The Green Bay Packers weren't blown off the field — at least on the scoreboard — but they lost 34-28 to the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's season-opening showdown.
Colin Kaepernick didn't beat the Packers with his legs. This time, he beat them with his arm. He completed 27-of-39 passes for 412 yards with three touchdowns.
In the 45-31 playoff bloodbath last year, the 49ers rolled up 579 yards and held the ball for 38:01.
On Sunday, the 49ers piled up 494 yards and controlled the ball for 38:35. They routinely found holes in the middle of the field with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, taking advantage of the absence of Morgan Burnett (hamstring).
While San Francisco dominated the game statistically, it also needed a blown call to score a touchdown in the first half.
The Packers and 49ers traded touchdowns for the first three quarters to enter the final period tied at 21. After San Francisco took a 24-21 lead, the Packers rallied to their first lead of the game. Jordy Nelson's brilliant 37-yard catch set up three consecutive runs by Eddie Lacy, and Lacy capped the drive with a 2-yard run that gave Green Bay a 28-24 lead with 8:26 to go.
The 49ers, however, finished like champions. San Francisco answered by storming down the field for an 80-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive highlighted by a 43-yard catch and run by Boldin — who destroyed the Packers for 13 receptions and 208 yards — and Kendall Hunter's 23-yard run on the next play. Frank Gore ran for 8 to the 1-yard line and used his patience to pound it in on the next play.
The Packers didn't have that champion-like answer, going three-and-out. San Francisco then drove a stake into the Packers when Kaepernick flipped a 15-yard completion to Vernon Davis on third-and-4 and for 15 to Boldin on fourth-and-2. The 49ers turned those key plays into a chip-shot field goal with 26 seconds remaining that burned most of the final 4:52 off the clock and cost Green Bay all three timeouts.
The Packers got into Hail Mary range with a 38-yard completion to Randall Cobb, but their last gasp ended when Aldon Smith split Don Barclay and John Kuhn and forced Aaron Rodgers to flip an incompletion to Kuhn as time expired.
Rodgers had a big day with 21-of-37 for 333 yards and three touchdowns. He had one interception off a dropped pass. Against the 49ers' star-studded defense, however, six of the Packers' 13 drives failed to get a first down.
For all the talk of the Packers' lack of physical toughness during the offseason, they showed plenty of mental toughness to get to halftime tied at 14.
The Packers had two giveaways and were on the wrong end of a blown call that gave the 49ers a touchdown.
With the game tied at 7, Eddie Lacy fumbled deep in Packers territory, handing the 49ers the ball at the 14. It was reminiscent of Jeremy Ross' muffed punt in the playoff game that gave the 49ers the ball at the 9, a gaffe that helped turn Green Bay's 14-7 lead into a San Francisco romp.
This time, on third-and-6 from the 10, Kaepernick scrambled out of bounds at the 6. Kaepernick was one step out of bounds when Clay Matthews launched himself and tackled Kaepernick near the neck. Likely due to Matthews' words about the need to hit Kaepernick, a fight ensued. Matthews was penalized for a late hit and Niners left tackle Joe Staley was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Because both calls came after the play, it should have been fourth-and-2. Instead, the officials ruled offsetting penalties, giving the Niners a third-and-6 mulligan. Kaepernick turned it into a touchdown to Anquan Boldin when Boldin caught a short pass and broke Jerron McMillian's tackle near the 5.
The Packers' turned it over again when Jermichael Finley dropped a pass, which deflected off his knee and into the waiting mitts of safety Eric Reid at the Niners' 44. The Packers, however, held firm and Phil Dawson's 48-yard field-goal attempt drifted to the left.
The Packers capitalized, overcoming a holding penalty by Josh Sitton — the Pro Bowler's third infraction of the half. On third-and-15, Rodgers threw short to Nelson, who broke Nnamdi Asomugha's tackle and got the first down. After Kuhn converted a third-and-1 with a 3-yard gain to the 12, Finley caught a short pass, broke star safety Donte Whitner's tackle at the 11 and beat Perrish Cox to the pylon for the tying touchdown with 16 seconds to go in the half.
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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.