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January 5, 2014
49ers notes: Officials hold hankies, defense holds Rodgers in check

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GREEN BAY, WIS --You can call quarterback Aaron Rodgers a magician for his impressive fourth-quarter escape on Sunday, but it was hard not to notice his assistant gave him some help - perhaps illegal help -- on the play.

With the Packers facing a critical fourth-and-two situation, 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald had Rodgers wrapped up for an apparent sack. But a Packers lineman seized McDonald and pulled him off the quarterback, and Rodgers went on to hit receiver Randall Cobb for a 26-yard gain to the San Francisco 4-yard line.
They scored a touchdown two plays later.
"I felt it was a hold and I thought I was going to get a flag," McDonald said. "I guess they figured they would just let us play. So when when they make that decision, we just have to get off the blocks a little faster."

During the regular season, an average NFL game had 12 penalties. There were far fewer per game in the opening round of the playoffs, and the 49ers-Packers contest had five total.
Still, the hands-off officiating was applied evenly and didn't lead to an offensive explosion by the Packers.

Instead, the 49ers sacked Rodgers four times - tying a season high for him - and hit him another six times. Linebacker Aldon Smith, who went through the 2012 postseason without a sack, finished with 1 1/2 on Sunday to go along with four tackles and two quarterback hits.

"The focus for us all week was getting pressure on the quarterback," said Smith, who dealt with cramping at halftime but returned to the game. "We knew it was important (when facing) a quarterback that can hurt you when he has time."

The 49ers allowed 755 passing yards in their final two regular season games largely because they gave Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Arizona's Carson Palmer time to throw in the pocket. Rodgers, however, finished with 177 yards, his lowest, complete-game total since Week 14 of the 2012 season.

Cox gets call - The 49ers' starting defense had a surprise member - cornerback Perrish Cox, who only was signed six days earlier.

When Carlos Rogers injured his hamstring last week in Arizona, Jim Harbaugh said that Eric Wright would step in when the 49ers were in their nickel defense, which they played throughout Sunday's game in Green Bay. Wright suffered his own hamstring injury during the week, but Harbaugh said he was healthy enough to play and he entered the game for several snaps.

"They were both in there. They were both available," Harbaugh said. "I don't want to talk about a nickel cornerback controversy." Cox began the season with the 49ers but was released in November. He played nearly the entire game and finished with two tackles and knocked down a pass.

Ice in his veins - Phil Dawson, who played 14 seasons on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, has made plenty of cold-weather field goals. But he's never made one to win a playoff game. In fact, he had never been on a team that won in the playoffs until Sunday.

"It is right now," Dawson said when asked if his 33-yard field goal was the biggest of his career. "I mean, I've waited a long time to win a playoff game, and I finally got to do it and it was worth the wait."

Dawson was the first player on the field before Sunday's game, inspecting the field conditions and trying to figure out the wind. He made all three of his attempts.

Et cetera - With his 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Frank Gore moved into a tie with William Floyd for the fourth-most postseason rushing touchdowns in 49ers postseason history - five. Steve Young has the most with eight.

* While the Packers lost four starters to injuries, the only injury the 49ers reported was to backup defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, who suffered a knee injury in the second quarter.

* Last week Harbaugh said he was considering staying in the eastern time zone if the 49ers had to travel to Carolina in the second round. That's not happening. The team flew back to the Bay Area Sunday night.

-- 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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