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.