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Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

49ers Run Out the Clock on the Packers' Season

Looking Pack: Kaepernick Runs, Passes Past Green Bay

aaron rodgers colin kaepernick 2014 green bay packers playoffs hug
Jim Biever / Packers.com
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The 2013 Green Bay Packers season ended the same way it had last January, and with the same outcome in which the past two seasons began—a Packers loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The fourth such defeat in the past 16 months had all the makings of bucking the recent trend of Niners dominance. Green Bay was riding high after a late-season surge that saw the Pack squeaking into the postseason after the return of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb. Factor in the site of the playoff matchup was the sub-zero wind chill confines of Lambeau Field, and this offered the promise of a different contest than recent warm weather bouts.

Though the scene, circumstances and mercury level were different Sunday, one aspect remained consistent with last season’s playoff loss and this year’s 23-20 Packers crushing Wild Card round ousting. His name is Colin Kaepernick and he has Green Bay’s number.

While the game came down to a Phil Dawson field goal as time expired, the game was decidedly in San Francisco’s favor through the first quarter. Though the first 15 minutes, the Packers offense managed a mere six yards (six!) on nine plays, in which Rodgers went 0-2 for no yards. Meanwhile, the Niners picked on an already short-handed Green Bay D, which also lost Sam Shields and Mike Neal within minutes of the opening kickoff. Fortunately, questionable red zone playcalling limited San Fran to just two field goals.

The second quarter saw Rodgers and company finding its footing, as a run-heavy drive that culminated in a five-yard Jordy Nelson touchdown strike—making good on a Tramon Williams interception on one of Kaepernick’s rare miscues—to give the Packers a 7-6 lead. The lead didn’t last, though, as the 49ers would respond with a Frank Gore touchdown (set into motion with a 43-yard Kaepernick run). Before the half ended, Mason Crosby closed the gap to three points with a chip-shot field goal.

The second half found the contemporary rivals trading defensive stands and offensive stumbles. The quiet quarter concluded with a flurry of Packers runs, heaping with runs to Eddie Lacy and James Starks. But a pass kept the drive alive at the outset of the fourth quarter, as Rodgers escaped a sack on fourth and two and found his new fourth down hot-read in Cobb for 26 yards (of Rodgers’ paltry 177-yard total). John Kuhn punched in a touchdown from two yards out two plays later to put the Packers ahead again.

That lead wouldn’t last, though, as another lengthy Kaepernick scramble would set up a San Francisco TD on the next drive, a 28-yard strike to Vernon Davis. The Packers would respond with a Crosby field goal to knot things at 20 with a tad over five minutes left in regulation. Even after squandering two timeouts in the third quarter, five minutes proved to be more than enough time for Kaepernick—aided by dropped Micah Hyde interception on a far-from automatic, but catchable pass—to drive down the field. On third and 8 with time, with the Niners out of field goal range and time winding down, the Packers were essentially eliminated from contention by, shocker, a Kaepernick run—which put the quarterback six feet short of 100 yards on the ground and put the fate of the game on the foot of Dawson.

The veteran kicker nailed his short field goal to hand San Francisco a 23-20 win as time expired. While the outcome was the same, the unlikely chain of events, the string of hardships and unexpected fortune that preceded Sunday’s loss made this first round dispatching of an 8-7-1 division champion a dramatic end to a wild season. It’s a shame the story won’t continue another week.

Player Of The Game (Offense) – Eddie Lacy

On an altogether down day for the Packers offense, Lacy’s hard-earned 81 rushing yards on 21 punishing carries stands out the most on an otherwise unsavory stat sheet. The rookie rusher is hands-down Green Bay’s offensive player of the year.

Player Of The Game (Defense/Special Teams) – Tramon Williams

Aside from three sacks and the collective stand in the third and (early) fourth quarters, nobody really stood out—the story of the 2013 Packers, really. Amid missed tackles, rampant injuries and dropped interceptions, Williams’ pick, two solo tackles and three passes defended were some of the better moments from a defense who let a quarterback scamper for 98 yards and throw for 227 (including 125 to one receiver).

Up next: the 2014 season.

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