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Good Start, Close Finish

By: John Linn

The Packers (6-4) followed up a commanding victory over the Cowboys with a mediocre victory of the 49ers 30-24. While the 49ers are no pushover they are hardly great and the Packers almost let them back in the second half. The Pack had a great start offensively and defensively leading to a 23-3 lead at halftime. But a slow second half almost spelled disaster.

Game Review: The offense started hot with the return of Jermichael Finley. Grant ran rampant on a defense that had been incredibly stout against the run. Rodgers had time to find receivers and threw for two touchdowns, including a long 64-yard pass to Greg Jennings. Rodgers looked perfect and stayed upright, as the line was strong, at least to start. However, the second half was not as good. Rodgers and Grant still put up big numbers as grant rushed for a TD, but the offense was kept mostly off the field with the resurgence of the Niner offense. The Niners had an offense that relied mainly on the rushing of Frank Gore coming into the game, but Alex Smith was the leader of the come back in the second half. Gore did have one huge run but that was it for his production until he caught a TD pass in the 4th quarter.

The D started strong allowing only a field goal in the first half but fell apart and was hit hard with injuries. The defense had three sacks, but they were all in the 1st half. Gore did have a long run early on but was held in check later on and Smith was harassed all throughout the first half. This was all for naught as the defense fell apart in the second half allowing Smith to lead the 49ers to within 6. The pass defense allowed TD passes to Vernon Davis and Frank Gore and the pass rush was much slower in the second half as Smith had much more time. Both Aaron Kampman and Al Harris went down knee injuries. It was now known whether either were serious or not, hopefully not as the loss of those two would be devastating and probably was a key factor in the second half comeback.

What I Saw:
-Ahman Green was out for the game, but the running game didn’t miss a step. Grant rushed for 129 yards and a TD and Jackson was able to catch numerous catches out of the backfield to help keep drives alive.
-Aaron Kampman got a sack in the first half and BJ Raji broke through for another but the pass rush failed later as Kampman went down with an injury.
-The Special Teams looked stronger as Kapinos got off a few good punts, but then had some bad ones. Derrick Martin downed one on the one to help set up a pick by Nick Collins that led to Ryan Grant’s TD. However another huge kickoff return setup a 49er TD.
-The O-Line looked much better, allowing only two sacks (that is still not good, a good line shouldn’t give up any sacks)
-The penalty numbers were better than usual, luckily
-Jermichael Finley returned strong and became Rodgers favorite target.
-The coaching did not seem to make any huge errors for the first time in a long time
-Aaron Rodgers did indeed prove he was the better QB in that draft over Smith
-While this isn’t game related, the TV announcing team of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick repeatedly called coach Mike McCarthy, Mike McCartney and Mark McCarthy (unless I missed a 49er coach being named either of those). Billick also said Rodgers would be doing something like sticking it to McCarthy for not picking him (The 49ers drafted Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers when McCarthy was offensive coordinator), however McCarthy is his coach now…that was a head scratcher.
-Niner coach Mike Singletary challenged a call in the 4th with only one timeout left. He challenged a call that the Packers were short on a run. He actually wanted the Packers to get the first down as a it would have been better for his teams time management. He lost the challenge and it was quite interesting to see an opposing coach challenge something to help (in a way) his opponent.

Ratings (Out of 5)
QB: 4.5. Rodgers was strong. He had enough time and got the ball to his hot receivers, namely Jermichael Finley and Brandon Jackson. His numbers probably would have been even better if the offense would have had the ball more in the second half.

Receivers: 4. Greg Jennings had a great game and caught a long TD. Finley came back strong. Driver caught numerous passes for first downs and they did an all around great job. One big knock was dropped passes though, or not looking for passes, espccially Donald Lee.

Running Backs: 5. Grant was unstoppable on the run averaging over 6 yards per carry (6.1) and slashed up a strong run defense. Jackson had an amazing game out of the backfield with receptions and is proving a valuable asset since his return from an ankle injury. Green was inactive.

O-Line: 4. The line gave Rodgers plenty of time to get rid of the ball and help create holes for Ryan Grant to run through. However, consistency with starters is still a problem.

D-Line: 3.5. While Frank Gore did have a 42 yard gallop early on and averaged 8 yards per carry, that rush accounted for almost all of the yards as a team that relies heavily on the run rushed for only 69 total yards. However in the second half they did not do a good job controlling blockers to help the pass rush.

Linebackers: 3. Aaron Kampman had a sack but went down with a knee injury. No one else looked outstanding. They provided a solid rush early on though, but fell apart later on.

Secondary: 3. Nick Collins intercepted Smith late in the game, however they allowed huge passes to Crabtree on more than one occasion. They originally held tight end Vernon Davis but lost him as the game went on, same with Crabtree. They really fell apart after Harris went down with a knee injury.

Special Teams: 2.5. This was a hard one to rate. They did down a punt at the one, but Kapinos is far too erratic and they gave up another huge gain. Crosby hit on all three of his tries.
Coaching: 3.5. The coaching as a whole did well, something got the team to limit their penalty numbers and play very strongly to start, however the team fell apart in the second half and the coaching staff looked dumbfounded as to finding a way to stop it. However, this was really the first game in awhile that some major coaching flaw hasn’t occurred.

Team as a whole: 3. The start of the game was strong and dominating but the end was nerve-racking. The 49ers are good but they should not have been allowed to drive and come back like that. That being said a win is a win especially now in a playoff hunt.

My Pick for MVP: Ryan Grant. Grant ran up and down the defense. He bounced off the pile on a few occasions and broke to the outside. He averaged more than 6 yards per carry and looked like the Grant from the NFC championship loss year.

Final Thoughts: It’s hard to say what will happen from here on out. They looked strong against the Cowboys but unorganized against the 49ers. This inconsistency could spell disaster later on. The team looks ahead to face a Lions team that won at the very end today and plays well against its rivals and on thanksgiving. The Packers can’t win the division, they need to hope for a wildcard berth, and this inconsistency may cost them.

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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