For a change, not much was required of Brett Favre, and he turned in perhaps his best effort of the season. On the heels of carelessly throwing five interceptions in the last two games, Favre was mistake-free for the seventh time this season. His 111.5 efficiency rating, on the strength of 22-of-34 accuracy for 293 yards and two touchdowns, ranks second in 2006 to the 127.1 he had all the way back in Week 3 at Detroit.
Favre completed passes to nine different receivers. He had ample time to set up in the pocket -- he was sacked just once -- and flourished out of frequent bootlegs, including the 36-yard strike to a wide-open Ruvell Martin in the end zone in the first quarter. Rookie receiver Greg Jennings deserves props for alerting Favre to Martin's whereabouts on the 49ers' broken coverage.
After enduring three straight games of suffocating coverage, Donald Driver rarely was double teamed and busted loose for nine catches and 160 yards, highlighted by a 68-yard catch-and-run touchdown to gain the Packers some breathing room late in the third quarter.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus
The offensive line seems to have ironed out the zone-blocking deficiencies that cropped up in pitiful performances against Minnesota, New England and Seattle. After racking up 149 yards the previous Sunday against the Jets, Green Bay amassed 139 yards in San Francisco.
Sprung by a new-look wishbone backfield, with fullbacks William Henderson and Brandon Miree out in front, Ahman Green was authoritative in cutting to the open holes in the opening series. He had 23 yards in his first four carries. The production dipped slightly thereafter, as Green finished with a quiet 77 yards in 21 carries.
Vernand Morency, though, resembled the budding prospect who ran for a career-high 101 yards against Arizona on Oct. 29 by spelling Green late in the game and churning out 69 yards in only seven carries. Morency was impressive in bouncing off a tackle up the middle and taking the run out to daylight on the right side for a 39-yard gain.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus
Alex Smith (12-of-29 for 201 yards, 48.2 rating) was downright anemic, so the Packers' coverage-poor unit caught a break in that regard. Yet, when plays were to be had, Green Bay did a better job than not.
Safety Nick Collins and linebacker A.J. Hawk were the beneficiaries of second-half interceptions on underthrown passes by Smith. Hawk, though, reacted well and made an athletic play in picking off the intended downfield throw to tight end Vernon Davis in the end zone.
Cullen Jenkins had the only sack of Smith, but the pass rush was appreciably better than it had been the previous three weeks because Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was fresh to make hay with Jenkins' filling in for him on early downs. Cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson were solid, holding Arnaz Battle and Antonio Bryant to a catch apiece.
On the down side, the 49ers exploited the linebackers and safeties a handful of times on screens and dumps out of the backfield, while Woodson and Collins whiffed on tackles on a 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Davis.
RUSH DEFENSE: B
Once Jenkins relieved Gbaja-Biamila at right end after the 49ers' second offensive play, the defense was generally stout against the run. Frank Gore went at Gbaja-Biamila on the first two plays and generated 78 yards, capped by a 72-yard scamper that was sprung by missed tackles by safety Marquand Manuel and Gbaja-Biamila. Harris saved a touchdown on the big run by chasing down Gore and shoving him out of bounds at the 2-yard line.
Thereafter, Gore managed just 52 yards in 17 carries. The Packers wound up allowing 146 yards on the ground, their third straight substandard performance.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus
The score was effectively out of reach with the Packers up by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, but Woodson finally had his first significant punt return since Week 1 with a season-high 40-yard dash to inside the San Francisco 20.
The offense followed with a field goal. The results were mixed for Morency on kickoff returns, as he averaged a pedestrian 22.5 yards, but he spun away up the middle for a 33-yard gain in the first quarter.
Tracy White made up for a bad punt by Jon Ryan in hustling downfield to drop Brandon Williams for a 5-yard loss in the third quarter. Even with that boost, Ryan had a dismal net average of 30.6 yards in five punts.
Dave Rayner was mostly long off the kicking tee and connected on all three of his field-goal attempts, but the kickoff-coverage unit surrendered two returns of at least 30 yards.
The personal satisfaction he earned for returning to San Francisco and outfoxing former boss Mike Nolan notwithstanding, the win spoke volumes about how Mike McCarthy kept the team from splintering after three straight lopsided losses.
The 5-8 Packers are the longest of long shots to make a late rally for a wild-card playoff berth in the cluttered NFC, but their refusal to wilt bodes well for an attainable break-even finish. The team was focused and played with discipline, committing only two penalties -- none until the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
McCarthy's promise of changes coming into the game played out and were effective. They included employing a wishbone look on offense with a halfback and two fullbacks for about 10 plays and the insertion of Jenkins for the vulnerable Gbaja-Biamila on early downs on defense.
McCarthy also went right after the 49ers' short-handed secondary by moving Driver all over the field and creating favorable one-on-one matchups. Calling Driver's number on not one, but two end-around plays in the first quarter was too predictable, however, and resulted in negative gains each time.