So, I predicted a 49er win, by the score of 34-14. At least I got the Niners score correct. Given the rash of injuries in the Green Bay secondary, I was expecting a field day from our offense. For the passing game I was certainly right, as witnessed by Colin Kaepernick's biggest quarterback output since Tim Rattay (never thought I'd mention that guy again) and Anquan Boldin's debut for the ages. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the game.
- Colin Kaepernick. As I get into conversations about the Niners with family, friends, co-workers and strangers, there seems to be a general consensus… that Kaepernick is a fluke, a talented running quarterback with a super strong arm. Put enough hits on him and contain him from running, thus forcing him to beat you in the pocket, and he will fold. Today, he showed that if needed, he could stand tall and beat you with his arm alone. Going 27-39 for 412 yards and 3 TD's with a 69% completion rate, Kaepernick shredded the makeshift Packers secondary like an elite quarterback should have. It's also worth noting that there was only one WR on the roster that he had any previous chemistry with, Kyle Williams. So just as the Packers secondary was inexperienced, Colin was throwing to a crew he had no "real-time" experience with either.
- The Kaepernick/Boldin/Davis connection
Much has been made of the Niners offense being without Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham to start the season, as well as the 'questionable' chemistry between Kaepernick and Davis. It didn't seem to be any kind of factor. Boldin torched the secondary for 13 catches for 208 yards, 1 TD and at times seemed to be uncoverable. He showed all the poise of a savvy, veteran WR, out-muscling press coverage and deftly finding the soft spots in the zone. At this moment, Boldin seems to be very much worth a sixth round pick, and much more productive than a certain Randy Moss.
Vernon reaped all the benefits of the Packers efforts to slow down Boldin. He and Kaepernick displayed the chemistry they had in the 2012 post season as opposed to the regular season. This is exactly what the team will need down the stretch while the WR corps returns to full strength.
Another observation, especially prior to Boldin stomping all over anyone in his path, was the Niners efforts to spread the ball around. On the drive leading to the opening Vernon Davis score, Kaepernick hit 5 separate players. If the Niners are to overcome their injuries at WR, and not become over reliant on Boldin, they need to continue to do this.
- Eric Reid
Without doubt, one of the biggest questions that the Niners defense faced going into the season, was how would they replace Dashon Goldson? The early answer was to draft Eric Reid. It seemed certain that he would struggle, facing off against one of the best in Aaron Rodgers and that the rest of the defense would have to rally around him. Today, Reid tried to do his very best impression of Goldson. He delivered some of the game's biggest hits, and played some very impressive coverage downfield. Finally, he demonstrated sure hands on a gift of an interception from Jermichael Finley, shutting down a promising Packer drive. It is still early, but if Reid can consistently deliver performances like this one, the FS spot is one less question mark.
The Not So Good
- Where was the running game?
For as long as Frank Gore has been a 49er, the run game has been at the heart of everything the Niners do on offense. In particular, the Niners have shredded the Packers during their last two outings for over 500 yards on the ground, so it was reasonable to assume they would have a measure of success today. Things didn't quite turn out that way. Part of that can be put on the Packers outright commitment to stopping Kaepernick from running all over them, but as I watched the game, it felt as though the team had all but abandoned it's straight ahead, power formation downhill running game, running primarily out of the shotgun. Its sometimes as if Greg Roman outdoes himself with creativity and shy's away from letting one of the best offensive lines in football impose its will on the defense and opening holes for one of the best RB stables in football. It remains to be seen if this is a one off, game plan deal, or an area of concern going forward.
- Tackle, tackle, and tackle.
There were far too many missed tackles in this game. From Perrish Cox's whiff that resulted in Jermichael Finley's game tying score, to Nnamdi Asomugha's poor attempts at tackling Jordy Nelson, there were moments that the Niners have put themselves in position to make the play, but then just didn't execute. Like blocking, tackling is one of the cornerstones of successful football teams, and down the line, the defense must wrap up the ball carrier to get themselves off the field.
The "What in the World?" moments
- Clock management
This is an area that just seems to be a consistent issue for the Niners, since before Jim Harbaugh and his staff came along. It hasn't gotten any better. If this was a road game where the crowd is deafening and making it all but impossible to get a play call in, or making it hard for everyone to hear the snap count, that would be one thing. But the play clock shouldn't be a factor at home. Without a doubt this was the most frustrating thing to see today, because it has been such a consistent issue. Much like blocking and tackling, getting a play off before the clock expires is a fundamental aspect of the game that hasn't changed in the 30+ years I have been around this game. The Niners burned their way through timeouts today, which turned out to be a nonfactor, but in a close game like this one, it very well could have been. And going into an environment as hostile as Seattle next week, it could be crucial.