With the regular season around the corner, we asked San Francisco 49ers fans to vote for the 2012 regular season 49ers games that they were most looking forward to. Five games stood out among the rest. They gathered almost 95% of the total votes all by themselves. Here are the top 5 most anticipated 49ers matchups of the 2012 NFL season -- voted by the fans on 49erswebzone.com.
#5 -- San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints -- 8.02% of the votes
At the 2012 ESPYS, it was voted as the best game of the year, not just for football, but for all of sports. It was the highest fan rated game of the season on NFL.com. The NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 14, 2012 between the visiting New Orleans Saints -- who were perhaps the hottest team in football -- and the San Francisco 49ers is one of the most memorable games in 49ers history. It was the 49ers' first playoff game in nine years. Early on, it looked as though the game might be a rout with the 49ers quickly jumping to a 17-0 lead after capitalizing on Saints mistakes. However, Drew Brees and the Saints would close the gap to within 3 by halftime.
In the fourth quarter with 4:02 left in the game, the Saints would take a 24-23 lead on a 44-yard pass from Brees to Darren Sproles. Alex Smith would answer back with a 28-yard run into the endzone with 2:11 left in the game, putting the 49ers up 29-24. Brees would later throw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham putting the Saints up 32-29 with 1:37 left. That set up Alex Smith, who drove the 49ers down the field and eventually connected with Vernon Davis on a touchdown with 9 seconds left in the game and giving the 49ers the 36-32 win. In case you were not keeping track, that was four lead changes in 4 minutes -- creating one of the more memorable NFL games in recent history.
The game was not without controversy as later on, leaked audio revealed that Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams had given a speech to his team urging them to target specific San Francisco 49ers players. The Saints would later be heavily fined for placing multiple bounties on players in NFL games.
The 49ers will travel to New Orleans during week 12, which will take place on Sunday, November 25, 2012. During the 2011 season, the Saints finished the regular season 13-3.
#4 -- Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers -- 8.19% of the votes
In 2011, this week 6 matchup was tagged as the "NFL Game of the Week." The Detroit Lions were a hot team with their first 5-0 start since 1956. The visiting San Francisco 49ers were 4-1. The game itself was very memorable with the 49ers falling behind 10-0 early. The 49ers would come back, scoring 12 points in the second quarter to lead 12-10 at halftime. The 49ers would eventually fall behind 19-15 in the fourth quarter and Alex Smith drove the team down the field for the game winning touchdown. The go ahead score came on fourth down with 1:51 remaining.
However, it wasn't the game itself that the media focused on during the following week. It was a post-game handshake between an excited Jim Harbaugh and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz that captured all of the headlines. Harbaugh quickly shook Schwartz's hand and gave him an aggressive pat on the back and ran off to celebrate his team's 5-1 start. Schwartz, who was not amused by being dismissed in such a manner, chased after Harbaugh and the two got into a shouting match with players from both teams coming to their respective coach's defense. The incident would later become known as "The Handshake" and it will be interesting to see how the teams approach each other when they next meet. After the game, Harbaugh told the media, "I do get emotional, I do get fired up. A lot. I not going to apologize for that. If that offends you or anybody else, so be it."
The Lions will travel to San Francisco during week 2, which will take place on Sunday, September 16, 2012. During the 2011 season, the Lions finished the regular season 10-6 and lost to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs.
#3 -- San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots -- 9.63% of the votes
The defending AFC Champion New England Patriots have been one of the most successful NFL franchises in the past decade -- and as 49ers fans from the 80's and 90's know, fans of other teams hate a consistent winner. The Patriots came within a Hail Mary of another championship last season. Their quarterback, Tom Brady, is the one player who many feel can even be compared to Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana as the best ever. Head coach Bill Belichick, despite some black marks on the franchise involving some cheating, is one of the greatest ever as well. Unless you count East coast versus West coast -- and the Patriots and 49ers are as far East and West as you can get -- there is no real rivalry between the two teams. To be the best, you have to beat the best and the New England Patriots are consistently among the best in the NFL.
The 49ers will travel to Foxborough during week 15, which will take place on Sunday, December 16, 2012. During the 2011 season, the Patriots finished the regular season 13-3 and lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
#2 -- New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers -- 18.17% of the votes
For 49ers fans, the NFC Championship game was almost as memorable as their Divisional Playoff win against the Saints -- but for all of the wrong reasons. It was a tough loss to swallow because it felt as though the 49ers fumbled away (pun intended) their chance at another Super Bowl appearance. Even if you blame some bad calls by the officials or the David Copperfield-like disappearance of the team's wide receivers, fans will always remember Kyle Williams' overtime fumble on a punt return which led to a Giants game winning field goal. Earlier in the fourth quarter, with the defense seemingly in control of the game, Williams had muffed the football on a punt return and the Giants would recover and eventually score, giving them a 17-14 lead. Later, the 49ers would tie the game 17-17 on a David Akers field goal. 49ers fans will remember a clear fumble by Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw with 2:22 left in regulation. However, the whistle had blown and the 49ers could not challenge the call. The turnover would have given the 49ers the ball inside the Giants' 20-yard line, easily in range for a game winning field goal. Instead, the Giants would Cruz (again, pun intended) to the Super Bowl where they would beat the Patriots.
Nothing makes for a good game like wanting revenge. Just ask the New York Giants, who during the 2011 regular season had lost an exciting game in San Francisco to the 49ers.
The Giants will travel to San Francisco during week 6, which will take place on Sunday, October 14, 2012. The Giants finished the regular season 9-7.
#1 -- San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers -- 50.81% of the votes
If there is a rivalry between the 49ers and Packers, the Packers may not know about it. Green Bay has had its way with the 49ers for the past two decades. In fact, the 49ers have only one once in their last 14 games against the Packers. That one win was during the 1998 season playoffs when Steve Young was still the quarterback. During the losses, the Packers have outscored the 49ers 354-212. It is obvious why 49ers fans haven't cared much for the Packers over the years.
On Sunday, September 9, 2012, the 49ers will travel to Lambeau Field to kick off their 2012 NFL season. It will be an early test for the 49ers, who go in as a Super Bowl favorite. The Packers have won an average of 12 regular season games over the past three seasons, have not lost a regular season game at home since October 17, 2010 and have not lost a home opener since 2006. The 49ers have not won in Green Bay since November 4, 1990. This matchup will pit one of the NFL's top defenses against one of the NFL's top offenses.
The matchup will also pit two quarterbacks, both first round selections in the 2005 NFL Draft, against each other. San Francisco selected Alex Smith with the first overall selection. Aaron Rodgers, who grew up wanting to play for the 49ers, fell to the 24th overall selection where he was taken by Green Bay. For years, many questioned the choice of Smith over Rodgers as Smith would go on to a 19-31 record as a starter through the 2010 season. Rodgers would go on to become one of the best players -- not just among quarterbacks -- in the NFL. However, during the 2011 season, Smith led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and got to within one game of the Super Bowl. Smith looks reborn. Both Jim Harbaugh and his teammates believe in him and this will be another excellent opportunity for Smith to prove that he deserves the respect that he has earned so far.
During the 2011 season, the Packers finished the regular season 15-1 and lost to the Giants in the Divisional Playoffs.