Well, it wasn’t 579 yards, but the 49ers still don’t seem to have much trouble moving the ball through the Packers’ defense.
On the other hand, this is not a game we expected the Packers to win, and to that point, they put together a much better showing than we may have anticipated. The defensive line was stout. Eddie Lacy was solid post-fumble, and Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers. There’s plenty of talent here and this may yet be a dangerous team.
But not yet.
Clay Matthews (7 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack) - Matthews may not have made good on his pledge to “hit the quarterback”, but he certainly laid at least one (definitely illegal) hit on Mr. Kaepernick Sunday. Aside from that, though, he was a one-man running game destroyer, blowing up multiple runs in the backfield and generally being a pest around the line of scrimmage.
That, and he reminded Kaepernick who’s muscles are bigger.
Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb (combined 14 catches, 238 yards, 2 TD) – Nelson and Cobb wasted no time reminding Packers fans what they were missing during the preseason. Cobb was lightning quick and slippery over the middle and absorbed a few tough hits as he did his work. His spinning, reaching touchdown was a thing of beauty.
Not as beautiful, though, as Nelson’s fully extended, toe-tapping 37 yard catch along the sideline. Nelson’s body control is absolutely amazing, and he showed his worth in a big way with that catch and another tough sideline grab early in the game.
Tim Masthay (giant kickoffs, awesome punting) – The punter carousel the Packers rode for a couple years after Jon Ryan went away was rough, but once it finally stopped spinning, the Packers had discovered a gem in Tim Masthay. His towering punts flip the field and he’s showing an added dimension with big kicks on kickoffs. Plus, he can tackle, too. Who saw that coming?
Jermichael Involved – We all know Jermichael Finley is in a contract year, and the expectations are correspondingly high. Finley delivered today with 56 yards and a touchdown on five catches, including an athletic run and jump after the catch on his touchdown. But then there’s bad Jermichael. More on that later.
Jolly Returns – Six months ago, I’d have given you all my money if you gave me decent odds on Johnny Jolly first making the Packers’ roster and secondly actually having an impact, but he did pretty much exactly that against the 49ers. He was more than just a rotational player, getting serious time along the front lines and even coming up with a sack. I’d put a few bucks on Jolly having an even bigger impact down the stretch as he continues his comeback.
Closing Speed – Boldin worked over the Packers’ secondary pretty well, but don’t blame Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Yes, Williams gave up the final fourth down conversion, but both he and Shields were pretty solid other than that. Shields had the secondary’s play of the day when he chased down Kyle Williams and knocked a deep ball away at the last minute. If the Packers can get Burnett and Hayward back promptly, there could be the makings of a solid secondary in the works.
Jermichael is Bad – Sometimes, Jermichael Finley does nice things, like score touchdowns. Other times, he drops easy passes and they end up as interceptions. I’m as much a Finley apologist as anybody, but MAN is it frustrating to see him make easy catches look hard.
Josh Sitton – Sitton is supposedly the Packers’ best lineman, but you’d be hard pressed to explain how that’s the case after today’s first half performance. THREE holding penalties wiped out an eleven yard run by Eddie Lacy, a seven yard run by James Starks, and a five yard run by John Kuhn. That’s disappointing, and the Packers will need much better from Sitton from here on out.
Little Things – Holding penalties. Dropped passes. Fumbles. A questionable penalty decision by Mike McCarthy when the 49ers could have faced a fourth down. These are the things that separated the Packers from the 49ers this week. The margin between NFL teams is never that great, but when you’re constantly shooting yourself in the foot, that small difference turns into a yawning chasm. If the Packers can clean those things up, they may be able to close the gap a bit. But until they do, they won’t be in the 49ers’ league.
Next Up – The Packers return to Lambeau Field on Sunday for a date with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. It’s a noon kickoff.