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49ers Win Opener in Green Bay

Posted Sep 9, 2012

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Nothing’s ever easy in the National Football League. Just ask the San Francisco 49ers, who quieted league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ fourth-quarter comeback attempt Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers got out to a 23-7 lead after three quarters and continued to make plays when it counted most in the closing moments of a 30-22 win over the Packers.

Not only was it the franchise’s first win Green Bay since 1990, but the victory snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Packers.

“It was all-out, all the time from our football team today,” Jim Harbaugh said after improving to 2-0 on season-opening games.

Harbaugh singled out many players for standout performances, including quarterback Alex Smith, who completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Smith’s 125.6 quarterback rating bested Rodgers’ 93.3 rating.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means,” Smith said, “but good team football, everybody helping each other.”

Despite an early lead, the 49ers knew they’d be in for a 60-minute game. Things certainly picked up competition-wise at the start of fourth quarter. That’s when Green Bay got back in the game thanks to a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by second-year wideout Randall Cobb, which was followed by a 2-point conversion.

San Francisco’s lead was trimmed to eight points, but the defense made sure to pick up the offense. NaVorro Bowman, who finished the game with a team-high 11 tackles, recorded the first and only takeaway of the game when he read a Rodgers over-the-middle pass to make an interception.

“I was playing my coverage, got back in Aaron’s window and he threw one to me,” said Bowman, who played a big role in the 49ers dime defense package. Even with four cornerbacks on the field for most of the game, the 49ers allowed 324 yards of offense.

After Bowman’s 11-yard interception return, Frank Gore scored on the next play from 23 yards out to make it 30-15 game.

“We fought to the end,” Gore said. “Our defense made plays when they had to.”

Gore finished the game with a game-high 112 yards on 16 carries with his 23-yard score being the longest run of the game. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers held Green Bay to just 45 rushing yards on 15 carries.

“Really proud of our guys,” Harbaugh said, emphasizing a team-wide effort. “They played with a lot of fight, a lot of heart and a lot of courage.”

The 49ers played with a lot of confidence, too.

To start the game, the 49ers won the coin toss and uncharacteristically elected to receive. With the ball, the 49ers were held to a three-and-out on the opening drive, but quickly rebounded to score on their next five possessions.

San Francisco’s first touchdown came from the team’s most high-profile addition, future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss.

With the ball on their own 8-yard line to start San Francisco’s third drive, Smith and the 49ers offense marched down the field to score on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Moss, who was virtually wide open running down the left hash marks.

“He had a lot of juice,” Harbaugh said of Moss.

Moss, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree combined for 15 catches for 152 yards. Crabtree led the way, catching seven passes for 76 yards.

Moss’ touchdown capped a 9-play, 92-yard scoring drive. It also moved into him sole possession of second place on the NFL’s all-time touchdown receptions list (154) and put him at the No. 5 spot on the NFL’s all-time red zone touchdown list  with 70 red zone scores.

Green Bay responded to its formal rival with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring which ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. Even when it seemed like Green Bay had seized momentum, San Francisco answered right back.

The 49ers went 55 yards on 10 plays to score on Akers’ second field goal of the game, a 43-yard kick to make it a 13-7 game.

Akers’ best kick of the day was his longest, and tied for the longest of any kick in NFL history.

To close out the first half, Akers connected on a 63-yard field goal, tying him for the league’s longest made kick along with Tom Dempsey, Sebastian Janikowski and Jason Elam. Akers’ kick bounced off the crossbar and had enough spin to get through. San Francisco led 16-7 at the half.

Asked if he knew Akers’ range going into the game, Harbaugh provided a humorous moment following a hard-fought football game.

“Sixty-three yards today,” the 49ers coach answered immediately.

Green Bay didn’t answer Akers’ kick. Instead they went three-and-out to start the second half. The 49ers, however, continued to apply pressure. Crabtree picked up a gain of 20 to give San Francisco a first down on the team’s initial third-quarter possession. On the next play, Gore picked up 21 yards which helped set up a 4-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.

Cobb’s touchdown return, followed by Bowman’s interception and Gore’s score appeared to make the game a comfortable lead at 30-15, but not against a formidable foe like Green Bay.

Rodgers led the Packers on a 5-play, 76-yard scoring drive which ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with about six minutes remaining.

The 49ers had to punt the ball back to the Packers after failing to wind down the clock, but it wasn’t a problem. One of the league’s stingiest units held up at midfield, turning the Packers over on downs to preserve an impressive win.

“The fight for 60 minutes was there,” Harbaugh said.

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