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Notebook: Randy Moss Debuts in Style

Posted Sep 9, 2012

No, that wasn’t the ghost of Randy Moss coming back to Lambeau Field to haunt the cheeseheads. That was the future Hall of Fame wide receiver in the flesh, playing a big role in Sunday’s season-opening 30-22 win for the 49ers over the Green Bay Packers.

Moss, who has made a routine of catching touchdowns at historic Lambeau field throughout his 14-year career, was up to his old tricks again with his new team. Donning the white jersey of the 49ers for the first time, Moss caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith in the second quarter to help set the early tone for San Francisco.

Moss lined up in the left slot and took advantage of busted Green Bay coverage, running all alone in the end zone before Smith delivered a strike for six points. In case the fans forgot who was wearing No. 84, Moss pointed to the name on the back of his jersey before David Akers knocked through the extra point to give the 49ers a 10-0 advantage.

“He just blew open and I think his eyes lighted up bigger than mine,” Smith said of Moss. “He made a great catch. Great play call down there, great design and Randy was just smoking through there.”

Smith was the first one to congratulate Moss in the end zone and gave his new teammate a hearty headbutt before the wideout was mobbed by the rest of his teammates.

Moss showed flashes of production in the preseason, but many wondered how big a role he would play in Greg Roman’s offense during the regular season. If Sunday was any indication, Moss will be key for the fortunes of the 49ers in 2012. In all, Moss racked up 47 yards on four catches in his first game action since the 2010 season.

“He’s got a lot of juice,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He blocked well and when he got open he was a pretty big target in there a couple times. So was Mario Manningham; (Michael) Crabtree did his job. I thought all those three receivers really did a good job running their routes, getting the ball and going and defeating the press. They were just running, they were alert; they played a full 60 minutes just like everybody did on our team today. ”

One could argue Smith outdueled the reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, as the 49ers signal-caller went 20-of-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns while leading an efficient attack. He did a great job of distributing the ball to several targets throughout the afternoon, especially the wideouts.

The trio of Crabtree, Manningham and Moss combined for 15 catches for 152 yards, while Kyle Williams also turned in an impressive 20-yard punt return to help set up an NFL-record tying 63-yard field goal from Akers to end the first half. Crabtree hauled in a team-high seven catches for a team-high 76 yards, including four receptions that resulted in first downs.

Then there was the ever-steady Vernon Davis. The tight end finished the contest with three catches for 43 yards and his first touchdown of the year.

“We were really in sync,” Davis said. “Randy, Mario – it don’t stop – Kyle Williams, Delanie Walker. We got a lot of power but we have to keep our focus and keep our eye on the prize.”

Lined up at the Green Bay 4-yard line on the left side of the field, Davis created just enough separation from his defender and Smith delivered a dart into Davis’ chest for a score. It gave the 49ers a commanding 23-7 lead with 8:16 left in the third quarter and, more importantly, silenced the cheeseheads at Lambeau field.

“It shows the type of character that we have and what we want to accomplish," Davis said. "We made a statement today. … Bright future to look forward to. I’m excited about going in the office Tuesday.”

Frank The Tank

The vision. The patience. The quick burst of speed.

Frank Gore’s vintage running style was on full display in Sunday’s season-opening victory. The all-time franchise rushing leader only needed 16 carries to carve up the Packers defense for a game-high 112 yards. Not to mention his impressive 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers held a 23-15 lead against rejuvenated Packers offense in the final period, but Green Bay’s momentum was cut short when NaVorro Bowman intercepted Aaron Rodgers down the middle. One snap later, Gore streaked down the right sideline, made two defenders miss near the goal line and walked backward across the goal line for the score.

“It was great,” Gore said. “The o-line did a great job, Bruce did a good job of blocking and we got in.”

Naturally, Gore was quick to deflect the credit to his teammates, and rightly so. Miller did a great job of slowing down two would-be tacklers on the play, while the offensive line maintained its solid afternoon of production, paving the way for 186 rushing yards from San Francisco. Kendall Hunter also provided some punch out of the backfield with 41 yards on nine carries.

“This is just the beginning,” Gore said.

Man in the Middle

Heading into Sunday’s game, it was no secret that Rodgers and the Packers were going to try and spread out the 49ers defense with three and four wide receiver sets.

In response, San Francisco played most of the afternoon with five or six defensive backs, with Bowman as the middle linebacker for the majority of the action. It was a ringing endorsement of Bowman’s development in pass coverage, as the All-Pro showed he can do more than tackle ball carriers.

“I got my first one and it felt good,” Bowman said of his interception. “The coaches have been saying I’m due for one, the players have been saying I’m due for one and I finally got it.”

The third-year player rarely came off the field and was just one of the many linebackers who made an impact on Sunday. Ahmad Brooks applied repeated pressure in the late stages of the game, recording a fourth-quarter sack, while Aldon Smith also shined in his first game as a starter on the defense.

Smith created constant pressure on the edge and also recorded an impressive open field sack of Rodgers in the first quarter. Bowman led the team with 11 tackles while Patrick Willis added six more.

But none of the success would be possible without defensive linemen like Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, who quietly controlled the line of scrimmage all afternoon.

“I don’t think those guys get enough credit,” Bowman said. “Even though they might not get a sack or get a tackle for a loss, those guys put a lot of pressure on Aaron today and made him make some mistakes.”

Secondary Shines

Sunday was billed as a showdown as one of the league’s top offenses against one of the league’s stingiest defenses. Clearly, the 49ers prevailed.

Though Rodgers went 30-of-44 for 303 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, he still didn’t bring home the victory.

Aside from the usual starting quartet of cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown and safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox played big roles in the season-opening victory. Brown had a memorable first-quarter pass breakup down the left sideline while in one-on-one coverage with Greg Jennings and Culliver sealed the game with a fourth-down pass breakup with 49 seconds left on the clock.

“We had a great week of practice,” said Rogers, who also recorded the first sack of his career. “Coaches put us in the right position to make plays. … Once we come out here, it’s about executing the game plan and that’s what we did. We did a great job of that.”

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