Monday, January 6, 2014

Packers Let It Slip Through Their Fingers

By: Matt Bove

Game Recap: 

It was all there for the taking on Sunday afternoon for the Packers. Even though it felt like the 49ers were dominating the game at times the scoreboard never dictated that. 

The Packers had a chance to add to the incredible story of their 2013 season by beating their nemesis against all odds. Beating San Francisco would have been huge even though the Packers' defense was probably never going to be good enough to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year. Defeating them would have gotten the Packers over a hump, as they are now 0-4 in the last two season against the 49ers. 

The Packers faced adversity all afternoon, as the defense lost Sam Shields and Mike Neal early in the game, and the offense did not get a first down in their first three offensive possessions. Colin Kaepernick drove the 49ers up and down the field on their first two possessions before the defense made two huge goal line stands.

They were moving the ball again deep into Packers territory before Tramon Williams made a game changing interception. The Packers responded with a 14 play touchdown drive in which the Packers never gained more than nine yards on a single play. Aaron Rodgers dinked and dunked, and Eddie Lacy got tough yards, as the Packers willed their way into the end zone to grab a 7-6 lead. 

That lead did not last long, as it took only 5 plays and 3:02 for the 49ers to regain the lead 13-7. Kaepernick had a back breaking 42 yard run in which Davon House missed a critical tackle. 

Rodgers led the Packers down the field again before the end of the half, but a David Bahktiari penalty forced them to settle for a Mason Crosby field goal. 

The Packers defense had a terrific third quarter in which they forced three San Francisco punts. Mike Daniels and Nick Perry had key sacks to force two of those punts. However, the offense only gained one first down in the quarter and was unable to take advantage. 

The offense started clicking again in the fourth quarter with a 12 play, 80-yard drive to start the fourth quarter. The key play came on a fourth-and-two from the San Francisco 30. Rodgers somehow escaped the San Francisco rush and found Randall Cobb for 26 yards in a play reminiscent to Eli Manning to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLVI. John Kuhn scored two plays later to put the Packers up 17-13. 

Once again after taking the lead the defense could not respond with a stop. Kaepernick led a 67-yard touchdown drive to put the 49ers up 20-17. The touchdown was a 33-yard strike to Vernon Davis in between AJ Hawk and Morgan Burnett. Burnett had a huge opportunity to make an interception, but he did not react quickly enough. 

Rodgers and Lacy drove the Packers down the field on the next possession, but this time it only resulted in a field goal. Rodgers made another amazing play to Cobb when he eluded a rusher to his left and hit Cobb for a 25 yard gain. However, Cobb getting shoe-stringed tackled by Eric Reid instead of getting in the end zone is something that he probably regrets.

The Packers had a 1-yard run by Cobb and two failed passing plays, so they were forced to kick a field goal. Rodgers was unable to find any open receivers on either of the two passing plays.

This set up the defense with an opportunity to finally stop the 49ers after a score and give the Packers a chance to win the game.  It was right there for the taking. Kaepernick threw an intended pass towards the left sideline for Anquan Boldin, and Micah Hyde was in perfect position for an interception. Hyde got both hands on the ball, but was unable to haul it in for what could have been the game winning interception.

The next play on third-and-10 Kaepernick found Michael Crabtree for a 17-yard gain. Then, on a third-and-8 from the Packers’ 35 yard line, Jarrett Bush allowed Kaepernick to get outside of him on a blitz, and Andy Mulumba was unable to run him down before he picked up the first down. 

The 49ers were able to run the clock down before kicking a game winning 33-yard field goal. Just like that another Packers season ended in disappointing fashion.  It was a valiant effort with a clear deficiency in talent compared to San Francisco, but it was not enough. Still, it was a performance that you can respect.  

Game Analysis: 

- You can't expect to waste a whole quarter against an elite team and expect to win.
- It is hard to know why without watching the All-22, but Rodgers was definitely gun shy at times. Packer wide receivers have had trouble getting open in the past and that appeared to be the case again. 
- James Jones has to make those catches. Again you cannot waste opportunities against a team of this caliber. 
- Lacy performed well with most of his yardage coming after contact and he set a physical tone. However, it was clear that he still wasn't 100 percent, and Starks was effective again in limited opportunities. Starks needed more than five carries. 
- Red zone play calling needs to be addressed this offseason. It has gotten way to predictable, as the Packers were only 50% this season scoring red zone touchdowns. It was one of the huge reasons the Packers lost yesterday. 

- While I still think Dom Capers should not be brought back next year, yesterdays loss cannot be put on him. It was a minor miracle that the Packers only allowed 23 points with the collection of players they had out there. He had a great plan to limit Frank Gore and to let his corners handle the wide receivers one on one. Capers had no control of Sam Shields being lost for basically the entire game.
- Davon House may have gotten help form the officials, but he performed better than he has all year in coverage replacing Shields.  
- Morgan Burnett continues to disappoint greatly. He has to make that interception on Vernon Davis' touchdown. He was right there and just reacted way too late. I can probably find at least another five plays like that for him this season. There is no doubt in my mind that LeRoy Butler, Darren Sharper and Nick Collins make that interception. Ted Thompson paid him like a top safety and he is not living up to it. 
- Mike Daniels is a beast
- Ryan Pickett and Tramon Williams played like they want to return next season 
- The defense played admirably, but the cold weather and the slow track was a great equalizer 
- Also, immediately letting up touchdowns after the Packers took the lead really hurt them. That is when they really needed those stops and could not get them. That has been a reoccurring theme too many times.  

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