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Alex Smith has been much maligned in the NFL since he arrived, but now the fans in San Francisco are laying off the former No. 1 overall pick. The San Francisco 49ers have put pieces around him, and while he may not be capable of carrying a bad team, Smith has shown he won't hurt a very good one.
After the 49ers' victory over the Green Bay Packers and superstar Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 of NFL play, Tre9er over at Niners Nation pointed out the advantages of a team in San Francisco that isn't reliant upon a star under center.
Sure, everyone would love to have an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady...but if it causes you to lose sight of deficiencies in other areas, if you have to completely rely on that guy, to live and die by his performance and/or health...well that's just a risky proposition to me.
The 49ers have built one of the best defenses in the league. Their special teams unit is nothing to laugh at. He has a core group of talented running backs and enough receivers to call the offense dangerous. No, Alex Smith isn't bad, but he doesn't need to have the pressure of the world on him anymore. He can be himself.
Beating Rodgers and the Packers 30-22 was representative of that.
The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a big win on Sunday over the Green Bay Packers, there's no denying that. The offense ran like a well-oiled machine, while the defense kept its slip-ups to a minimum until the fourth quarter. It was a rare occasion when the 49ers' offense outshone the defense (though preventing Aaron Rodgers from throwing for five touchdowns is a feat all on its own at this point), and today we're going to look at something in particular.
Since the offense played well, we're going to look at one player who was bad on offense, and since the defense sort of fell apart, we'll take a look at someone on defense that was good. First up, we'll take a look at the offense.
LT Joe Staley was particularly bad on offense for the 49ers. In my initial recap I mentioned that Staley had a decent performance against LB Clay Matthews, but after reviewing the film, I was dead wrong. Look for my post on Niners Nation late Tuesday morning where I break down each and every sack, but suffice to say, Staley had a part in just about every one of them. He struggled to contain Matthews on so many plays and if it wasn't Matthews who actually hit Alex Smith, it was Matthews who was forced to step into a sack.
It wasn't exactly the worst performance of Staley's career (despite what he says), but it didn't inspire much confidence going forward. Now, who had a great performance on defense?
LB NaVorro Bowman had a great day on defense. Not only did he manage to snag an Aaron Rodgers interception for the only takeaway of the game, he made some excellent tackles and wasn't really beat in coverage. I said on Niners Nation that Bowman needed to have a huge game for his own mental state, and he did. The reasoning was that he had such a great year last year, his expectations for himself were higher than anyone else's. So he needed to come out and have either an excellent performance or a consistent one. He got the former.
This week's San Francisco 49ers-Detroit Lions matchup at Candlestick Park should be a pretty physical battle of teams with physical defenses and the tag of "up and coming" as far as perennial playoff participants, after both got to the postseason in 2011.
It's also the first meeting between fiery coaches Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers and Jim Schwartz of the Lions. Schwartz confronted Harbaugh angrily after what he took to be a hard slap in the back when the two coaches met at midfield at the conclusion of the 49ers' 25-19 win at Ford Field last October.
Both coaches had to be separated by players and team personnel. It had the potential to get ugly, but it didn't. And this week, Harbaugh doesn't want to hear about it, nor does he even want to re-hash it. Harbaugh stopped reporters from going there pretty quickly when the subject of the "handshake' came up.
Chances are this won't be media fodder for both teams after Monday.
Last season, the San Francisco 49ers could attribute two very key things to most of their 13 wins: their awesome turnover ratio/ability to protect the ball on offense and their success in the battle for field position. Alex Smith only threw five interceptions a season ago, something that's rarely done by an NFL quarterback. He was safe, efficient and most of all, effective. Being careful with the football was his strong suit.
On Sunday, he helped the 49ers get things off on the right foot against the Green Bay Packers by slinging two touchdowns to go with his 211 yards, with an efficient 20-for-26 mark on his completions. On defense, NaVorro Bowman played his part by picking off Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers at an opportune time.
Bowman dropped back into zone coverage and leapt in the air to snag the pick on a first down. He actually looked to cover the running back who was running a quick out route, but watched Rodgers and quickly dropped back to get in front of the pass that was planned to sail over his head. It was an excellent, heads up play that you'd expect from one of the top inside linebackers in the league.
So the 49ers are +1 on the season when it comes to turnover ratio. That's a check. How did they do when it came to winning the field position battle?
Not as well as you might think. In fact, it could explain why the 49ers' defense got so tired and started to give up bigger plays as the game went on. If you watch the gameplan, there wasn't a whole lot different from the start of the game and the end of the game. This wasn't a Mike Nolan-esque prevent defense with 10 minutes to go, it was a defense that had a lot of work to do preventing a Packers offense that was winning the field position battle.
Below are the starting points for all of the drives:
49ers: 20, 20, 8, 20, 38, 16, 4, 10, GB 23, 26
Packers: 29 (penalty), 20, 20, 20, 21, 23, 24, 16
As you can see, the Packers did pretty well with some of their punts, but that's also a double-edged sword. It means the 49ers held way nearer midfield and the Packers punted very well, but that's sort of San Francisco's modus operandi. Andy Lee is usually the safety net that puts the other team back inside their own 20-yard line. That didn't happen much on Sunday.
Part of that is because the 49ers punted a lot less than normal. That's one good sign and another thing to take away from this game: touchbacks suck, but they're what happen when the NFL has a terrible rule change to the kickoff start point and you happen to score 30 points.
Still, it's not like the 49ers to give up that kind of yardage, and it's probably fair to see a large part of that is their lack of success on the field position level. On the flipside to that, the offense was given poor field position and managed to put up 30 points, so there's a good side to this particular stat. But the 49ers are a team blessed with excellent special teams, and if they hope to win 13 games again, they'll need to work on winning that field position battle more often than naught going forward.
Going into their Week 1 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers didn't have a long injury report. Wide receiver and kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. was listed as doubtful, as was short-yardage running back Brandon Jacobs. Both players missed the game, with the latter not necessarily being missed and the former being replaced by wide receiver Kyle Williams.
And after the game?
San Francisco escaped without injury, which is always a good thing. "Everyone's fine," is always news at this point. Left tackle Joe Staley re-opened a wound on his nose and was looking particularly gruesome on the sidelines, but it didn't keep him out of the action at all and there's not much else to report beyond that.
On the Green Bay side, there's not much either. Perrish Cox and Jermichael Finley got into it (both of them were being bastard coated bastards with bastard filling), and Cox stepped on Finley's ankle. So Finley got up, limped around, made a big show of things and then caught a touchdown reception. So we all know how "hurt" he was. Always good to see a game without any serious injuries in the NFL.
For more on the San Francisco 49ers, join the discussion over at Niners Nation. If you're a fan of the Packers and you'd like a shoulder to cry on, head on over to Acme Packing Company. You can also check out everything we have to offer at SB Nation's NFL hub.
Prior to the start of the 2012 NFL Season, I said a lot of negative things regarding San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss. I said that he had nothing left, and that he'd quit on the field after he didn't catch a pass on the first play of the game. From the moment of the signing, there was nothing but utter negativity from me, including a self-obsessed feature that began with a title that began with "The Randy Moss Delusion: ..."
I'm not here to apologize or suggest that I'd say different things if given the same situation. I'm here to say that I'm wrong and make sure you know just how happy that makes me.
Being wrong is not always a bad thing, especially when one is generally a pessimist. Given the level of play we've had in San Francisco prior to the 2011 season, pessimism is totally justified, and will continue to be until the 49ers go out there and appear in a few more NFC Championship games and maybe win another Super Bowl or two.
On Sunday, Moss had four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown grab was pretty excellent, though it was more a product of blown coverage than it was of Moss being awesome. Don't get me wrong, we put up a commentary on it because of the cumulative awesomeness, but there was a clear miscommunication in the Green Bay secondary.
His numbers don't jump out at you, but if you remove the frankly unrealistic and unwarranted hype from this offseason, there weren't any real expectations for Moss. He's coming off a couple poor seasons in which he was traded and cut a few times, and showed only that he was a problem in the locker room. Coming out and catching four passes for him is actually a pretty huge deal.
Who knows what his numbers will look like at the end of the season, but what Moss showed more than anything on Sunday was that he needs to be accounted for when he's on the field. If he's not, he'll grab a touchdown, and if he is, then Michael Crabtree might be freed up to grab another seven receptions for 76 yards. Either way, it's a win-win for San Francisco, who considered Moss a low-risk, high-reward player. That's what he's turning out to be, at least through one week of NFL action.
The NFC West standings look as many figured they would after Week 1, with the defending division champion San Francisco 49ers at 1-0, tied with the Arizona Cardinals.
San Francisco got the season off to a great start with a 30-22 win at Green Bay, while the Cardinals survived the Seattle Seahawks' bid for a big road win with a 20-16 victory in Glendale, Ariz.
The Seahawks are 0-1 despite a comeback that fell short in Arizona, and the St. Louis Rams are also 0-1 despite a respectable showing in Detroit, where it took a touchdown pass with 10 seconds left for the Lions to win.
Week 2 is going to be interesting for NFC West teams. The Cardinals try to limit Tom Brady in New England, the Rams get the hot rookie Robert Griffin III in their home opener against Washington, the Seahawks play in front of their super-loud fans in the home opener against 1-0 Dallas and the 49ers host Detroit. How will that "greeting" between Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh go?
The San Francisco 49ers faced their toughest matchup on paper at Lambeau Field on Sunday, and came out with a win. The Green Bay Packers are no joke, even though you get to laugh at them for the next week while quarterback Aaron Rodgers wears a 49ers jersey thanks to a bet he made with Boyz II Men.
What a random sentence that was.
At any rate, the 49ers took a big test on Sunday, and they passed with flying colors. Throughout the week, our headline was "San Francisco Looking To Prove 2011 Wasn't A Fluke." There aren't many games one could play to make that kind of statement in Week 1, but in Lambeau against the Packers is one of them.
Sure, they could go out there and lose every game going forward and that's that, but it's not likely to happen. There were slip-ups and some plays that probably should go back to the drawing board, but without a defense that eased up in the fourth quarter and a very bad blown call on a punt return touchdown, then the 49ers won by more than two scores. It's all very convenient to go out and play revisionist, but it's still apt.
So why did the 49ers win? Well, Alex Smith was one of the big reasons. San Francisco had a very well-called game, with more personnel sets than anybody imagined, but Smith was the guy who went out there and put up an excellent performance. A season ago, Smith threw just five interceptions. After his 211-yard, two touchdown performance, he kept his 2012 total to zero.
Frank Gore was great, as he usually is, and Kendall Hunter proved to be an excellent change of pace. It seemed like the 49ers knew just when to run and just when to pass. Oh, and speaking of passing, who can forget about the 49ers' group of wide receivers?
Michael Crabtree grabbed seven receptions for 76 yards, while Randy Moss snagged a touchdown pass as one of his four receptions. Vernon Davis missed a dunk over the crossbar, but it was following a touchdown reception, so nobody is too mad at him. The offense simply worked. It wasn't perfect, but it worked more often than naught, and Green Bay doesn't exactly have the worst offense in the league.
On defense, the 49ers played an excellent first half. They took the crowd out of it, while the linebackers ran the show. Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver had good games in the secondary, at least until the fourth quarter, and all-in-all, they made life tough on Aaron Rodgers.
And of course, there was no chance of any rushing yardage for the Packers. Rodgers was the leading rusher with five keepers for 27 yards, while feature back Cedric Benson ran the ball nine times for just 18 yards. That's an average of two yards per carry, which is about par the course for the 49ers run defense.
Would the 49ers beat the Packers every time they played? No, but Sunday was a reminder that San Francisco truly earned that 13-3 record a season ago and that they really did belong in that NFC Championship game. Jim Harbaugh has this team right where he wants them, and this should be a very, very fun season.
It's not like the San Francisco 49ers were huge underdogs to defeat the Green Bay Packers Sunday. But winning at Lambeau Field is a luxury not afforded to opponents to often. And the fact that the Packers are a lot of people's pick for the Super Bowl while the 49ers are the top pick for the NFC West title makes this 30-22 win feel a little more special in the hearts of 49ers fans.
Let's allow David Fucillo from Niners Nation to say it best, as a huge fan of the Red and Gold:
As we close out Sunday of Week 1, we can enjoy the sleep of the victorious as our beloved 49ers took the first step in their mission towards Super Bowl XLVI.
David even admitted that he picked against his team this weekend, which for him made the rejoicing in victory that much sweeter.
The 49ers can feel even better this week in preparing for the Detroit Lions at home if they can get Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon Jacobs back. The two missed the game with injuries are expected to play in Week 2.
The San Francisco 49ers got their season started off with a bang on Sunday, with an impressive 30-22 win over the Green Bay Packers. We've got a recap up already, but I wanted to get some notes up prior to an in-depth recap tomorrow. There's a whole, whole lot to take from this game after months without the NFL. But what's the biggest takeaway?
Sure, the defense sort of crumbled near the end of the game, giving up big pass play after big pass play, but earlier in the game, they were absolutely fantastic. Not only that, but the rush defense was really up to par, not letting Cedric Benson get anywhere. While there's going to be a lot to complain about, the biggest takeaway is that there was more good than there was bad.
And in the NFL, you take what you can get. Here's some thoughts on the game.
The San Francisco 49ers picked up a big road win in Week 1, defeating the Green Bay Packers by a score of 30-22. The 49ers got out to an early 10-0 lead and never looked back, doing a nice job of mixing their offensive attack through the air and on the ground.
Alex Smith was very solid for the 49ers, throwing for 211 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts and did not throw an interception. Frank Gore also had a big day, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown.
Michael Crabtree had one of his better games in recent memory on Sunday. He hauled in seven receptions for 76 yards, and also did a nice job blocking on the outside. Randy Moss made his debut, bringing down four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
The real story of the game was the 49ers defense. The unit allowed Green Bay to score just seven points in the first three quarters. The Packers added two touchdowns late, but it was the defense stepping up on the final drive to stop Green Bay near midfield.
Aaron Rodgers was 30-for-44 with 304 passing yards. He completed two touchdown strikes and threw an interception. The Packers seldom ran the ball; Rodgers led the team with 27 rushing yards, while Cedric Benson went for just 18 yards on nine attempts. James Jones led Green Bay's receivers with 81 yards and a touchdown.
Tight end Vernon Davis caught a four-yard touchdown pass with 8:21 remaining in the third quarter, extending San Francisco's lead to 16.
Davis attempted to celebrate his first touchdown of the season with a dunk over the goal post, and that didn't work out very well. For the Green Bay crowd, it was a rare moment to celebrate.
Alex Smith continues to make smart decisions, putting up 192 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-23 passing. Running back Frank Gore is also performing well, rushing for 80 yards on 12 carries (6.7 yards per attempt). Randy Moss has four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers is coming off a season in which he converted 44 out of 52 field goal attempts, the most in the NFL. Today, the 37-year-old picked up right where he left off, knocking in three field goals in the first half. The last of the three, coming in the final seconds of the second quarter, was a 63-yard conversion that tied an NFL record for the longest field goal in league history. Video of the kick is below.
Akers himself didn't even think he'd make the kick, as shown by his facial reaction after it bounced up and over the uprights. The field goal gave the 49ers a 16-7 halftime lead over the Green Bay Packers.
San Francisco wide receiver Randy Moss followed up on a 20 yard reception in the first quarter with a 14 yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 10-0 lead. It was Moss's 154th career touchdown, moving him into second place all-time amongst wide receivers. Check out a GIF of the reception here.
The Packers responded on their next possession, marching down the field and converting on a one-yard touchdown by tight end Jermichael Finley. Finley got in a scuffle with San Francisco's secondary on the previous play before the score.
The 49ers extended their advantage to 13-7 with a 43 yard field goal by David Akers. Akers was just getting started though, knocking in a 63 yard attempt at the end of the half to make it 16-7. That kick ties an NFL record for longest field goal in league history.
Both starting quarterbacks continued their efficient first quarter performances. Smith is 12/15 for 132 yards and a touchdown at the break, while Rodgers is 15/20 for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Neither team was able to put together a lengthy possession leading to a touchdown, but Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers still managed to throw together solid statlines. Smith was 4-5 for 41 yards, while Rodgers was 6-8 for 40 yards.
Oh, and in a moment that surprises no one, head coach Jim Harbaugh got very upset and made some funny faces.
The following Packers players were also declared inactive for the game:
Talk about the big Week 1 49ers matchup with other fans by heading on over to Niners Nation. Talk about the game with Packers fans at Acme Packing Company. Hit up the SB Nation NFL hub for more comprehensive pro football coverage.
The 49ers will travel to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team that went 15-1 during the regular season last year. Starting the season on the road against possibly the toughest opponent you'll face all season may not be ideal for San Francisco, but it does give them the opportunity to make a statement with a win.
The 49ers begin their NFC West defense with Alex Smith once again at quarterback. Smith resigned with San Francisco this offseason after a strong 2011 campaign. He will have a few new weapons on offense as Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will make their 49er debuts against the Packers.
Brandon Jacobs could also make his San Francisco debut, but he's listed as questionable to play due to a knee injury. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is also listed as questionable, although both players traveled to Green Bay with the team.
If the 49ers are going to start the season with a win, they will have to break an eight-game losing streak to the Packers. San Francisco has not beaten Green Bay since 1999.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 9; 1:25 p.m. PT
Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
TV Schedule: Fox with announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Talk about Jacobs and Ginn with 49ers fans by heading on over to Niners Nation. Talk about the game with Packers fans at Acme Packing Company. Hit up the SB Nation NFL hub for more comprehensive pro football coverage.
The San Francisco 49ers might not have two of their offensive weapons available in their season opener at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. Both Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon Jacobs are listed as questionable for the season opener. David Fucillo of Niners Nation has this report:
The one moderately useful bit of news is that running back Brandon Jacobs and wide receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. will both be listed as questionable. Both will fly with the team, giving the team 48 hours to see if they can get healthy quickly. I would imagine the 49ers will not see them playing, even with the players traveling. Anything is possible, but with no practice time and given the injuries involved, a few more days of rest are likely just what the doctor would order.
Right now neither 49er is listed as one of the main offensive contributors; none of them are currently listed on the two-deep. Jacobs is a fourth-stringer on the running back depth chart, trailing Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.
Ginn is currently listed as one of the third-string wide receivers along with A.J. Jenkins, behind Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham (the second-string wide receivers). He is also the third-string punt returner and kick returner, with James the second-stringer on both units.
The good news is that both appear to still be participating in individual conditioning, as Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Talk about Jacobs and Ginn with 49ers fans by heading on over to Niners Nation. Talk about the game with Packers fans at Acme Packing Company. Hit up the SB Nation NFL hub for more comprehensive pro football coverage.
We take a look at what the NFC West and AFC West has going on in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL Season. For more on the 49ers, be sure to head on over to Niners Nation. For more on the Raiders, check out Silver and Black Pride.
Coming into Sunday's opener against the Green Bay Packers, wide receiver Randy Moss is a relative unknown. That's a statement rarely reserved for players who are 35 years old and entering their 14th season in the NFL. Folks aren't asking what's left in the tank, they're asking whether or not there's anything there at all. Opinions on Moss rage wildly. Some think he was a great signing and has a lot to offer the San Francisco 49ers at this point, while others believe he'll quit the moment he steps onto the field.
And that uncertainty should be a strong benefit to the 49ers on Sunday.
Green Bay really only has one starting corner at this point in Tramon Williams, with the other cornerback spot still somewhat contested. Moss has the pedigree to be covered by Williams, but then that leaves Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham on lesser corners. Who is the No. 1 on this team? Nobody knows, but there's two possible positive outcomes for the 49ers.
On one hand, the Packers could afford Moss some serious respect, cover him with someone like Williams right out of the gate, and San Francisco could then run the plays they've always intended — with Crabtree as the primary target. On the other hand, the Packers could leave Moss to a lesser corner, and the future Hall of Famer could go out there and grab a couple of big touchdown receptions.
It's all in what the Packers think of Moss heading into the game. By the time they've really seen him and can make halftime adjustments, it could be too late. He's got the same jersey number and he looks like the same dude. That's all the Packers know at this point, so it should be interesting, to say the least.
Unfortunately, 49ers fans aren't sure which Moss will show up either. It's a little scary, isn't it?
Like most fans many of us are eager to see our new "toys" from the 2012 NFL Draft in action as soon as possible. The 49ers spent high picks on guys such as A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, so we are looking for instant gratification for our investment.
Still, the team is deep at both the RB and WR position and other game-day needs exist, such as backups at key positions without such depth. For this reason I think it's possible, and even likely that the 49ers do not dress either of their first two draft-picks for the contest against Green Bay this week.
In Jenkins' case, keep in mind that the 49ers rarely used even three wide receivers in 2011, including when Joshua Morgan and Braylon Edwards were both healthy and on the squad. It's not their identity to spread the field and throw the ball around.
Granted there are new weapons in the fold this year and one could argue that the reason the passing game was less prevalent in 2011 was due to lack of talent at the WR position, I don't see Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman changing their philosophy drastically.
Even if Ted Ginn is inactive due to injury (which looks more and more possible as Ginn did not participate in practice Wednesday), his primary role is as kickoff and punt returner...roles that will be filled by players other than Jenkins.
There would also be four WRs at Greg Roman's disposal, even with the absence of Ginn. Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are no slouches as a corps or receivers. Considering the 49ers use two tight ends far more than they use three or more WRs, I think that four is plenty.
Lastly, perhaps an omen for Jenkins, he was wearing a Packers jersey as a member of the scout team as of writing this post on Wednesday. These players don't get as much or any practice with the actual game-plan being installed during the week leading up to a contest.
In James' case, the potential absence of Brandon Jacobs (also did not practice Wed.) would seem to suggest there is room for another RB...but I don't see it that way. Jacobs was brought in to be insurance for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter over the course of a long NFL season. The team needs a guy who can run inside and help carry the load, a trusted veteran, etc.
They were also looking for a boost in short-yardage situations...something James would not provide in Jacobs' absence. My guess is that Gore or even Anthony Dixon would handle those scenarios when they arise. Again, I think that three RBs is plenty, especially considering that the 49ers suited-up the same aforementioned three backs in 2011 for the entire season, using Hunter as the bell-cow when Gore was injured.
James has been getting some work as a kickoff and punt returner, but I'm not sure he's ready for the role just yet, at least not the punt return job. If Ginn is indeed too hurt to play on Sunday, expect to see Kyle Williams handle punts and some combination of Kendall Hunter, Delanie Walker, and other players back on kickoffs. I would trust James on the kickoff returns, but I don't see any other role for him that would justify deactivating another player.
Quite frankly I don't think that either player is ready for a feature role just yet. Again, the team is deep. There's no need to rush these guys on the field. Injuries and ineffectiveness by other players at their position are things that are bound to happen, and I'm sure they'll be elevated at one point or another.
Lastly, playing a team like Green Bay requires a lot of help from the secondary and linebackers. For this reason I wouldn't want to risk being short-handed in these areas when the positions that Jenkins and James play are adequately stocked with depth and their services are not needed.
Ginn, the 49ers' main return specialist and at times a factor in the passing game, has an ankle injury. The 49ers will give the reps to Kyle Williams in practice as punt returner, and LaMichael James, the rookie from Oregon, is another return man option. James returned kicks a few times for the Ducks, especially when the Ducks needed a long return.
The Packers are still without running back James Starks in practice, and have a host of other players on their injury report Thursday. All the injury status updates from Thursday are here.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss spoke with the media after Wednesday's practice, discussing a number of topics heading into their season opening matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Randy opened up about the preseason, noting that it was a bit weird for him but he wasn't trying to be an individual, but part of the team.
How did you feel in those preseason games?
Moss: "It kind of felt weird. It felt weird because I was trying to get to know these guys and they were trying to get to know me and how I play the game and things like that. And I've never tried to be an individual, but at the same time, I was new to the organization and, as I said, I just wanted to make this team. And I wanted them to be able to count on me whenever called (upon) and that's what I'm going to continue to do for the whole season."
Moss has seen a lot of different teams in his 14 years in the league, with a lot of different styles and chemistry. But when asked about this 49ers squad, Moss appreciates the dichotomy of business on the field and fun off the field with this group:
What impresses you most about this team?
Moss: "I just think being young and full of energy. I think I've said time and time again, I love being around this group. These guys are so young and so energetic. They love to have fun. When you boil it all down, we're nothing but big kids. And we have fun in the locker room. We're serious on the field, but we love to have fun, also. It just feels good to be back in the game and I just want to do whatever I can to contribute to this team. So I look for positive things from me. I don't know how good and how bad. I just say, 'Look for positive things from me throughout the season.'"
When it comes to the Packers, Moss and the rest of the offense have a stiff test to prepare for. But when it comes to Charles Woodson, Moss noted that they are staying aware of where he is at all times:
What are you expecting to see from Charles Woodson on Sunday?
Moss: "Well, I know Charles is playing safety and then he's the nickel back on their three-wides, four-wides package. But, you know, I've always followed Charles Woodson's career. We came in together. We were at the Heisman together. We were on Parade first-team high school All-American together. I've followed Charles throughout his career, his collegiate career and I'm very happy to see Charles doing what he's doing and still doing it at a high level. As far as our film study, Charles is still out there making plays like any other man in this league. We're not singling him out, but at the same time, you got to know where Charles Woodson is at all times."
We'll just have to wait for Sunday to see how that matchup works out.
For more on the 49ers, make your way over to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers are a pretty evenly matched team when it all comes down to it. There are some lopsided matchups when you compare player vs. player - Alex Smith is no comparison whatsoever to Aaron Rodgers, while [insert Packers running back here] is no comparison whatsoever to Frank Gore - but all in all, they're two top tier teams set to renew their storied hostilities in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season.
They're also both very complete teams. There aren't many holes on either squad, which makes the previews harder and harder to do. For some matchups, you can very clearly state what one team needs to do to win. You can simplify it down to one thing and say that the team that accomplishes this one objective will win.
You can't do that with the Packers and 49ers.
If you stop Rodgers from throwing for 350 yards, then the Packers defense will probably grab a couple interceptions for touchdowns, or they'll run back a kick. If you prevent Gore from getting going on the ground, then Smith just might surprise you and throw a touchdown strike to Vernon Davis in the final minute. These things have happened and will probably happen again.
In a top tier match like this, it all comes down to balance and perfection. If the 49ers are to walk out of Lambeau Field victorious, then they need to find just the right balance of pressure on defense and they need to be mistake-free when they've got the ball in their hands. Let's take a look at either one.
Rodgers doesn't quite have the release of Drew Brees, but he has overwhelmingly good instincts and San Francisco will need to get creative right out of the gate for their blitzes. This is a playoff caliber matchup and we're only in Week 1 here. San Francisco has strong pass rushers in Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, but with the crop of receiving talent that Green Bay boasts, can you send both outside linebackers on every play?
No, and there's plenty of reasons why. Green Bay is a team built upon being able to adapt. They lack a big name running back, but they've got some consistent enough performers to make it scary for San Francisco if they have Aldon and Brooks keep their feet on the gas the entire game. San Francisco needs to find that perfect balance of rushing Rodgers and maintaining their fundamentals of stopping the run and preventing touchdowns.
Balance must also come on offense. There are widely differing views on the Green Bay secondary, but it mostly boils down to them giving up a slew of bad plays in exchange for a big interception. Alex Smith would like to get hot and start hitting his receivers left and right, but it would be a mistake to fall into a false sense of security. Luckily, the 49ers have a giant roster of running backs and falling into that trap isn't something that's likely.
Perfection mostly must come into play on offense. Perfection isn't hitting your wide receiver for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Perfection is executing your gameplan and making sure the ball isn't turned over. When it is turned over, it had better be on an Andy Lee punt, and it had better sail inside the 20-yard line. That's how the 49ers won games a season ago and that's the only way they can expect to beat Rodgers and the Packers.
If you're giving Rodgers good field position, he'll turn it into touchdowns a high percentage of the time. San Francisco isn't likely to come in and win this game the same way they won the game against the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round last year. Smith isn't going to out-gun him ... the 49ers just aren't prepared for that kind of thing on offense.
They need the perfect mindset. Jim Harbaugh has to know when is right to take a chance and when is right to just put their backs at the five-yard line. Perfection on offense will come through application of their tried and true gameplan. One player or one position isn't going to win a game between two of the best teams in the NFL. It's going to come down to who can execute their gameplan the best. And the 49ers were very, very good at that a season ago.
Normally when previewing a Packers game, especially for fantasy purposes, one assumes that the game will be a shootout. However, this game may be different for a few reasons. Firstly, the Niners have THE best defense in fantasy football. Not only do they rack up sacks, they collect turnovers and do not allow points. They are fantasy gold.
In addition, the last time the Packes faced a really good defense, the Giants in last year's playoffs, they utterly collapsed and that was at Lambeau where this game will be played. Finally, former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
I expect a brutal, physical game, and that spells fantasy success for the following people:
START: Frank Gore. He is the Niners best rusher at this point, and will be until he gets hurt. He won't play all the snaps, but he will be fresh enough to score at least once and break off a few long runs against a weak Packers defense. That's good enough for a RB2 or Flex.
START: Vernon Davis. He is not quite in the Jimmy Graham/Rob Gronkowski echelon, but he is at least as good as Antonio Gates or Jason Witten at this point and if the Niners' new acquisitions at receiver turn out to be good, Davis will be exploiting favorable matchups all day. He is a solid TE option this season, and we know how Harbaugh loves to use tight ends. Keep in mind, Vernon Davis is faster than any of the Niners' wide receivers and any Packer defender.
START: 49ers defense. Normally you never start a team defense against Green Bay, but this week is an exception. The Niners have had a full offseason to prepare for them, and the Packers have no running game to speak of. The Niners can cause enough turnovers to be a solid option in fantasy even if they give up points, as they showed against the Saints in the playoffs last year.
However, this game does not spell good fortune for the following players:
SIT: Alex Smith. The Packers' strength on defense is their secondary, and while they give up a lot of points they are all ballhawks who usually get one or two interceptions per game. In addition, the Niners will probably grind out the game with a ground attack which leaves few opportunitied for Smith to put up good numbers.
SIT: Randy Moss. While Moss may be a good option later in the year, this isn't the week to start him without seeing what he has in the tank.
The San Francisco 49ers will open up their preseason against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. We've already talked at length about how it will be one of the toughest matchups for Jim Harbaugh and his team this season, but we've neglected to serve up a prediction on the matter. There's a couple reasons for that.
For one, we're going to have our picks come after the initial stream is posted each week. For two, it's a really, really hard game to predict.
When a team is as good as the Packers, you don't simply state one way the 49ers can win and then call that your prediction. They have so many ways that either team can win this game, it'd simply be irresponsible. However, to make a pick, one must simplify. Given that this matchup is something akin to a toss-up, we'll have to go with some general knowledge.
That knowledge says that elite defenses can beat the elite offenses of the league. San Francisco will be coming out of the gate hungry and heavy, and the Packers will be immediately fighting a field position battle that, granted, they could win, but if the 49ers manage to sustain the percentages of 2011, they'll hold off the Packers.
A 49ers fan picking the 49ers to win. How original.
On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers face the highest-caliber opponent in the Green Bay Packers -- on the road no less. For a dozen or so reasons, this match-up is the game of the week, where great offense will face off against great defense.
Many of the headlines surrounding this game have been dedicated to discussing the 49ers defense vs. the Packers offense, but it will take all three phases for either team to win this one. The Niners in particular will have to play one of their better games offensively, just to keep pace with the Pack.
The 49ers will need to be able to run the ball efficiently, because that will enable them to do so much more.
Control the Tempo
If the 49ers can the run the ball at will on offense, they can set the pace of the ball game. For the Niners, their motto on Sunday should be, "slow and steady wins the race." San Francisco is not trying to get in a shootout with Rodgers and the Pack, because they would be at a serious disadvantage.
The 49ers have a versatile backfield and some of the most creative run-plays in the NFL. They should be finding ways to put their tailbacks in situations to make plays. By controlling the tempo with an effective ground-and-pound, it will help the 49ers win time of possession and wear down the defense.
Set up the Pass
The Packers allowed a good amount of yards in the NFL last year -- near the bottom of the league. San Francisco will have their opportunities to make plays through the air, but would be wise to setup their shots. The first thing the Niners should do is establish the run, and draw more of a crowd near the line of scrimmage. Dom Capers likes to send his defensive backs, so the 49ers should give him a reason to.
Because at the end of the day, if the 49ers can create one-on-one coverages, they have Randy Moss on the outside. The 49ers pass-catchers are scoring threats, as receivers who are particularly good after the catch. To get them in space with less defenders in front of them would be a tremendous opportunity for San Francisco. If they can run effectively, these windows will be open for Alex Smith and the offense.
Limit Aaron Rodgers
And finally, an efficient ground attack will ultimately limit Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers is essential to the success of the Green Bay Packers, so the longer he is off the field, the better. The 49ers can extend drives and draw them out with a strategic approach to moving the ball on the ground. They have the versatility and depth to interchange the backs so everyone is fresh and everyone is getting assignments that favors their unique skill set.
The San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers will face each other at Lambeau Field on the opening Sunday of the 2012 NFL regular season. Both are favorites to win their division, and definite contenders to win the NFC. Green Bay opened as a touchdown favorite, but the line has dropped a few points, to between 5 and 5.5 points.
Green Bay probably has the most explosive offense in the league with one of the top signal-callers in Aaron Rodgers, while San Francisco counters by returning all of their defensive starters and a run-heavy offense. While Green Bay has generally proven they can blow out even the best opponents, if the 49ers can control the clock and keep the football away from Rodgers, they will be in prime position to keep the game close. That's part of the reasons why it makes sense that the line has dropped a bit from its earlier mark.
The San Francisco 49ers were without running back Brandon Jacobs and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. during Wednesday's padded practice as the two rehabbed injuries. According to CSN Bay Area, Ginn spent 10 minutes warming up on a bike before both players went to work out with the team's strength and conditioning coach.
Jacobs was wearing a brace on his left knee after spraining it Aug. 18 in a game against the Houston Texans. Ginn hurt his right ankle against the Denver Broncos the following week, and both players are questionable to play in Sunday's Week 1 game against the Green Bay Packers.
As for replacing Ginn, it appears that Kyle Williams will again face the task of taking over as the team's punt returner.
Packers report that RB James Starks (toe) will definitely not play Sunday vs. 49ers.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) September 5, 2012
Starks actually was in danger of not making the 53-man roster as he's buried on the overall running back depth chart. The Packers currently will probably have to rely on Cedric Benson, Alex Green and Brandon Saine in their backfield for the Sunday opener. Benson is in Green Bay on a one-year contract. Green is in his second year out of Hawaii who played a few snaps last season after being shut down for the season on a knee injury. Saine has only rushed fora few carries in his NFL career.
You can expect the 49ers defense to now try and key in on Aaron Rodgers. That gives them one less runner to worry about as they can focus on trying to stop Aaron Rodgers through the air.
One of the biggest issues for the 49ers defense over the past couple seasons has been the secondary. They've got a good pass rush going and are the best team in the NFL when it comes to stopping the run. Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner came in last season and provided some serious legitimacy to the secondary and look what happened: the 49ers won 13 games and made it to the NFC Championship game.
San Francisco was able to retain Rogers and Whitner, and they're hoping the progression continues for second-year cornerback Chris Culliver. He played himself onto the field in nickel situations in 2011 and will be doing the same this season. Behind him, there was Tramaine Brock a season ago and ... he doesn't inspire much confidence.
This offseason the 49ers brought in another player: Perrish Cox. There was a ton of pre-draft hype for Cox before he was hit with some serious off-the-field issues, was drafted late, and eventually released by the Denver Broncos. Those issues are behind him now and the 49ers were reportedly one of the few teams to really take a chance on Cox, which might end up working very well for them in the end.
When the 49ers released the official depth chart for the first week of the season, one of the noteworthy bits was the fact that Cox leap-frogged Brock thanks to a strong training camp and preseason performance. He's the primary backup at the left cornerback position behind Rogers.
No matter how you look at it, that's a good sign for the 49ers. They need up-and-comers, especially at the cornerback position. Cox had a lot of potential and if he can realize any of that sooner rather than later, the 49ers will be in good shape. A player like him stepping up to the plate and getting some playing time can only mean good things.
And of course, we all know the Packers have more-than enough wide receivers to worry about. We may see a good deal of Perrish Cox as early as Sunday.
The 49ers face a tall order as they open the 2012 NFL season against the Packers Sunday. Green Bay has arguably the best quarterback playing the game right now in Aaron Rodgers. As is the case with many of the great QBs, Rodgers can pick a defense apart, taking whatever they give him. For this reason I think that the 49ers linebackers could be the key to the game.
The absence of NaVorro Bowman was glaring in week three of the preseason. Larry Grant, while a capable backup, is just that: a backup. Grant often looked lost in coverage and Peyton Manning exploited it numerous times. While Bowman is a much better player, I still expect Rodgers to look for mismatches in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field.
San Francisco likes to play the run and rush the passer. The team is known for giving up the underneath routes, being content to rally and make the tackle for short gains. However, a linebacker who's out of position can find himself chasing down a speedy back or receiver who has a step on him...turning a short pass into a longer gain.
The 49ers are at a relative disadvantage here, or could be, with second-year outside linebacker Aldon Smith starting as the every-down player opposite Ahmad Brooks. This will be a huge test for Smith when asked to drop back into coverage, mostly on first and second down. One would have to give the advantage to Rodgers here due to experience.
The other potential issue is depth at the linebacker spot. As mentioned, Larry Grant vs. Aaron Rodgers is not something I want to see. I have a similar lack of confidence in the 49ers only backup outside linebacker, Clark Haggans, who will have been on the team for just one week at the time of the game. Let's pray there aren't any injuries.
I would expect a healthy dose of nickel defense vs. the Packers spread looks. They do like to line up a fullback and run the ball though, and the 49ers will no doubt play their base 3-4 against these formations. Look for Rodgers to throw some play-action passes from their "run" look offense. It will be up to the 49ers linebackers and secondary to limit the big play.
Getting off the field is key for the 49ers defense as well. The team needs to control the clock and get Green Bay to play slower football, which favors the 49ers stout defense and run-game. Justin Smith, while a beast, also needs to be fresh in the second half if the game is close.
I have no doubt that the 49ers coaches will be preparing the players for everything they should see on Sunday. Let's just hope they're able to execute and not give up many/any big plays.
We're less-than a week away from the San Francisco 49ers' 2012 debut against the always-tough Green Bay Packers. We've taken a look at both the offense and the defense when it comes to the final 53-man roster, but what of the depth chart? The team released the official depth chart to the media on Tuesday and there's some good information to be gleaned from it.
For one, Demarcus Dobbs is listed as the third string tight end and the backup at right defensive tackle (end). So that's cool for him and all. There are no backup offensive tackles listed on the depth chart, which likely means Alex Boone would flip over from right guard if it's really needed. Some other notes include the fact that Perrish Cox passed up Tramaine Brock on the cornerback depth chart, and that C.J. Spillman is the main backup to Dashon Goldson.
We'll talk a bit more about the depth chart over the coming days as the 49ers prepare for their debut, but first, let's get it listed below.
Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzien
Running Backs: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James
Fullbacks: Bruce Miller, Anthony Dixon
Wide Receivers 1: Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins
Wide Receivers 2: Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr.
Tight Ends: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Demarcus Dobbs, Garrett Celek
Left Tackles: Joe Staley
Left Guards: Mike Iupati, Joe Looney
Centers: Jonathan Goodwin, Daniel Kilgore
Right Guards: Alex Boone, Leonard Davis
Right Tackles: Anthony Davis
Left Defensive Ends: Ray McDonald, Ricky Jean Francois
Nose Tackles: Isaac Sopoaga, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams
Right Defensive Ends: Justin Smith, Demarcus Dobbs
Outside Linebackers Left: Ahmad Brooks, Clark Haggans
Inside Linebackers Mike: Patrick Willis, Tavares Gooden
Inside Linebackers Ted: NaVorro Bowman, Larry Grant
Left Cornerbacks: Carlos Rogers, Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock
Right Cornerbacks: Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver
Free Safeties: Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman
Strong Safeties: Donte Whitner, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath
Punt Returners: Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, LaMichael James
Kick Returners: Ted Ginn Jr., Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James
Punters: Andy Lee
Kickers: David Akers
Holders: Andy Lee
Long Snappers: Brian Jennings
The San Francisco 49ers may be facing their toughest matchup of the season when they take on the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field to open up their season. Aaron Rodgers leads that offense as well as any quarterback in the league - he's right up there with Drew Brees and Tom Brady. But there are some issues with the team, namely on defense.
They've got a defense that makes big plays with regularity, but allows them almost the same amount of time. In 2011, they were the kind of defense that gave up a ton of big yardage before picking off a football in the end zone, which sounds great, but when they weren't able to pick that ball off, they gave up points.
And that kind of football game certainly favors the 49ers. More importantly, that kind of football game is excellent for morale at certain positions if you happen to come out on the winning end. One group that can certainly benefit from Green Bay's secondary is the group of receivers in San Francisco.
There's some new faces in Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins, and a familiar face or two that could really use a great game right out of the gate, like Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams. Every one of these players has his reasons for needing a big game. Let's look at them, shall we?
So that's why all the 49ers receivers need a big game. Against the Green Bay secondary, it's certainly a possibility. There's a few things set in their secondary: Tramon Williams is the top guy and will either be matched up with Crabtree, Manningham or Moss, Charles Woodson will be playing safety for a large portion of the game, and Morgan Burnett is always a solid starter.
Aside from that, there's not really ... another starting cornerback. There's Jarrett Bush, Jerron McMillian and Sam Shields, not to mention Davon House. None of those players have really made a name for themselves, and whoever Williams isn't covering might just be poised for a big day. They're still a ball-hawking defense, and Alex Smith will surely be put on his back once or twice, but if the 49ers receivers don't have a big day, the game probably didn't go well for San Francisco.
After a 13-3 season and a loss in the NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers are looking to show that their sudden turn-around wasn't a fluke. Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke have kept the roster relatively intact, and they've got what is potentially their toughest matchup all season in Week 1 when they head to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. For more on the 49ers, head on over to SB Nation's blog for the 49ers, Niners Nation.
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