said.
With so much focus on plugging up the run and stopping the read-option, Green Bay allowed just 90 yards to a team that averaged 164.6 last season.
"He played very well from the pocket today. The emphasis was to stop the run. We have great respect for Frank Gore," Packers' coach Mike McCarthy said.
"For the most part, I thought we achieved that and the (Kaepernick) made plays from the pocket today. Between him and Boldin, those two guys had huge days."
Green Bay took its first lead in the third quarter on Eddie Lacy's two-yard hurdle over the left side. But Kaepernick and the offense responded immediately with an 80-yard drive capped by Gore's one-yard score to give them a 31-28 lead.
"I'm just happy we put on film that we can do whatever we want," Gore said. "(Kaepernick) can do both, like I tell everybody. As long as he stays healthy and keeps it up he'll be a top quarterback in this league."
Reid Contributes Right Away
Rookie safety Eric Reid certainly didn't look like a man playing in his first NFL game. Without knowing he was plucked away from LSU in April, the 21-year-old looked beyond his years and even stood out against one of the league's best quarterbacks.
"Playing at a big program in LSU, (Sunday) wasn't too big," strong safety Donte Whitner said. "He made some big plays for us. A couple things improve on, some tackles that he missed but overall, a good game."
Reid proved he he still had work to do, especially when it comes to angles. But he also flashed great range and an ability to tackle.
"It's great for me personally because it sets the tone for the whole season by going up against one of the best quarterbacks in the entire world," Reid said.
Reid's first game included his first career interception. Jermichael Finley dropped a Rodgers pass and the ball deflected to Reid, who picked it grabbed the ball just inches before hitting the turf. He returned the ball to the Packers' 3-yard line, but was ruled down at the spot of the catch.
"It was one of those covers where I read the quarterback and I broke on the throw to the receiver and the ball fell right into my hands," he said.
"We're more and more confident as we work together," cornerback Tarell Brown said. "Throughout the preseason we were really getting comfortable with him and now we can see that he can really play ball. We're really excited about him, the things he can do back there and his range, as far as tracking the ball and coming up and hitting and being aggressive."
The Packers' three touchdowns came on drives that lasted 1:16, 2:48, and 2:30 respectively.
The Road Leads to Seattle
The 49ers will play in the Seahawks home opener next Sunday night in prime time. Even in September, it could wind up being the most important game of the regular season.
With the volume inside CenturyLink Field, San Francisco will have to spend this week cleaning up its issues of getting the play called in the huddle on time. Improving the tackling and penalties wouldn't hurt, either.
The 49ers spent most of Sunday finding ways to isolate Green Bay's inexperienced safeties by setting players in motion to take corners away from Boldin and Davis. Seattle has arguably the best secondary in football and will present an entirely new set of challenges.
For San Francisco to come away with a win next week, they will have to find more success in the ground game than they did on Sunday. The Seahawks are a much more difficult team to beat while being successful in just one dimension of offense.
Defensively, the Seattle will likely mimic what Green Bay did Sunday and push the tempo in an attempt to take air out of the defense's lungs. And with a better offensive line and physical running game, the Seahawks could wear the front seven down far more effectively than the Packers.
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