Wildcard weekend came to a close with another close game. The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a last second victory over the Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. This game was closer than many thought it would be but Colin Kaepernick showed that he is a clutch player. He made some very good throws down the stretch and led the 49ers on the final drive. Kaepernick also showed that he is of the mind over matter school of thought by wearing short sleeves in the frigid temperatures.
Many, including myself thought that the outcome of the game would be determined by the rushing offenses. It was to an extent, late in the game for the 49ers but for the most part, these teams moved the ball through the air. If you look at the stat sheet, you wouldn’t conclude that either quarterback had a very good game. However, both Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick had some timely throws that helped their team.
Aaron Rodgers was 17 of 26 for 177 yards and one touchdown. This was after he was held without a completion in the first quarter. He had a couple of really nifty passes to Randall Cobb that kept some key drives going.
Kaepernick was 16 of 30 for 227 yards and one touchdown. He did throw an interception by Tramon Williams that brought some life into the Packers. The touchdown throw that Kaepernick made to Vernon Davis was a precise throw on a seam route. It was very much like the 44 yard completion that the two hooked up on in last year’s playoff game against the Packers. He saw that A.J. Hawk was covering him and trusted Davis to win that match up yet again.
The leading rusher in this game was Kaepernick. He averaged 14 yards per carry as he ran for 98 yards. That total was more than any other rusher in all of the games this weekend. The most crucial run was a back breaker on third and eight. Kaepernick had an 11 yard gain. Those are the kinds of runs that are deflating to the opposing defense.
“Our receivers were getting grabbed and Colin took matters into his own hands. Clutch performance by Colin. He answers in the clutch time of the game, the important down, when it matters most. The unique part is how much ground he covers with his strides. How fast he gets up in there. He made some great throws today too.” – Jim Harbaugh on Colin Kaepernick
This game served notice that Michael Crabtree is still a crucial piece of the 49ers offense. Crabtree had 70 yards receiving on the first drive alone. He has a knack for getting open and is a bailout option for Kaepernick. He hit Crabtree late in the game for a 17 yard gain on a third and ten which resulted in a first down that kept the game winning drive going. Crabtree ended the game with eight receptions for 125 yards.
The defense set the tone early by holding the Packers to two three and outs. As mentioned previously, they were able to hold Rodgers to zero completions in the first quarter. The Packers also were looking to get Eddie Lacy going early in the game. He had less than 20 yards rushing in the first quarter. Lacy got going as the game went on and ended up with 81 yards for the day. Once again, the 49ers did not allow a runner to gain 100 yards.
Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were able to get to Rodgers a few times. They got some hits on him and Brooks even had a sack/fumble. Brooks had two sacks on Rodgers while Aldon Smith had 1.5 sacks. The pass rush was definitely there for the 49ers. Justin Smith was able to wreck havoc in the Packers backfield as well.
Navorro Bowman had ten tackles on the day along with a forced fumble. One thing that was a surprise was the play of Perrish Cox after being resigned this week. Carlos Rogers was inactive and Eric Wright was coping with a hamstring injury. As a result, Cox played mostly over the slot when the 49ers went to their nickel package which was very often.
The last drive was a perfect blend of running, passing and clock management. It was the kind of drive that sets the tone for the playoffs. There were some crucial third down conversions. Frank Gore ran the ball with a different tone on that last drive. This team was clearly on a mission. Phil Dawson came in and nailed a 33 yard field goal that just got through the outstretched hands of Davon House. The 49ers braved the elements and showed that they can win in the cold weather.
The 49ers were 6/12 on third downs. That’s 50% which is pretty efficient. They also held the Packers to a 27% third down conversion rate. Both teams were 1/1 on fourth down attempts.
Perrish Cox got the call over Eric Wright and was matched up pretty well against Randall Cobb. He did give up one catch when Rodgers extended the play. Cox was just released by the Seattle Seahawks and came in to make a contribution already. This was because he was familiar with the defense and for most of the season, he was the backup to Carlos Rogers to bump inside in the nickel package.
The 49ers will travel to Carolina to play the Panthers in the Divisional round. Kaepernick was quick to acknowledge that the 49ers owe them for the loss that the Panthers put on them earlier in the season at Candlestick Park.