PLAY OF THE GAME
It was the big sequence of the game and the most obvious of the Packers' third-down problems on defense.
On third-and-6 from the Packers' 10, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was chased out of the pocket by Mike Neal and scrambled to his left for 4 yards. It looked like a key stop after Eddie Lacy's killer fumble, but Clay Matthews went airborne, grabbed Kaepernick by the shoulders and tossed him to the turf after he was out of bounds. That set off a melee on the Packers' sideline, with 49ers tackle Joe Staley flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. That led to offsetting penalties, which should have set up a chip-shot field goal on fourth down. However, instead of fourth-and-2, the officials gave the 49ers a mulligan on third-and-6, and Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin for a 6-yard touchdown.
"It wasn't a very smart play," Matthews said. "I probably could have eased off of him but with all the emphasis of him running around, getting him down, I'm sure that weighs on you, but it wasn't a smart play. We were fortunate enough to have them get their unsportsmanlike as well."
It was staggering blunder from the officiating crew, which referee Bill Leavy admitted after the game. It was handled poorly by the Packers' coaches, who in hindsight should have called a timeout to make sure everything was sorted out. Instead, it was a four-point blunder in a six-point game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Morgan Burnett: Without Burnett, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury, the middle of the Packers' defense was an invitation for Kaepernick, Boldin and Vernon Davis to exploit. They all had monster games, with Kaepernick throwing for 412 yards. Nineteen of his 27 completions went to Boldin and Davis for 306 yards and three touchdowns. If not for Davis dropping a long pass, Kaepernick would have thrown for 450.
Safeties M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian had bad days. Give the 49ers credit for getting Boldin matched up against McMillian on several occasions. The first touchdown pass to Davis came against Jennings. Boldin's touchdown after the officiating snafu came when he broke McMillian's tackle. Jennings was too late on a long pass to Davis, who had gotten behind Micah Hyde for a gain on 37 on a drive that resulted in a field goal early in the fourth quarter. On the game-winning drive, Boldin broke tackles by McMillian and Sam Shields to turn a gain of about a dozen into a haymaker of 43.
"It's unfortunate Morgan wasn't there today but that's the way it goes," McCarthy said. "I think when our safeties watch the film, they're going to wish they had made more plays on the ball. There were two times where the ball was pushed vertically and it was in the air for enough time for us to possibly make that play."
THE CRYSTAL BALL
You get the feeling that if the 49ers and Packers played every day for the next week that the Packers would be fortunate to win once. Colin Kaepernick is the NFL's most dangerous quarterback and the 49ers field a powerful defense.
Still, the Packers went toe to toe with the defending NFC champions. The 49ers dominated statistically, including the all-important turnover battle, yet had to rally in the fourth quarter. At crunch time, however, they made every play. When they fell behind for a nanosecond, they rattled off gains of 43 and 23 to get in position for the winning touchdown. When Aaron Rodgers failed to get a first down on the ensuing possession, the 49ers put together a killer drive by converting on third-and-4 and fourth-and-2.
The Packers should get nothing but better. Starting offensive tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay performed better than expected, and the offense as a whole should get into rhythm after playing a minimal number of snaps in the preseason. It's impossible to believe the Packers would give up 412 yards through the air had Burnett been on the field. And there's no more questioning the defense's toughness.
Aldon Smith sacks Aaron Rodgers. Kelley C. Cox/USA Today Sports
0: Catches by James Jones, on two targeted passes. He was held without a catch just once last season (Giants).
2: Sacks allowed by the Packers, a good start after a second-to-last 51 last season. The first came on the second play of the game, though coach Mike McCarthy said, "The primary receiver doesn't go out for a pass and another guy runs the wrong route."
3: Interceptions by Rodgers in the three recent games against the 49ers. Out of 120 attempts, that's 2.5 percent. In the 16 games against teams other than the 49ers last season, he threw six interceptions out of 541 attempts. That's 1.1 percent.
4: Number of possessions in which the 49ers ran at least 10 plays. Green Bay didn't have any 10-play drives.
5: Consecutive games in which Vernon Davis has scored a touchdown against the Packers.
6: Number of possessions, out of 13, in which the Packers failed to gain a first down.
38:35: Time of possession by the 49ers on Sunday, a bit more than their 38:01 in the playoff game.
54.8: Combined percent of third downs converted by the 49ers in the playoff game (8-of-13) and Sunday (9-of-18).
158: Consecutive regular-season passes by Rodgers without an interception until Eric Reid's pick off of Jermichael Finley's dropped pass.
170: Yards of field-position advantage by the 49ers. San Francisco's average drive started at its 33-yard line. Green Bay's average drive started at its 20. The Packers' best starting point was their 38.
208: Yards by Anquan Boldin. Only Detroit's Calvin Johnson (244 yards; Jan. 2, 2012), New York's Gene Roberts (212 yards; Nov. 13, 1949) and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne (212 yards; Oct. 7, 2012) have had bigger games against the Packers. The Rams' Jim Phillips also had 208 on Nov. 16, 1958.
494: Yards by the 49ers, a hollow improvement over the 579 allowed in the playoff game.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.