I tend to watch games on mute with Pandora on in the background. Right as Kaepernick was breaking through the hole and going on the TD run to go up 31-24, that was the lyric echoing in my otherwise empty house. Fit pretty well I thought.
I had a bunch of things written up and was just going to post them in the nuggets thread until I realized how long it was and how quickly the nuggets would be off the front page and I mightn't get to discuss them with anyone.
It's hard to gauge just how good Green Bay is. They are one of these modern 1-dimensional passing teams that can only get pressure on defense by rushing extra guys. The rules of course make it so these teams can not just survive, but sometimes thrive when their QB goes nuts. ( See 2009/2010 super bowl winners, 2011 super bowl loser ). On one hand they could have been one of those teams to go on a run. On the other hand they could have just been the Packers of 2009, getting thumped by the Cardinals.
That being said, the circumstances of this game, both before and during, have me thinking this is the most impressive 49ers victory since the 94-95 Super Bowl itself. I know a lot of people were jazzed by the Saints win last year, but to me that was a spotty performance. This game had a complete package of amazing including the initial interception. I mean, I can't be the only one that had a fear that Kaepernick would come back out numb. That the 49ers would focus too much on the run from then on. What did he do? He threw a freaking dart to Davis with a guy on him. In realtime it looked like it could have been intercepted. Then in slow motion it was a perfect throw to the correct shoulder that could only be caught by Vernon.
Everyone has a prediction for how a game will go. This game generally was played exactly as I'd thought it would be. The two X-factors of course were whether the 49ers could finish their drives with TDs ( yes ) and whether the Packers would "Hit" on their big 3rd downs ( mostly, no, except for that James Jones leaping bobble )
The "finish their drives with TDs" came right into play in their 2nd drive of the game. Third and 8. Down 7-0. In my head this is why I wanted the 49ers to defer. If Justin Smith had come out on the first drive on defense and couldn't play, then this becomes 4 down territory right? Without having the 49ers defense on the field yet, it's not. It's a FG, it's 7-3 and mayhaps a quick 14-3. Well Colin got the Packers in man, and did what he should do in big games, took off. He got the TD, but he just needed 8. That's the important part. Move the chains. Keep the Packers on the field. That was obviously a theme of the game with the type of time of possession domination you rarely see in a regular season game let alone two teams that finished with 11 wins matched up in the playoffs.
The Packers quickly go 3 and out. Surprisingly the 3rd down was a short play and still incomplete. I wonder if this made them go extra aggressive on these down the rest of the way.
The 49ers punted on their next drive too, but it showed so much about the game. Even there on one of their few drives that failed to score points, they drove 50 yards. It was also their first deep shot to Moss. A connection in which Kaepernick had been under throwing Moss, now he was overthrowing him by just a couple yards each time. Each time Moss's expression one of frustration that he just doesn't have that gear. Disappointed he couldn't be producing the big plays he expects from himself. Each making it harder for me to believe he's back next year.
Then the 49ers made their 2nd mistake of the game. Punted from the 40, lands at around the 5 and caroms into the endzone. A 20 yard punt. Earlier in the week I had been talking with someone on NN about going for it on 4th downs in the opponents territory. How the "stats" of it all are based around punters who end up kicking it into the endzone, "Not Lee!" I thought. Ugh.
The Packers hit their first 3rd and short big play attempt in the ensuing drive. In my mind flashback to Seattle. That bobble, kick, catch that was a symbol of everything going wrong on D. Next play or a couple plays later, right up the gut. TD. This is what we all feared right? Justin must not be all the way back, that was a Swiss cheese run the 49ers just don't give up when they are all healthy. Fears are realized, the 49ers offense will need to put up 35+.
That's what made the end of the next drive so frustrating. They, once again, move the ball on an over matched Packers D. It was obvious already at this point that the 49ers would be moving the ball 30-40 yards every drive. They had no one to guard Crabtree. The timing between him and Kaepernick was too good. It was 3rd and 12 at around midfield. I am expecting a 7 or 8 yard play so that they can go for it on 4th and short, but instead it looks like a designed short dump to Delanie, who gains 3 yards. In comes the punting unit and my thought is.. "I guess they're going to need turnovers if they are going to win this game." Boom, gift, turnover. CJ Spillman had an amazing night.
Kaepernick doesn't get enough loft on his throw to Miller. ( Great play design, he was open ). And a botched early snap and OH MY GOD ARE THEY SQUANDERING THIS?!?! No! Another great play design! Crabtree for a TD. The 2nd time already, 3rd and long in the red zone and they score a TD. It's ON. This year Crabtree has gone from being a good #2 receiver playing #1, to an ok #1, to a really good #1. He doesn't have the outright speed or height to be a dominant #1, but I've always thought he could be better than someone like Hakeem Nicks at this best.
I'm not going to talk about the rest of the game by drive, just up until that point was a whirlwind really that could only be discussed linearly.
Some thoughts about the rest of the game
-Walker with 2 more drops. Not difficult drops either. Crabtree also had one, a bit of a difficult catch, but one he should make. And one that could have turned into an interception. I still think they need to replace or at least augment Walker in the draft. I'm thinking Jordan Reed in the 2nd fits the Walker mold. I hope they keep Walker too at a low price, but I think they need competition there.
-There was a play in this game that perfectly showed why Vernon is not more often a target from Kaepernick or even Alex. Kaepernick conservatively led Vernon, giving him the opportunity to position his body and make a play on the ball. Instead Vernon did his usual thing, running to a spot in which he can jump to catch it in his stomach. The defender attacked the ball in the air with his hands and deflected it. I'm sure someone could probably grab a still frame of the defenders hand knocking the ball away with Vernon in mid air. A good receiver, or receiving TE, just flattens his route a little and catches it with his hands leaving the defender behind his body, unable to make a play.
-Later in the game when Vernon did make his big play, it was because it was an over the shoulder catch on a line. On passes where he has turned side ways or is looking back at the QB, he needs extra separation because of this habit.
-What can you really say about the 49ers offensive line? They really just dominated throughout. It was the biggest mismatch of the game. The Packers HAD to send extra guys to put any pressure on Kaepernick and when they did, it left 1v1 match ups and massive running lanes. Capers is getting roasted today, but there were no good solutions for defending Kaepernick when the defensive front 7 simply can not stop the run and the front 4 can't get pressure.
-Extra shout out to Staley, we all saw him in pain after he received what I expect was a deep bone bruise. Guy was a manimal out there.
-I had thought the NFL did not delay games because of overlapping schedules. My first thought on this is, hey NFL, if this is a thing why not start the first game 30 minutes earlier? It ended up overlapping anyway. It's completely unfair to the players on both teams who go through their rituals and routines, who get themselves amped.. and then get told it's 10 more minutes.
-Considering their early lead and early success on the ground, I was shocked at how quickly the Packers abandoned the run. It worked out for the 49ers, but personally I hate it when teams do it. Makes the game potentially take forever with incomplete pass stoppages. Forces the 49ers to put their dime and .. dollar.. packages on the field and take out 1 or 2 pro bowlers.. or all-pros. Makes the game difficult to watch from an xs and os standpoint as it becomes so straight forward. Like many of the big college football programs of the 90s. Hey, our 4th WR is faster than your 4th CB! Strategy!
-Kaepernick was throwing some wobblers on that first drive, but they were getting there. Not sure if it was nerves, they were gone by the 2nd quarter.
-The 49ers fall behind and then march all over a completely over matched defense, while their defense stifles a 1-dimensional offense. Sound familiar? The parallels between SF and Seattle are so obvious in both personnel and philosophy that it's difficult to imagine anything other than a rubber match for the NFC title.
-I think that the 49ers are going to suffer when they lose Roman. He called a good game today, what I might call a "high percentage" game plan revolving around exploiting the Packers weaknesses over and over. It's something of a hive-mind preparation for games though and I wonder if they're not greater than the sum of their parts. Here's hoping that maybe they can promote Christ and bring in Ault and continue the hive mind.
-Again, I had the TV on mute, but I hope there was a clear whistle when Goldson received his late hit penalty. Otherwise, if the RB doesn't want to get clocked, he should go down and stop fighting for yards. Not much later in the game Cobb was held up, but then broke a tackle right as Goldson came in and got him too. Was waiting to see if there'd be another flag.
-Kaepernick's spike penalty was incredibly stupid. I hope no 49er fans are really pushing that it was a bad call. It is an obvious call. Just like throwing the ball at someone is obvious ( JOSH MORGAN I'M LOOKING AT YOU ). What annoyed me about it was how much they were letting the Packers do after the play, every play. Punching, shoving, head butting. A little later in the game Goldson threw a little jab at Finley's helmet and I thought oh great they'll flag that now. They didn't thankfully, but the officials needed to flag the early headbutt to stop that nonsense from happening. I was surprised there wasn't a fight later in the game when the score got out of hand. Well there was a fight, but just a small one. Also not flagged.
-Overall the officials weren't great, but I don't think they were awful like the early game. Even if the 49ers had lost I don't think they were bad. I went into the game expecting a certain level of playoff holding, and it happened. What I loved was that not only did the 49ers offensive linemen and defenders add the playoff holding to their games, but the 49ers receivers did too. Really helped on those long runs.
-Bruce Miller had a hold that was unnecessary, they ended up scoring anyway. Bruce, just let James get to the outside there. You're in too obvious a position to hold.
-Culliver's penalty was also unnecessary, but he was grabbing like that all game. That's the percentages you play. Yea, maybe it wasn't catch able, but that's difficult to tell from his position.
-I was surprised Green Bay punted down 14 with 12 or so minutes left. Especially after missing on yet another overly aggressive 3rd down. This is where you play percentages. The Packers had stopped the 49ers all of twice since the interception. Now they were expecting to do it twice in a row?
-Will Rodgers put a #11 Smith Jersey on already?!?! That's twice, just wear it, then sell it to charity. It's not that difficult. I could not believe all the talk about the Packers winning because of how Rodgers motivates himself. Every player is 100% motivated in the playoffs. Stop retroactively defining the narrative because it just so happens that some ( a freaking tiny minority ) 100% define themselves by all the slights that have occurred previously in their lives. Rodgers himself seems tired of this narrative, shaking off that draft day quote in the days leading up to the game.
-Cobb must not have been anywhere near 100%. Just didn't have the burst, and he wasn't out there for the first two punt return. That's a big loss for that offense as they rely on him for much of their variety similar to how the 49ers rely on Walker. I'm sure you remember how the 49ers offense stalled when Walker was injured last year.
-Finally, one of the biggest things about this game was the time of possession. The 49ers' defense got a bye to rest, and faced 4 and 5 wide outs. It could have easily been a nightmare of running leaving them exhausted win or lose. Instead the Packers had quick drives with breaks in between. If they do face the Seahawks again, I'm not worried about exhaustion.
Sorry for any grammatical or spelling errors, I did not proof read this yet.