The matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers had all the makings of a heavy weight fight and the two NFC powerhouses didn't disappoint. In a game that saw both teams trade knockout punches, the 49ers came away with a big 34-28 win despite some issues on defense and in the running game.
What it all means
Make no mistake about it, the 49ers' victory over the Packers was huge. It's hard to call the first game of the season a must win but with a trip to Seattle looming in week 2, the 49ers had to secure this victory at home. Now, a loss next week won't put them in a hole they would have to dig themselves out of and a win would go a long way in both the division and the race for home field in the NFC.
Kaepernick is no fluke
There has been a lot of excitement surrounding Colin Kaepernick this offseason and rightfully so. However, while Kaepernick has ascended into superstar status, some have questioned if he would be able to repeat the success he had in 2012. It would be hard to imagine those who questioned him still having doubts after he carried the offense, throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
The 400 yard plus passing performance was the first for a 49er quarterback since Tim Rattay did it in 2004. Even more impressive, he did it at a time when the 49ers had virtually no running game to help balance their attack. Kaepernick hit six different receivers and completed 69 percent of his passes. It was an MVP caliber performance for the quarterback the 49ers are building their franchise around moving forward.
Boldin answers the bell
There is no other way to put it, Anquan Boldin was simply sensational in his first game in red and gold. The veteran wide out dominated throughout the day with a 13 catch perfromance that saw him total 208 yards receiving and a touchdown. While Michael Crabtree played extremely well last season, he has never had a game like Boldin did today. It's hard to believe the Baltimore Ravens let a player of his caliber go for only a sixth round pick.
It's unreasonable to think Boldin can put up these numbers week in and week out, but there's no doubt he's cemented his status as the 49ers' number one receiver.
A lot was made of which Vernon Davis would show up in 2013. Would it be the guy who struggled to find a rapport with Kaepernick over the last six games of the regular season or the guy who dominated in the playoffs. Today, it looked like the latter as Davis caught six passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Davis' scores were from 20 yards and two yards out, showcasing both his abilty to make big plays as well as be a threat in the redzone.
Running on empty
After rushing for 509 yards in two games against the Pack last season, the 49ers struggled to get anything consistent going on the ground. They ran a lot out of the shotgun today and it was, for the most part, ineffective. The team rushed for 90 yards on 34 attempts (2.6 yards per carry) as the Packers did a good job containing Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick. Kendall Hunter did have a big 23 yard run that set up the go ahead touchdown but the next longest carry by a running back was 8 yards by Gore. Kaepernick scrambled for a 15 yard gain at one point but any designed quarterback runs went for virtually nothing. It will be interesting to see if this was a one game issue or something that persists.
Who else can rush the passer?
It's easy to see why the 49ers struggled when Aldon Smith was playing hurt because they simply can't get consistent pressure anywhere else. Aldon had 1.5 sacks on the day (the other 0.5 was apparently generously credited to Ray McDonald) and seemed to be the only 49er with the ability to close on the quarterback. The lack of pressure added up to 333 yards and three touchdown passes for Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers will have to generate more of a pass rush from other places or the issues from last postseason will continue to persist.
Rookie free safety Eric Reid played very well in his first NFL game, recording an interception on a pass that went off of Jermichael Finley's hands and making six tackles. A lot of his tackles were of the noticeable variety as Reid made his presence known with some big hits. On a team with some major blemishes in the secondary, Reid looks like he could be a cut above the rest.
Corner issues continue
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were targeted 22 times and came down with 14 catches for 238 yards. Each of them also had a touchdown. Those numbers helped magnify the issues the 49ers currently have amongst their cornerbacks. Nnamdi Asomugha did make a play or two, but overall he really struggled, specifically against Nelson. The play that stands out was a big one towards the end of the second quarter that ultimately cost the 49ers seven points. The Packers had a 3rd and 15 from the 49er 39 yard line and basically conceded a field goal attempt as Rodgers threw the ball underneath to Nelson. Asomugha closed in and whiffed on the tackle which allowed Nelson to get the first.
Perrish Cox also made a poor attempt to tackle Finley four plays later as the Packer tight end raced down the sideline to tie the game. It's kind of been assumed that Carlos Rogers would struggle in the slot (and he did at times today) but the 49ers need strong play on the outside from Asomugha and Tarrell Brown. Another outing like this from Nnamdi and the 49ers may turn to Tramaine Brock in their nickel package.
The 49ers travel to Seattle in what will be the first of two matchups between the favorites in the NFC West. The Seahawks stuggled on the road in week 1, barely beating the Carolina Panthers 12-7. They are a different team at home, however, and will be amped up for the 49ers. If San Francisco pulls out the game, it won't be easy and they will have to fix some of the short comings they displayed in week 1.