My wife and I had the fortune of going to the 2013 season-opening San Francisco 49ers versus Green Bay Packers game. It was a bit bittersweet going to the game in person, because it meant missing out on watching the other 9 games on during the day. However, the Packers being my (arguably) favorite sports team and only a short 1.5 hour drive away, it was kind of hard to bypass the opportunity.
Before I get into my thoughts for the game, I also wanted to thank Paige's parents, Brad and Gail, for hosting us for the weekend and taking care of Dahlia during the game. We thought of bringing Dahlia along, but I think we made the right choice by letting Grandpa Brad and Grandma Gail some Dahlia alone time. It was Grandparents' Day too, so all the more fitting.
As for the game, it was hot. Hot as Hades. We were actually sitting in the South Endzone and both got sunburnt on our face - basically, the sun reflected off the grass and sunburned us. Pretty crazy. But, it was an ideal setting. And a lot of fun.
1. Aaron Rodgers Does it All.
I will get to the 49ers and give them their due in due course. However, I wanted to start off with Aaron Rodgers. He is really good. Like, magically good. He sees every hole in the defense. He also has a lot of confidence and trust in his battery-mates to make plays for him. It shows and paid dividends throughout the game. That being said, I think the most important play of the game was on his INT. Yes, the INT got called back, rightfully, as down by contact. But Eric Reid was running for the apparenty pick-6. And then out of nowhere came this missile. At first I thought it was Ryan Taylor or Jordy Nelson. But no. It was Rodgers. And he makes the tackle short of the endzone, taking out like 2 49ers players in the process. After he did that, the Packer sideline (closest to the tackle) erupted. It was like, "holy crap, Aaron Rodgers came to play!" I think it at least inspired a better performance from the team moving forward.
2. Colin Kaepernick is Really Good. But he doesn't need Jim Harbaugh coddling him.
I think people need to stop searching for excuses. This guy is the real deal. For as well as Rodgers played, Kaepernick was better. He was making the right reads almost the entire game. He actually started off shaky (well get to that later), but sprung into action and was just shooting darts. The back-and-forth between him and Rodgers was one of those performances like Elway versus Montana, Marino versus Kelly, Young versus Aikman, Brady versus Manning, Favre versus Brees, and Rodgers versus Warner performances we have seen over the years of modern QBing. He has all of the tools. He has the right mindset. It is really going to be interesting to see him (and Rodgers, Ryan, RGIII, Russell Wilson) try to fend off the Mannings, Brady, and Brees from the spotlight in the coming 2-3 years.
That being said, Jim Harbaugh's schtick regarding him is nauseating. Yes, CMIII hit Kaepernick late on one play. It was obvious and was flagged. CMIII admitted it was a stupid play by him. He and Kaepernick were hugging and smiling after the game. It was over. Yet, we get ole Jimmy in the post-game presser acting like CMIII had taken a shat in the Sistine Chapel by breathing on Kaepernick. I am so over him. He is a crybaby coach.
Two footnotes to the whole late hit penalty and resulting fracas. First, the amount of ink spilled on that play already is embarassing. Second, I knew that the refs got it wrong. It should have been 4th down. Granted, the penalty on Staley was maybe over-the-top, but it was his action that created the resulting fracas that could have turned into something even bigger. However, two dead ball fouls negate, and let the play live. That meant 4th-and-2 in the 2nd quarter of a one-score game. Niners are kicking the ball there. Instead, they replay the down. And when they replay it, the Niners run an obvious pick-play for a TD. Same play they ran against the Packers in the playoffs. And the refs miss the call.
3. Tramon Williams should have had a pick.
First drive. Kaepernick threw a ball that hit Tramon in the hands. It should have been a pick. And it would have been a devastating start to the 49ers. Kapernick stayed away from Tramon pretty much the rest of the game.
Turnovers and time of possession had a big impact on this game. Probably the most obvious reason behind who won and who lost. So, to have a pick handed to you and dropped was a big factor.
4. The difference between these two teams are at ILB. That is it.
Yes, I know that the Packers were without Heyward and Burnett. And trust me, it showed. Heyward would have been on Boldin throughout the game and Burentt would have thrown more support at Vernon Davis. However, the difference in these two teams defenses is that the Packers have all of their defenders playing with a mindset of "how can we help out the MLBs" and the 49ers defense is playing with the mindset of "I can take this risk" or "I don't need to worry about that" because "Bowman and Willis" got my back. They are that defense through and through. Especially without Goldson behind them (although Reid had a really good game too). They impacted two key inside route plays with Finley and Jones. They also permit Aldon Smith to just pass rush, wretchedly, without fear of the running game. And they are the ones that were trying to play tricks on Rodgers throughout the game - although, I think Rodgers was always one-step ahead of them in this particular match-up. So, if the Packers ever want to measure up, they need to take a flyer on someone who either is or will be the next Willis or Bowman.
5. Candlestick - you will be missed.
I like Candlestick. And I am going to miss it. I have only been to 4 games there in person, but I remember watching so many baseball and football games played there via TV or listening to it via radio. It has great sightlines and in the early autumn, provides beautiful shots with the sun stretching across the field. There is a nice breeze coming in off the Bay, and it is just a perfect setting for afternoon football.
As for the bad - there is a lot. The neighborhood is pretty terrible. The parking and transportation in and out of the park is horrible. It took Paige and I 50 minutes to drive from Santa Rosa to San Francisco and 55 minutes to drive from San Francisco to Santa Rosa back. However, to get into the stadium from San Francisco, it took 1.5 hours. And to get out, it took 2.5 hours. Pretty miserable. A lot of B.O.
There is also something about the fans. They aren't the same that go to Giants games. Much more drunk and disorderly. Makes it more like a Packers game at Lambeau, both in a good and bad way.
Like this guy. Randomly comes up to me and asks Paige to take a picture of him being sacked by me. So, of course we did it.