There is nothing like a game against the Green Bay Packers to show everyone how bad a San Francisco 49ers team is. For the first time in over a decade, this was a game against the Packers that the 49ers were expected to win. It was a game against the Packers that the 49ers should have won. However, like all games against Green Bay, quarterback Brett Favre once again took advantage of the team that he has never lost to during the regular season. In fact, about 91% of the time, you can guarantee that the 49ers will lose to Brett Favre and the Packers (91% being Favre's 11-1 record against San Francisco).
The 49ers missed a huge opportunity by allowing the Packers to once again embarrass the team. The division leading Seattle Seahawks were upset by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. A 49ers win against the Packers would have given the team a 6-7 record, which would be two games behind Seattle and made for an interesting a matchup against them on Thursday. The 49ers have already beaten the Seahawks once this season. A win would have put the team just one game behind the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons for the two Wildcard spots in the playoffs. All three teams currently have 7-6 records.
For the fans that were still grasping at the hope of postseason play, the loss to the Packers pretty much ended San Francisco's slim playoff chances.
Given everything that was on the line for San Francisco, what made Sunday's game even more embarrassing was the lack of intensity from the team itself. The team did not seem to want the win bad enough. Perhaps it was the overwhelming swarm of Monster Park fans decked out in green and yellow and shouting out things like "We still own you!" Perhaps it was the false sense of security from being the favorite in the game...something that does not occur often for the 49ers. Whatever the reason, the team had no passion on either side of the ball.
While Alex Smith had 201 yards passing and a touchdown, he also had two costly interceptions. This was also the first time since November 15th, a loss to San Diego, that Smith has passed for over 200 yards in a game. It was also the sixth time this season that Smith has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in a game.
Frank Gore rushed for 130 yards on Sunday, his seventh 100+ yard rushing game this season and his fifth with 130 or more yards. He now has 1,347 yards rushing for the season which still ranks first in the NFC and third in the NFL.
Favre proved that no matter how bad his team is, he can still inflict some major damage on San Francisco. He passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. For those of you that still have old copies of that 1998 NFC Wildcard game against the Packers, hold on to it. It may be the only time you ever see the 49ers beat a Brett Favre led team. After this game, if you ask Favre, he'll probably tell you that he could play for a couple more years. If you ask any 49ers fan, they will likely beg for Favre's retirement and pray for the Aaron Rodgers era to begin.
Speaking of Aaron Rodgers, despite being out for the year and being a non factor in this game, he was probably happier about the win than any other Green Bay player on the sideline. Rodgers, the backup quarterback in Green Bay, grew up a huge San Francisco 49ers fan but was openly upset when the team passed him up in the 2005 NFL Draft in favor of Alex Smith.
With 10:45 left in the first quarter, Brett Favre threw a deep 33-yard pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings who stepped out of bounds at the San Francisco 5. Mike Nolan challenged the play saying that Jennings had not gotten both feet inbounds. He was correct. The play was reversed and the Packers were forced to punt the football.
During San Francisco's second possession of the game, running back Frank Gore eluded tacklers and ran for 72 yards before being pushed out by cornerback Al Harris at the Green Bay 2-yard line. Despite being well beyond any Green Bay defender, Gore slowed down at the end of his run allowing Harris to catch up to him. Any momentum that play caused was lost when the team was penalized during the very next play for having 12 men in the huddle.
After his big run, Frank Gore sat out the following three plays. The 49ers only got a field goal from this drive.
On the very next drive, Brett Favre threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ruvell Martin. Martin was so open that when Favre looked toward wide receiver Greg Jennings, his original target, Jennings pointed across the field to Martin. Favre then looked and tossed the ball to the wide open Martin for the score. Cornerback Walt Harris, who won NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors the week before, had blown the coverage and bitten on a fake leaving Martin all by himself and sprinting for the endzone.
With 1:20 left in the first quarter, 49ers running back Frank Gore fumbled the ball at the San Francisco 3-yard line. It was recovered by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson at the San Francisco 8-yard line. Luckily, the 49ers defense held and the Packers only scored a field goal giving Green Bay a 10-3 lead.
With 6:38 left in the second quarter, the 49ers engineered a good drive which took them from the San Francisco 32-yard line to the Green Bay 18-yard line. This drive included a gutsy 4th and 3 call that had Alex Smith pass to Frank Gore for a 13-yard gain. However, three straight incomplete passes by Smith following that conversion ended the drive and resulted in a Joe Nedney field goal. The score was now 17-6, Green Bay.
There was some controversy whether or not the sack against Packers quarterback Brett Favre at the end of the first half with 8 seconds remaining on the clock was a fumble or not. While Favre was ruled down, the replays clearly show that the ball was out of Favre's hands prior to his knees hitting the ground. The sack occurred in San Francisco territory near midfield and the 49ers may have been able to get one, maybe two plays off before the end of the first half since the clock would have stopped upon change of possession.
On the first drive of the third quarter, the 49ers moved from the San Francisco 21-yard line all the way down to the Green Bay 6-yard line. From there, Alex Smith took off up the middle and gained 5 yards. However, they placed the ball at the 2-yard line. Nolan challenged the spot and the call was reversed. From the 1-yard line, running back Frank Gore had no problem taking it in for the score. The extra point brought San Francisco within 4 points with a 17-13 score.
Two possessions later, Alex Smith threw a low ball that was intended for tight end Vernon Davis who had been open. It was intercepted by free safety Nick Collins. This was a huge game changing moment because on the second play of the resulting drive, Favre threw a deep right pass to Donald Driver and he eluded San Francisco defenders on his way to the endzone to put Green Bay up 24-13. The 49ers would never recover.
Trying to make a comeback in the forth quarter with 13:26 on the clock, Alex Smith threw to Vernon Davis for a 35-yard gain moving the team to the Green Bay 41-yard line. However, a holding call on Justin Smiley brought the play back. San Francisco would eventually punt.
An interesting matchup came with 7:43 left in the forth quarter and San Francisco driving. Down 30-13 and at the Green Bay 19-yard line, Alex Smith attempted to hit Vernon Davis up the middle. Instead, the pass was intercepted be linebacker A.J. Hawk who was taken one selection ahead of tight end Vernon Davis in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Still down 30-13 and with 5:27 left in the game, Alex Smith passed to Vernon Davis who outmaneuvered Packers defenders on his way to the endzone for the score. A botched snap on the extra point resulted in a missed field goal and the final score of 30-19.
Three games remain on the 49ers' schedule. At best, the team can be 8-8. However, with road games against Seattle and Denver and a home game against an improved Arizona team on Christmas Eve, don't expect the team to reach that .500 mark. The team may escape their next three games with a single win putting them at 6-10 for the season. Still, it is an improvement over last season's embarrassing 4-12 record and gives them a fairly high 2007 NFL Draft pick...not that the team should be playing for NFL Draft picks. The team is looking better than last year, but still has a lot of work to do during the offseason.