The second game on the playoff schedule had the Green Bay Packers heading out to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. The Packers were coming off a 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings and the 49ers had a first round bye. The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive. Return man LaMichael James fielded the kick at the five and returned it 23 yards to the 28. A nine-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree and two carries by running back Frank Gore moved them to the 47. On second and six, quarterback Craig Kaepernick looked for tight end Vernon Davis and the pass was picked off by cornerback Sam Shields and returned for a 52-yard touchdown. Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers took an early 7-0 lead.
From their 20, the 49ers went to work again. Short runs by Gore and Kaepernick set up a third and two at the 28. A defensive holding call gave them five yards and a first down. On third and ten from the 33, Kaepernick rolled to his left and lofted a pass to Gore. The play went for 45 yards and Gore was finally dragged down at the Packer 22. On third and eight from the 20, Kaepernick took things into his own hands and ran up the left side for a 20-yard touchdown. Kicker David Akers made the point after and the game was tied at seven with nine minutes to go in the first quarter.
The teams traded punts and with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter, the Packers got the ball at their 20. Three carries by running back DuJuan Harris got ten yards and a first down. On third and five from the 38, quarterback Aaron Rodgers let one go down-field and the pass was caught at the San Francisco 18 by wide receiver James Jones. Harris took the ball right up the middle on the next play and the Packers went up 13-7. Crosby made the point after and the Packers now led 14-7.
With 11:43 remaining in the second quarter, the 49ers started their next drive from their 20. Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree on first down for a gain of 15. They got to midfield and were forced to punt. Punter Andy Lee got off a high punt and return man Jeremy Ross muffed the ball at the nine-yard line. It was recovered by 49er safety C.J. Spillman. That set the 49ers up nicely. On third and goal from the 12, Kaepernick found Crabtree across the middle for the touchdown. Akers made the point after and the game was tied at 14 with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.
A holding call on the kickoff return moved the Packers back to their seven-yard line. On third and seven from the 26, Rodgers looked for wide receiver Jordy Nelson and the pass was picked off by cornerback Tarell Brown at the San Francisco 13. He returned it to the Packer 48 and the 49ers were in business again. Some good running by Gore and James got them down to the 25. On third and nine from the 24, Kaepernick scrambled down to the nine for a first down. After his impressive run, he was flagged 15 yards for taunting. They still had a first down, but the ball was moved back to the 24. On second and six, Kaepernick put one up the left side to Crabtree for a 20-yard touchdown. Akers made the point after and the 49ers now led 21-14 with 5:26 to go in the first half.
Starting at their 20 again, Rodgers scrambled for a nine-yard gain and Harris ran up the middle for three yards and a first down. Then, Rodgers completed a pass to tight end Jermichael Finley for a gain of 19. Harris ran off right tackle for a gain of three and safety Dashon Goldson came in late with a brutal helmet to helmet hit. That cost him 15 yards and the Packers got a first down at the San Francisco 31. Three plays later, Rodgers looked for Jones in the end zone and found him for a 20-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the game was tied at 21 with 2:33 to go in the half.
Two scrambles by Kaepernick netted 22 yards and had his team moving in the right direction. On third and ten from the 42, he took off again for 18 more yards and a first down at the Packer 40. They got as far as the 18 when they were faced with a fourth and one. With time running short, Akers was called on for a 36-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and the 49ers took a 24-21 lead into the locker room.
The second half started with each team unable to move the ball very well. With just under 12 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Packers took over at their 11. Two completions to wide receiver Greg Jennings gave them a first down at the 43. Then, two completions to Nelson got them into San Francisco territory. A carry by wide receiver Randall Cobb went for 19 yards and a first down at the 22. The drive stalled at the 13 and Crosby snuck the ball just inside the right upright for a 31-yard field goal. That knotted the game at 24 with 8:25 to go in the third quarter.
Starting at their 20, Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree again for gains of 18 and six yards. Then he totally caught the Packers off guard. From the shotgun, he took the snap and bolted up the right side for a 56-yard touchdown. Some good down-field blocking helped him out too. Still, I knew Kaepernick was fast, but, I didn’t know he was THAT fast! He left the Packer secondary in the dust. Akers made the extra point and the 49ers now led 31-24 with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter.
That long run seemed to ignite the 49er defense. They allowed the Packers only 21 yards on their next drive and forced a punt. Punter Tim Masthay got off a good one that was fair caught by Ted Ginn at the seven-yard line. Two carries by Gore and a 16-yard completion to Crabtree made it first down at the 31. Another holding call on the Packers gave them another first down at the 39. On second and eight from the 41, Davis caught a pass for a gain of 44 and they were knocking on the door again. Gore ran straight up the middle and was brought down at the two. He finished the drive on the next play with a two-yard touchdown run. Akers made another point after and the 49ers went up 38-24 with just one quarter to go.
The Packers went from their 11 to their 49 and on third and five, Rodgers saw Jennings behind the secondary on the left side. The ball hit his hands and fell incomplete. That was a killer for them. If he had been able to catch that pass, he may have scored and the Packers would have been right back in the game. Instead, it led to another punt.
The 49ers took over at their seven and some more carries by Gore and Kaepernick had them moving again. The Packer defense was getting worn down and frustrated. It seemed like after every play, players had to be separated. There were no personal fouls called, but it was obvious these teams do not like each other. Some more tough running by Gore brought the 49ers down to the Packer 27. A holding call moved them back ten yards. A four-yard run by Kaepernick and a 14-yard pass to Crabtree made it fourth and one at the 18. On fourth down, defensive tackle B.J. Raji jumped offside and that gave the 49ers a first down at the 13. Gore ran up the middle for 11 and on second and goal from the two, running back Anthony Dixon finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Akers made his final extra point attempt of the night and the 49ers now had a commanding 45-24 lead with 3:34 to go in the game. Rodgers would hook up with Jennings for a three-yard score, but it was too little too late. Final score: 49ers 45 Packers 31.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 26 of 39 for 257 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. James Jones led the team in receptions with four and receiving yards with 87 and a touchdown. DuJuan Harris had only 11 carries in this game and ended up with 53 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Packers rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries. Defensively, linebacker Brad Jones led the team with nine solo tackles.
For the 49ers, it was a great night for Colin Kaepernick as he completed 17 of 31 for 263 yards, two touchdowns through the air and two more on the ground. His lone bad spot was an interception early in the game that was returned for a touchdown. Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 119 and two touchdowns. Kaepernick paved the way on the ground with a quarterback rushing record of 181 yards and two touchdowns. Frank Gore also had a good night with 119 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. Gore also caught two passes for 48 yards. As a team, the 49ers rushed for 323 yards on 43 carries. They out-gained the Packers in total yards 579-352. Defensively, linebacker Patrick Willis led the team with seven solo tackles, one sack and a tackle for a loss.
Up next for the 49ers will be the winner of the Seahawks-Falcons game. If the Falcons win, the 49ers will travel to Atlanta. If the Seahawks win, they’ll head to San Francisco. The Falcons and Seahawks are the early game today followed by the Texans and Patriots. I’ll return with recaps of those games later today. Until then, take it easy and enjoy the games.