We waited nine months for that? The San Francisco 49ers finished two games behind the Packers in 2011 but they were the better team on the first day of the 2012 season, beating the Pack at Lambeau 30-22. Both teams have plenty of talent but I thought the big difference going into the game that favored the home team was they had the better quarterback. However, Alex Smith outperformed Aaron Rodgers to the tune of a 125.6 passer rating to 93.3 from last year's MVP. Smith was 20 of 26 for 211 with a pair of scores and no mistakes, while Rodgers hit 30 of 44 for 303 yards, two scores, but a bad interception in his own end with the team down only 8 points. Smith also had a running game, Frank Gore rumbled for 112 yards on only 16 carries, a gaudy 7 yard average with a 23 yard touchdown on the snap after Navarro Bowman's pick. The Niners piled up 186 yards on the ground while Rodgers was Green Bay's leading rusher with 27 on five scrambles. Cedric Benson's first game as a Packer? Forgettable, 18 yards on 9 rushes.
Both teams had their first drives stalled by a sack, Clay Matthews got one of his two and a half on the Niners first series while Carlos Rogers pulled down Aaron at midfield. David Akers drilled a 40 yard field goal to cap a 58 yard drive for the first points of the game. Backed up after a punt, a pass interference penalty on Jarrett Bush on third down got San Francisco moving and they capped the 92 yard march with none other than Randy Moss catching a 14 yard strike from Smith. Moss was wide open when safety Morgan Burnett closed on an underneath route. Green Bay responded with a penalty marred drive of 80 yards as Jermichael Finley caught a two yard dart to make it 10-7. Another third down stop was wiped away on a Packer defensive penalty, this one on Charles Woodson and Akers connected again from 43. The end of the half was ugly and historic. The Packers couldn't move and punted with Kyle Williams returning it 20 yards. Backup quarterback Collin Kapernick came on for one snap and fooled the Packers defense for a 17 yard quarterback draw, giving Akers one more shot. His 63 yard field goal hit the crossbar and bounced through to tie the NFL record for the longest boot ever. To start the third, Green Bay had third and one and Rodgers threw a bomb to Jordy Nelson in double coverage that had no chance. The Niners then hit three big plays, Michael Crabtree with a 20 yard catch, Gore with a 21 yard run and Vernon Davis was left wide open over the middle, another communication breakdown, this one involving Jarrett Bush for a 29 yard pickup. Davis capped the drive with a tough, 4 yard catch on third down between Burnett and Sam Shields and the Niners led 23-7. Finley had a pair of drops on each of the next two stalled series and into the fourth quarter it was looking bleak. The Packers forced a punt and Andy Lee nailed a 61 yarder that Randall Cobb fielded at the 25. He ran right, got a couple of blocks, one of the illegal variety and raced 75 yards up the sideline for a touchdown. Replays clearly showed rookie Terrell Manning hit Chris Culliver in the back, the flag was thrown but after a discussion, the replacement officials, who had a very choppy game by the way, picked up the flag and counted the score. The Packers converted the two point try on a pass to Nelson to make it a one score game. The defense got a stop but on the first snap, Rodgers tried to hit Greg Jennings and Navarro Bowman intercepted, returning it to the 23. Gore then broke around right end for a back breaking touchdown run. James Jones hauled in a 49 yard catch on a broken play and then caught a 10 yard touchdown with 6:05 left and while the Packers got it back for one last drive, it fizzled on 4th and 10 from the 45.
By the numbers, San Francisco outgained the Pack 377-324, a huge edge on the ground, and they controlled the clock by six minutes. There were 18 penalties accepted for 143 yards, Green Bay had 10 for 77. Cobb was the leading receiver with 9 catches for 77 yards. The inactives were Jarrett Boykin, Sean Richardson, Davon House, Brandian Ross, James Starks, Jamari Lattimore and Mike Daniels.
Boys II Men sang the national anthem with an F-16 flyover, the 1982 Packers were recognized at halftime, including head coach Bart Starr. 31 of the 45 players on that team were in attendance. 70,523 fans donned green and gold shirts at the opening kickoff but the colorful afternoon was spoiled as Green Bay's five game winning streak on opening day and 13 game regular season winning streak at Lambeau came to a very disappointing end. There's no time to wallow in the sorrow, the Chicago Bears come calling Thursday night.
On the link below, the post game quotes from both locker rooms.