49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 9, 2013
Film review: 49ers imperfect but still win; McDonald stands out; Asomugha targeted

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My biggest take from Sunday's game: The 49ers were far from perfect yet still were able to beat one of the best teams in the NFL. Yes, the 49ers were a little Dr. Jekyl-and-Mr. Hyde-ish against the Packers, stringing together a beautiful drive on one possession and then flubbing their way through the next.

It seemed like they were still shaking off the slumber of the offseason. There was bad tackling early on with NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Eric Reid, Nnamdi Asomugha and Perrish Cox all missing tackles in the first half. The running game was not in sync, and I thought that both Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter - who each had precious few snaps in the preseason - didn't get into a rhythm until game's end. There were all sorts of play-clock issues and the 49ers were flagged for 11 penalties for 85 yards vs. 5 for 44 yards by the Packers.

But they still won. That's due in part to the fact that they forced two turnovers and committed none. And to the fact that they converted 50 percent of their third-down opportunities (9 of 18). It also underscores just how talented they are and how scary they can be once the rust is off and the team is firing at 100 percent capacity. I'd put Sunday's effort at about 83 percent.

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Furthering that point: Throughout the game, the 49ers seemed like they were about to put their heel down on Green Bay's neck, but a mistake would allow the Packers to climb back in. Here's the stop-and-go drive chart by the 49ers' offense: punt, touchdown, punt, touchdown, punt, missed field goal, end of half, touchdown, punt, field goal, punt, touchdown, field goal.

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I thought one of the unsung players of the game was defensive end Ray McDonald. His stat line was very good: a half sack, four tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. But it doesn't quite show how disruptive he was to the Packers offense. If there was a good play along the line, McDonald invariably was in on it.

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In the January playoff game, Colin Kaepernick was victimized by an early interception for a touchdown. He nearly suffered the same fate - in the same area of the field - on the opening drive Sunday when a pass to Vernon Davis slipped out of the hands of Travon Williams, who had a great break on the ball.

As was the case in January, Kaepernick was on fire from that point forth. He became just the second passer in franchise history to throw three touchdowns, have 400-plus passing yards and not have an interception. The other guy? Some dude named Montana.

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Aaron Rodgers and the Packers definitely targeted newcomer cornerback Asomugha. Rodgers threw at Asomugha eight times in the game, all of them to receiver Jordy Nelson. He had receptions of 31 yards, 15 yards as well as an eight-yard touchdown on which Asomugha, who is best in press coverage, gave him a puzzlingly large cushion. Asomugha, however, also broke up two passes.

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I didn't think much of the 49ers' heavy-jumbo offensive package - when they bring in two extra offensive linemen - a year ago. It seemed like every time it was used, the 49ers ended up with no gain or a loss. But it was effective Sunday. Daniel Kilgore got solid blocks each time he was in the game, including on Gore's late touchdown.

Reid began the game with two mistackles. But the rookie seemed to be jump-started by his second-quarter interception. From that point forth, he stopped being hesitant and started looking like a missile. On third down in the third quarter, he had a strong open-field tackle on Randall Cobb, who is not easy to bring down in space.

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Remember all the talk about the read option in the run-up to Sunday's game? Kaepernick ran out of it one time, and he was stopped for a three-yard loss.

Reid wasn't the only rookie in the spotlight. Kevin McDermott went through his first game as the 49ers' new longsnapper. He was solid. One snap on a punt seemed to be a tad outside. But that's just a quibble.

The 49ers switched things up a bit in the first quarter when outside linebacker Aldon Smith lined up on the left side of the line. But the 49ers mostly kept him on his usual right side, where he went to work against rookie tackle David Bakhtiari.

- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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