Some called it a Week 1 preview of the NFC Championship Game, and Sunday's much-anticipated showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers didn't disappoint in the entertainment capacity. The result, however, stunned most observers. Which begs the question: Were you more impressed by the 49ers and their 30-22 road win or disappointed by the Packers, who lost their home opener coming off a 15-1 season?
49ers put enviable depth, all-around excellence on full displayTotally impressed by the 49ers. They dictated the tempo on both sides of the ball and showed no fear going into Lambeau and being aggressive in every facet.
Alex Smith was poised, efficient and really played with confidence. The way the Niners spread the ball around on offense was fun to watch; this is a very unselfish team. Defensively, the depth in the secondary is going to give San Francisco an advantage against any team it plays. No matter how many receivers opponents try to throw at the 49ers, they have players who can match up.
San Francisco will be very dangerous and could be the team that comes out of the NFC.
San Francisco's definitely the team to beat in the NFCYou have to be impressed with how the 49ers went on the road and executed the perfect game plan to beat the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers hides a lot of Green Bay's flaws, particularly a horrific ground game and an inability to defend the pass. Rodgers' ability to win shootouts was the only reason the Packers were able to post a 15-1 record in 2011. The 2012 Packers appear to be the same team with the same holes that they had last year. Meanwhile, the 49ers have improved their passing game and just might be the most complete team in all of football.
The Niners proved to me on Sunday that they are definitely the team to beat in the NFC.
Packers completely outclassed at Lambeau Field -- againGreen Bay's inability to stop San Francisco's offense when it mattered most made the Packers' disappointment more significant than the 49ers' triumph. Whether it was the schematic problem that put rookie linebacker Nick Perry in the slot over receiver Mario Manningham or the lack of communication in the secondary that allowed red-zone threat Randy Moss to score easily, the team's apparent lack of progress on defense was evident.
Add in the Packers' 10 penalties, sporadic offensive production (they didn't get it together until they were in catch-up mode late) and the fact they couldn't redeem themselves after a playoff loss to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field last January, and the weight of the disappointment becomes even more severe.
49ers' defense turned in performance of the dayI'm more impressed by the 49ers. No offense in football has greater continuity and talent than the Packers' unit. Only a great defense will stop it, even in Week 1.
It's worth noting that the 49ers have impressive continuity, too, despite this being just Jim Harbaugh's second year. Most of their defensive players have been around. They are in the perfect scheme for their talents. This was the performance of the day.
Green Bay hasn't learned from last season's shortcomingsDisappointing is a rather strong word for the Packers' performance, considering they lost by eight points to one of the favorites in the NFC. But what should trouble Green Bay fans is that the team didn't seem to really learn from last year's mistakes.
The Packers did a pretty good job during the offseason of brushing off their playoff loss to the New York Giants, saying it was a one-week thing and promising they would be more focused in 2012. So how did they respond? Aaron Rodgers made a bet with the guys from Boyz II Men that he would wear an Alex Smith jersey if the Packers lost. I mean, I like the swagger, and these guys should have some fun out there, but the scarlet jersey on Rodgers' back this week should be seen as a giant red flag.
This was the Niners' best game yet under HarbaughThe impressive performance by the 49ers was the story of the game. This is the best game I've seen San Francisco play under coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Niners' schemes -- and overall game plan -- were masterful. They attacked rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry and cornerback Jarrett Bush, exploiting two of the Packers' coverage weaknesses and Perry's general inexperience with the position (he played defensive end at USC). Harbaugh always does a good job scheming his formations to open up holes in the running game, and this certainly was the case on Sunday. Alex Smith was solid, as usual. While the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham were helpful, Michael Crabtree looks like a much-improved player. On defense, the 49ers' cornerbacks did a fine job covering Green Bay's wideouts -- especially when jamming them at the line -- and LB NaVorro Bowman played terrifically.
The 49ers are for real again this year.
Packers must realize every season is differentThis is easy. The Packers picked up 2012 where they left off last season. Their entire offseason seems to have revolved around this attitude: "We're just fine, and everything that didn't go our way was our fault." It's like they expected to show up and be who they were in the regular season last year. Do you honestly think Aaron Rodgers would have EVER made that bet with Boyz II Men if he thought his team was vulnerable at all? And he did this against a team that made it to the NFC Championship Game last year on the strength of the best defense in the league! It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday, but the Packers must.
Green Bay has to realize that every season is different. Teams don't just seamlessly stay dominant. Everyone makes changes and improves -- look at how San Francisco's revamped receiver corps helped it win the game. The Packers' big change, meanwhile, was ... adding Cedric Benson off the waiver wire three weeks ago. Time for the Pack to reassess and realize that hunger and desperation can be their two biggest allies. Or it'll be the end of the road.
(Sorry I couldn't get "Motownphilly" in there somewhere.)