ReFo: GB @ SF, Week 1
The NFL certainly isn’t shy about throwing the best teams at each other in Week 1. In a rematch of last year’s NFC Divisional game, the Green Bay Packers traveled to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. The game did not disappoint as it came down the final minutes of the fourth quarter before a Frank Gore touchdown put the 49ers ahead for good with 5:47 left to go in the game. Neither team was able to get anything going on the ground, and perhaps they didn’t mind all that much given the 745 collective passing yards during the game. It was a back and forth battle of strong quarterbacking and playmaking receivers, with San Francisco doing just enough to continue their winning streak against Green Bay.
Here are the game’s most notable performances.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Much was made this offseason about the Packers flipping their guards from their usual spots as Josh Sitton has now moved in at left guard while T.J. Lang is starting on the right. It wasn’t a good start on either side as both players graded poorly. Sitton (-4.5) had his problems with defensive end Justin Smith right from the get-go as he was beaten for a tackle in the running game. The play set the tone as Sitton resorted to grabbing and pulling for much of the game resulting in two holding penalties and an illegal hands to the face penalty, all against Smith. He had some success in pass protection only surrendering two pressures on 41 attempts for a +0.6 grade, but the –3.9 grade in the running game was not his finest work.
For Lang, it was the passing game that gave him problems as he graded at -2.9 in pass protection while giving up a sack, a hit, and two hurries. Linebacker Navarro Bowman snuck inside him for pressure after showing blitz late and OLB Aldon Smith also beat Lang to the inside and got a healthy shot on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Lang later had his issues with DE Ray McDonald who beat him for both a sack and a pressure.
Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson wasn’t even a guarantee to play Sunday, but he came through in a big way with 130 yards on seven catches including a touchdown. It was a well-rounded game for Nelson as he outmuscled cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for a big gain on a back shoulder throw at the 2:17 mark of the first quarter but also showed his elusiveness by forcing missed tackles on both Asomugha and safety Eric Reid in the second. Perhaps the most impressive play of the game for either team was Nelson’s catch at the 9:37 mark of the fourth. Rodgers rolled to his left and unleashed one of his patented lasers down the sideline, putting the ball in a place where only his receiver could get it. This throw, however, may have been too far out of reach as it was well out of bounds. Instead, Nelson fully extended and hauled in the pass, all while keeping his feet in bounds for the big conversion. Despite missing the preseason, the Packers were certainly excited to see a healthy return for Nelson on Sunday.
It was an ugly showing for Packers safety Jerron McMillian who found himself flailing at 49ers’ offensive players to the tune of four missed tackles and a -5.7 grade. When he wasn’t whiffing in the open field, he found himself lost in coverage as he was at the 3:49 mark of the third quarter. His biggest miss came with 7:22 to go in the fourth as San Francisco was driving for their eventual game-winning drive. WR Anquan Boldin broke into the open field and McMillian was unable to take him down. The 49ers punched it in three plays later as Boldin’s 43-yard gain was a major momentum swing. McMillian had some positive moments last year as a rookie, but nearly matching last season’s missed tackle total in one game is not a good start to the season.
San Francisco – Three Performances of Note
Boldin Takes Control
Speaking of Boldin, he was the difference for the 49ers in the game. Green Bay could not slow him down as he caught 13 of his 16 targets for 208 yards and a touchdown on his way to a +4.7 overall grade. Of his 13 catches, nine of them either moved the chains or found the end zone and he picked up 70 of his 208 yards after the catch. He also forced five missed tackles.
Nothing sums up the confidence quarterback Colin Kaepernick has in Boldin quite like the pass he threw with 13:28 to go in the third quarter. Facing a 3rd-and-9, Kaepernick fired a strike in between two defenders trusting that Boldin would come down with the ball. No surprise, the 22-yard gain moved the chains and Kaepernick appears to have a new favorite weapon. We’re certainly not expecting double-digit catches from Boldin every week, but Sunday’s game showed that he can still take over a game and on an offense that already features a number of capable playmakers, it just adds to the multi-dimensional 49ers’ offense.
Aldon is Back
After a slow finish to last season due to injuries, both his own and teammate Justin Smith’s, Aldon Smith looked like his old self Sunday as he picked up two sacks, two hits, and four hurries on his 39 pass rushes. His overall +2.0 was marred by two offsides penalties, but the +4.0 pass rush grade is what the 49ers are hoping for each week. Both sacks came against rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari, first shrugging off a cut block early in the first quarter before beating Bakhtiari off the edge with 13:44 to go in the fourth quarter. Smith then went into closer mode as he made his presence felt on Green Bay’s last two plays of the game. He just missed getting to Rodgers with 26 seconds to go and then sealed the deal by beating RT Don Barclay off the edge and taking Rodgers to the ground on the last play of the game. The 49ers were certainly pleased to have the Smiths back and healthy for Week 1.
It wasn’t a great day for 49ers cornerbacks as Asomugha (-1.3) and Carlos Rogers (-0.9) both graded negatively in coverage. Asomugha had trouble keeping up with Nelson and his missed tackle on 3rd-and-15 at the end of the first half was a game-changer. Rogers was charged with covering WR Randall Cobb in the slot and gave up receptions on all four of their targets for 79 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps the numbers look unfair due to a late catch on the Packers’ desperate last drive, but it was the short receptions that had a bigger effect on the game. Rogers lost track of Cobb on a crossing route with 11:40 to go in the first quarter and later was unable to keep Cobb out of the end zone on a quick out at the 1:11 mark. He also got sucked inside on a screen pass to running back Eddie Lacy, leading to a 31-yard gain. Things got better as the game progressed but the cornerbacks were not the strength of the San Francisco defense on Sunday.
– Kaepernick under pressure: 2-for-7 for 39 yards and a 50.3 QB Rating. In a clean pocket: 25-for-32 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and a QB Rating of 146.5.
– As is usually the case for them, the 49ers’ top 11 defensive players played at least 52 of the 63 snaps.
– Packers OLB Clay Matthews had five stops against the run and graded at +3.1, but he notched three pressures, including a sack, for a +0.2 pass rush grade on 31 attempts.
PFF Game Ball
There’s little question that Anquan Boldin was the best player on the field Sunday. He’s the early leader in the clubhouse with 5.07 Yards/Route Run.
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