After running for 181 yards a year ago, the Packers built their game plan on defending against the legs of Colin Kaepernick. While the Packers were successful in this department, the 49ers quarterback deployed another tactic to torture the Packers: a precision aerial attack. Throwing for more than 400 yards for the first time in his young career, Kaepernick picked apart the Packers and lit them up for 3 touchdowns. The Packers had no answer for Anquan Boldin (13 catches, 208 yards, 1 TD) or Vernon Davis (6 catches, 98 yards, 2 TDs). Since this year’s schedule came out, Packer fans were hoping their beloved green and gold could exact some revenge on the team that ended their season in 2012, now fans are left wondering, will this year end up the same way.
That question remains to be answered, but here is what we know about 2013’s squad after Week 1.
- The Packers can play physical: This was a classic slugfest that saw both teams exchange blows. The Packers contained the 49ers rushing attack, holding Frank Gore to a paltry 44 yards on 21 carries and Kaepernick to only 21 yards. Johnny Jolly played a big part in keeping the 49ers from ever getting going on the ground. This is a good sign from a defense that was labeled soft a year ago.
- Officials apparently hate the Pack: While no one likes a team to whine about the refs after a tough loss, one can’t help but shudder in horror after the blown call on 3rd down. With last year’s Monday Night Football disaster with Seattle still in the minds of fans and maybe even the players, this year has started on the same sour note. Facing 3rd down (after McCarthy accepted a penalty to make it 3rd down and 6 instead of 4th down and short), Kaepernick roled out to his left and took off. Short of the 1st down marker, he was hit late by a diving Clay Matthews as he stepped out-of-bounds. A penalty was thrown on Matthews, but also on the 49ers Joe Staley for unsportsmanlike conduct. The officials replayed the down which led to an easy touchdown throw from Kaepernick to Boldin. As the Fox crew correctly pointed out repeatedly, the penalties should have offset and brought up 4th down, not a replay of 3rd down, which is how the officials interpreted the rule.
- The Packers miss Charles Woodson: While letting Charles Woodson go may prove smart in the long run, the Packers defensive backs were shaky at best without him against the 49ers. The Packers simply could not cover Anquan Boldin. Several times the Packers’ zone coverage was slow, which allowed Boldin to run wide open. While the defense is to be commended for playing physical and limiting the 49ers running game, the pass defense simply had no answer for Boldin, nor were the Packers brain trust able to devise any scheme to slow him down. One wonders if Woodson would have helped; he surely couldn’t have hurt.
- James Jones may be a ghost: James Jones did his best disappearing act in Week 1, leaving fans to wonder if Jones was either hurt or suddenly became invisible. The wide receiver looked good in preseason and was poised to have a huge year with Jennings migrating to Minnesota. Against the 49ers, Jones was targeted only two times and failed to make any catches. Instead, he largely played an anonymous role in the game. Fellow wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb looked extremely good. Nelson made some tough catches on the sidelines, while Cobb showed fearlessness catching balls over the middle. Despite bobbling a ball that led to an interception, Jermichael Finley played strong, especially on his touchdown run. As dangerous as these three can be, the Packers will need Jones to make his presence felt in order to fill the void left by Greg Jennings.
- The Packers will be ok: Sure, the Packers started the season with a key loss to the 49ers, a game the Packers and the fans really wanted to win. But the Packers will be ok. Rodgers looked as good as ever. The offensive line held up as well as anyone could have expected and Eddie Lacy looks determined to somehow make a difference in the Packers ground attack. Despite averaging less than 3 yards per carry with a fumble that hurt the Packers, McCarthy seems as determined as ever to feature some sort of ground game in the offense. That being said, did anyone see the Vikings or Lions play? Yes, both teams are extremely talented but the number of mistakes each team makes in a given week is astounding. They shouldn’t be a problem for the Pack.