The storyThe Packers have overcome one challenge to their season. They'll have to overcome another.
After bouncing back from losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay by posting a season-saving victory over Dallas and a mostly decisive 30-24 win over San Francisco on Sunday, the Packers might have to continue their playoff run without two of their defensive stalwarts. The Packers lost Aaron Kampman and Al Harris to knee injuries in the second half.
"Both injuries did not look very good. There is some concern, but we will have all the information (on Monday)," coach Mike McCarthy said, holding out hope that the injuries aren't as serious as he believed.
If there were any fears of a hangover after a season-saving win last week against Dallas, those fears were put to rest with one of the most dominating halves of the Mike McCarthy era. The Packers hogged the ball for 22:32 and posted a 362-57 edge in total yards en route to a 23-3 lead. While Aaron Rodgers had a one-half career-high 274 passing yards, the 49ers had minus-7 yards through the air, thanks to three sacks by a swarming, out-for-blood defense.
The Packers took charge in the second quarter, when Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on a skinny post for a 64-yard touchdown. Jennings shook loose from Tarell Brown and Brown collided with the safety, Jennings outran safety Mark Roman and got a convoy from receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson to complete the play.
Green Bay made it 20-3 on the next series, an 81-yard scoring march that featured a 16-yard completion to Brandon Jackson to convert third-and-11, kicking off a series of four plays that gained at least 11 yards to set up Rodgers' 7-yard scoring toss to Nelson.
The Packers led 30-10 but wound up hanging on late. Nick Collins' interception set up a 1-yard touchdown by Ryan Grant, but a long kickoff return helped the Niners get right back in the game. And when the Packers went three-and-out, Alex Smith attacked the short-handed defense and hit Frank Gore for a touchdown on fourth-and-5 to make it 30-24 with 5:56 to go.
But Rodgers hit Finley to convert a third-and-4, Grant broke free from the pile for 21 yards and another first down and Rodgers snuck for a yard on third-and-short to put the game away at the two-minute warning.
Aaron Rodgers' first 31 completions covered 339 yards and scored two touchdowns. His 32nd completion was his biggest. With the 49ers one forced punt away from having a chance to steal victory, Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley for 5-yards to convert third-and-4 with 4:22 remaining. The Packers picked up two more first downs to run out the clock.
Aaron Rodgers was brilliant, completing 32-of-45 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He was a big reason why the Packers converted 10-of-18 third downs and held the ball for 41:39.
15: Take away Frank Gore's 42-yard run on the 49ers' first possession of the game, and San Francisco managed 15 yards in the first half. No wonder the Packers led 23-3 at intermission.
"Brad (Jones) had a chance to play some last week so he'll have two games to work off. Brandon (Underwood), today was obviously a big opportunity for him," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We'll just keep coaching them. We've been going through the injury phase (of the season). Hopefully, these two injuries aren't as serious as we may think."
The other things you need to know
-- The only other injury was to running back Ryan Grant, who exited with a stringer late in the game. That's why Brandon Jackson had runs of 1 and 8 yards in the final minutes.
-- The Packers outgained the 49ers 484-284, with Grant carrying 21 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. The 484 yards was the best performance of the season.
-- The 49ers were the only team to not allow an opening-drive score this season until the Packers marched 69 yards to take a 3-0 lead.
-- The Packers' 362 first-half yards was their most since posting 362 in Brett Favre's famous performance at Oakland on Dec. 22, 2003. Aaron Rodgers' 274 passing yards in the half was a one-half career high.
-- Aaron Kampman's sack was the 54th of his career, putting him one behind Tim Harris for third in franchise history. B.J. Raji had the first sack of his career in the second quarter.
-- Mark Tauscher played most of the game at right tackle, with rookie T.J. Lang rotating in for a couple of series. And speaking of rotations, Brady Poppinga and Brad Jones rotated in while replacing Kampman.
-- It was an up-and-down day for the special teams. Tramon Williams had a poor day fielding punts but broke a 27-yard return. Mason Crosby boomed three touchbacks and the coverage unit allowed 18.7 yards on three kickoff returns before allowing a 76-yard runback by Josh Morgan. And punter Jeremy Kapinos' pooch kick was downed at the 2.
"I thought we started off on fire," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "Very impactful kickoff coverage, impactful punt return in the first half. Disappointed we gave up the long kickoff return in the second half. That was a big momentum swing."
-- On the fourth-down touchdown pass to Frank Gore, the Packers were in zone and had two defenders on an inside route, allowing Gore to get free on the outside.
-- The Packers won the turnover battle 1-0 to improve to a league-best plus-14 on the season.