As the heart rates fall back toward almost-normal range in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, and we look back on what we just saw, two conclusions can easily be made. First, the Packers are a much better team than their record. Second, the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick fear nothing and no one.
The elements, which got so much press (including here on BASG) over the last week, were just a minor footnote in what was an outstanding game. The 49ers won 23-20 on a 33-yard Phil Dawson field goal that was almost blocked (by a guy who was called offsides, but that kills the narrative). In the process, the 49ers’ failures were wiped away.
The two timeouts that were taken in the first eight minutes of the third quarter didn’t matter, because the 49ers still had one to stop the clock with a couple seconds left in the game. Kaepernick’s interception in the first quarter that gave Green Bay life was bad, but it seemed to force the 49ers to remember that they’re a team with incredible rushers both at the halfback and quarterback positions.
In all, it was a game that perfectly epitomized the 49ers’ season. The weather was rough, the officials were allowing anything and everything besides obvious false start/offsides penalties, and Aaron Rodgers was a slippery little bugger when the 49ers thought they had him corralled. In the end, Kaepernick led the seventh game-winning drive of his career, his second in two weeks, and his second in the postseason. Plenty of obstacles, and San Francisco overcame every single one.
The final drive: 5 minutes remaining, Kaepernick, Gore and the o-line take over
The 49ers started with two straight incomplete passes, and you could almost hear the cries from 49ers fans throughout the country: “WHY AREN’T THEY RUNNING?”
Then Kaepernick completed a 17-yard pass to Michael Crabtree, who was unstoppable early and ended with eight catches for 125 yards. (What Achilles tear?) Finally Roman called a run play, but Gore only got a yard. But he picked up 11 yards on a rare reception on the next play.
Gore ran for two yards on first down, Kaepernick threw an incompletion to Vernon Davis, and the 49ers faced 3rd-and-long for the second time. Kaepernick ran around left end for 11 yards, thanks to one of several fantastic blocks from Gore, this time against blitzing cornerback Jarrett Bush.
Then it was Gore with 11 yards on four carries (including a third down conversion that was helped by a great block by Will Tukuafu) to set up Dawson’s game-winning kick.
None of this would’ve been possible without one of the best games for the offensive line as a whole in quite some time. The Packers’ front seven is nowhere near elite without Clay Matthews (or even with Matthews), but the Packers won the time of possession battle and their defense was fresh. If there were any slip-ups at all, whether by penalty or a missed assignment, Kaepernick gets sacked and the game probably goes to overtime or the 49ers lose at the end of regulation.
But they came through when it counted, and afterward Joe Staley jokingly complained about how their ability to do just that, especially when they need it most, can get frustrating. Every 49ers fan in the world will probably find themselves nodding while reading the following quote.
“I think the thing that we’ve done a really good job of — we were actually laughing about this after the game — we always come up with points when we need to,” Staley said.
“It’s like, let’s just do that the whole time. It just seems like, ‘Okay, we need to get seven here. Okay, we’ll go get seven.’ Then we get seven. ‘Hey, we need to get three to run out the clock. Okay, we’ll run out the clock and get three here.’
“Let’s just do that the whole time and score 60 points a game. It’d be a lot easier.”
That would be easier, wouldn’t it? But this has been banged into our heads for three consecutive weeks: these 49ers don’t do easy. They do win, though. 13 and counting.
49ers march forward
— Wow, Dawson is good.
— I’ve seen how Jim Harbaugh interacts with the beat guys, so this is especially hilarious and proves just how euphoric Harbaugh (who had barely any voice left during his pregame scream/speech) was after the game:
Jim Harbaugh was so giddy after this game that after his presser he kissed a reporter on the top of his head. His bald head.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) January 6, 2014
Barrows, like yours truly, is not exactly blessed when it comes to the ol’ hairline.
— With how many blocks Gore had to spring Kaepernick (who ran for 98 yards) free, doesn’t the 49ers quarterback owe Gore at least one block? Only fair.
— It’s not like Kaepernick couldn’t handle it. He smashed helmets with Tramon Williams when he made the tackle after his interception, and he didn’t wear sleeves!
“It’s not that cold, it’s all mental. Look at Bow, he got no sleeves too!” – Kaepernick
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) January 6, 2014
That quote was from when Kaepernick and NaVorro Bowman talked with Fox’s sideline reporter after the game. After Kaepernick left, Bowman’s interview was cut short because his teeth were chattering.
— Just like against the Cardinals, LaMichael James had a good kickoff return to help put the 49ers in good field position before an important drive — this time it helped set up their first touchdown drive of the fourth quarter.
— Tukuafu wasn’t the only under-the-radar hero who made his second opportunity with the 49ers count. Perrish Cox played the entire game and was outstanding. Both players earned themselves some money today.
— Aldon Smith (1.5 sacks, two QB hits) is back. So is Ahmad Brooks (two sacks, two QB hits).
— It’s pretty tiresome when fans/teams/announcers complain about the officiating, but the refs really seemed like they wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. Sort of like, “Okay guys, if you’re going to force us to stand alone on this freezing-cold field, we’re going to refuse to call all but the most obvious penalties.” Both teams got away with some stuff, but no non-call was as blatant as this hold on Ray McDonald on the play where Rodgers went into Houdini-mode and found Randall Cobb on 4th-and-2:
If you’re wondering how Rodgers got away. MOST OBVIOUS HOLD EVER. pic.twitter.com/sPCpe4gNXl
— World of Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) January 6, 2014
— Next up: the Carolina Panthers, who the 49ers will face in Charlotte at 10 am PST. The weather should be better, but know this: it won’t get any easier. That’s just the way this season’s going to be, so keep your aspirin handy.