Category Archives: 49ers

What To Make of Chris Borland’s Retirement

Chris Schisler

They say that playing in the National Football League is a privilege. To be an NFL football player you have to be a special athlete, with a skill set most people only get to dream about. But due to concerns about brain injuries, 49ers linebacker Chris Borland has decided to retire.

When I saw the story on Twitter, about his retirement I was shocked. I continued scrolling, thinking that it was nothing more than an early April fools joke. When I saw the story again, and again by respectable sources, I knew it was real.

On one hand it is understandable. The more we learn about the potential effects of an NFL career, the more we understand the concern 24 year old Borland had for his safety.

On the other hand it seems foolish to throw away all the work it took to make it to the NFL. It seems early for a very good player to be calling it quits, over something that has not even happened yet.

I must admit, my perspective is a bit tainted. I would have done anything to be a NFL linebacker, just like my childhood hero, Ray Lewis. I was not able to live out this dream because, well I’m not one of the super humans that play in the NFL.

It honestly hurts to see someone who got this opportunity and gave it away. To the untalented there is nothing worse than seeing the talented not use their gifts. Playing in the NFL is special and Borland should have cherished it.

I guess its easy for me to say. I don’t have to worry about plaque on my brain. I don’t have to worry about getting my short term memory and cognitive abilities literally knocked out of my head. But here’s the thing, I would have done anything to be a linebacker in the NFL, and in Borland’s shoes, you’d have to drag me off the field in a stretcher before I’d even think of retirement.

Football is a brutal game. Thats part of what we love about it. I know nobody wants to say that in the age of political correctness, where conformity to social standards took away ESPN’s awesome weekly JACKED UP segment. There is no way around it, football is brutal.

This will have little impact on the football world. There will always be people lining up to play football for exorbitant salaries no matter the risk. There will be others like Borland though, if one does it others can follow. Still football is not dying by any standard.

I respect Borland’s decision. It just makes me sad to see a good player at my favorite position in all of sports, give up his talents.

Colin Kaepernick Got Paid

The San Francisco 49ers have made a six year commitment to quarterback Colin Kaepernick that will make him one of the league’s highest paid players. His contract extension through 2020 is worth $126 million with $61 million guaranteed. If you were keeping score- this is the most money guaranteed to any active player. Move over Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers- Colin Kaepernick (at least in terms of contracts) has you beat. Did San Francisco overpay?

Like it or not this is probably the going rate for a young quarterback who gives you a chance at Super Bowl glory. Quarterbacks are the hottest commodity in all of professional sports and this contract is just another example supporting this claim. The least clutch quarterback, Tony Romo, got $55 million guaranteed and only has one playoff win. You can say that Colin Kaepernick got paid too much but you cannot say he did not get his market value. In 2012 he was one pass shy of what would have arguably been the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time against the Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers reached a third consecutive NFC Championship appearance, the second with Kaepernick as the starting QB. Going into his third season as the starting quarterback the sky is the limit for him.

We tend to evaluate players as finished products; forgetting that players like Kaepernick are still developing. The 49ers feel they have a bright future ahead of them because this is just the beginning for their franchise passer. Kaepernick has the best quarterback tutor in the NFL in his head coach, Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are paying for the future as much as they are paying for the present. While I don’t think his play has merited this much money, with one year left on his contract its understandable. If the 49ers won it all in 2014 the price tag would be obscene.

While the contract seems ridiculous, it is a fair indicator of his market value. Quarterbacks like Romo and Jay Cutler are less accomplished with much longer careers; Colin Kaepernick should get more guaranteed money. Each quarterback resets the market, the contracts will only continue to grow.

This article brought to you by Maryland’s best frozen yogurt

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Comparing the Harbaugh Brothers

89-43-1. That is the combined record thus far of John and Jim Harbaugh. Both of the Harbaugh brothers have been to 3 AFC Championship games each (Jim has been to 3 in a row). John Harbaugh defeated his brother Jim in the Super Bowl. Clearly these brothers have at least one thing in common; they are both winners.

It is not actually all that hard to tell that the Harbaugh’s are brothers. Both have the unmatchable enthusiasm their father Jack instilled in them. Neither of them back down from a challenge and they never run out of catch phrases. This article is not question who is the better coach. That would be a frivolous argument. Both are highly successful and are among the very best in their profession. I am much more interested in examining what makes them different. Besides they would battle this one to the death.

John Harbaugh came into the world and the league first and so we will begin with him. The first thing that sticks out about John Harbaugh is his leadership and charisma. He is an excellent frontman for the organization. He is a players coach but this does not mean he is easy on his guys. This means that he listens to his players and works with them to make the Baltimore Ravens a monster.

John Harbaugh is a people person, who understands what makes each player tick. He is loyal to a fault to the people who work for him and puts a lot of trust in his coaching staff. While he is a football savvy man, John Harbaugh delegates to his coaching staff. He has his fingers on every facet of the football team. He has high standards and he allows people to reach them rather than getting in the way. The reason John Harbaugh is so accomplished is that he a powerful leader.

Jim Harbaugh is an offensive mastermind. Unlike his brother he is rough around the edges and is too much for some to handle. Jim Harbaugh has the same exact fire inside him as John, he just does not hide it as well.

Jim Harbaugh was a professional quarterback for a long time, though he attacks the game more like a linebacker. One of his greatest strengths is developing a strong relationship with his players, especially quarterbacks. This is evidenced by how he resurrected Alex Smith’s career.

Before Harbaugh got to San Francisco, Smith had struggled mighty and fans had had enough of him. The first pick bust that was Alex Smith took the 49ers to the NFC Championship. When Smith was injured Colin Kaepernick took over the quarterback job. The 49ers offense took off to an entirely new height. It was incredible how Jim Harbaugh was able to mold the offense around two completely contrasting quarterbacks.

The Harbaugh brothers are both intelligent but have very different strengths. Both brothers are highly emotional and enthusiastic but they show it in different styles. John Harbaugh is more of a people person and an organized leader. Jim Harbaugh is more of a football genius and is a much brasher coach. The moral of the story is that they both know how to win and have unmatchable positive energy.

NFC Championship: A Familiar Battle

The San Francisco 49ers will play on conference championship Sunday for the third straight time. It is a familiar moment for the battle tested 49ers; and the Seattle Seahawks are an even more familiar opponent. The game features NFC West rivals that are built the exact same way. With stingy defenses and smash-mouth offenses it is their similarities that make the rivalry so fierce.

The Seattle Seahawks earned the NFC’s top seed with a strong 13-3 record. The Seahawks “12th Man Advantage” makes Seattle a very tough place for opponents to play. The last time San Francisco entered the Seahawks’ home they did not leave so happy.

The 49ers won the second meeting. That however was in San Francisco. There is no doubt the 49ers can play with the Seahawks. The question that lingers is can they win in Seattle?

This figures to be a lower scoring game than the AFC Championship between New England and Denver. This battle features a bevy of defensive stars. The Seahawks have the best secondary in football led by safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman. The 49ers have arguably the league’s best linebacking core. Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks are all Pro-Bowlers and Aldon Smith is no slouch.

Both teams offenses are predicated on their ability to run the ball. Both teams need an strong run game to avoid being 1 dimensional. Both defenses are especially strong against the ground attack. The team that runs the ball the most effectively will win this football game.Both teams have a powerful workhorse in the backfield. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch earned his nickname “Beast Mode” with his ferocious running style. His 49ers counterpart Frank Gore is a downhill runner and is just as physically imposing.

The running game is not a party reserved only for running backs. Both quarterbacks like to make plays with their legs. Russell Wilson looks to pass first. His scrambling is more about keeping the play alive so he can find an open receiver.

Colin Kaepernick is very similar however he looks to run more frequently than Wilson. Kaepernick’s contribution of rushing yards tends to help his confidence as a passer. Kaepernick is a streaky player. He has unbelievable highs and rather frustrating highs. The 49ers need to get their young quarterback in rhythm early to avoid the game snowballing on them. In Seattle games can get out of hand pretty quickly.

The 49ers have had a lot of trouble getting open against man coverage.The Seahawks defense is very suited to be a Kaepernick nightmare. There needs to be a receiving option that steps up to the challenge. Much of Kaepernick’s problems come when there is nobody to throw the ball to. The Seahawks will want to shut down Michael Crabtree as he is the go-to-guy on the offense. Seattle was able to shut down Jimmy Graham against the Saints and they will pay similar attention to 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Anquan Boldin must be the X-factor for the San Francisco offense.

49ers vs Seahawks has become one of the best rivalries the NFL has to offer; in fact it has a Ravens vs Steelers kind of vibe to it. The game will be physical and down right nasty. It is never for the faint of heart when San Francisco plays the Seahawks. I really can not wait for this game.

Ask Mud Dog Anything #3

Ask Mud Dog Anything #3 January 10, 2014

-Chris Schisler (Mud Dog)

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Question 1 comes from Andrew Bauer (@SzACiiDRaiN): Who are the top 5 WR in the draft? And how would you like us (Ravens) to draft? By that I mean Rd1-WR? Rd2:Lt? And so on.

My top 5 WR prospects in the draft:

1.) Sammy Watkins | WR, Clemson| 6-1, 200 lbs.

Sammy Watkins is an absolute stud. With a 4.40 speed, outstanding leaping ability and tremendous hands there is nothing not to like about Watkins. Clemson relied heavily and he has been one of my favorite college football players to watch. This player makes play after play. My favorite attribute is how he does not wait for the ball to come to him. Watkins goes and gets the ball at the highest point. He snags it out of the air and is very quarterback friendly. Watkins is a burner but can do it all.

2.) Mike Evans | WR, Texas A&M | 6-5, 225 lbs.

Evans reminds me of Anquan Boldin. I think he would be the perfect complement to Torrey Smith and Joe would be very happy to see him in Baltimore. He does not have elite speed but he is the perfect possession wide receiver. He is constantly open above his head as he has a 6-5 frame, almost lanky arms and good jumping ability. I think Evans has a lot of work to do in the NFL. He may not be the most polished receiver in this class but his natural ability and upside is jaw dropping. He is too good of an athlete to pass on in the first round.

3.) Allen Robinson | WR, Penn St.| 6-3, 203 lbs

Robinson is a big fish in a small Penn State offense. He has been the Nittany Lions go-to-guy for the past two seasons. His name was probably the first word defensive coordinators thought of when going against Penn State. Robinson is another receiver that would fill the Anquan Boldin role. One of the best attributes about Robinson is that he gets YAC (Yards after the catch). I think Robinson is more polished than Evans but I think his physical attributes are a tad less desirable.

4.) Jordan Matthews | WR, Vanderbilt | 6-3, 205 lbs.

Matthews has been ridiculously productive at Vanderbilt with 107 receptions, 1,334 yards and 5 touchdowns. Matthews is an instinctive football player and makes a QB’s life easy. In many ways he is comparable to Allen Robinson. Matthews has everything you could want in a receiver.

5.) Brandin Cooks | WR, Oregon St. | 5-10, 186 lbs.

Brandin Cooks runs the best routes in this draft class. His route running skills are hard to find at the college level. Cooks has only one knock that I can find. He has less than ideal size. He is going to need to put on a show at the combine to be selected in the first round. I am really impressed with Cooks and I think his size is misleading.

I think it is absolutely critical that the Ravens hit on a wide receiver in this draft. The offensive line is the biggest weakness however and you could not fault the Ravens for taking a tackle in round 1. If Texas A&M’s OT Jake Matthews falls to us you have to take him. There is no doubt in my mind about this. WR is an important position for the Ravens to address but in a deep receiver class the Ravens could get one in round 2. Robinson and Matthews will likely be gone by then but that is not set in stone by any stretch of the imagination. Other guys to keep an eye on would be guys like Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin and Jalen Strong. I also think center is a huge need. This however would require the Ravens to admit that Gradkowski is not the guy for the job. If you can get Travis Swanson from Arkansas in the 3rd that would be ideal but also there would be Bryan Stork from FSU probably available. Depending on what happens with Ihedigbo the Ravens could draft a safety after that if MSU’s Kurtis Drummond was available in the 4th that would be an ideal fit. He may be gone by the third however. There are a lot of options for the Ravens in this draft. They need to get better from this draft class for a successful 2014 season.

Question 2 comes from @pd48fan: Heard on radio discussion letting Ngata go. Would that be a possibility in your opinion?

I think the Ravens are stuck with Ngata and his contract whether they like it or not. They maybe can restructure the deal. However the Ravens would take a huge cap hit letting Ngata go. This is a tricky situation to say the least.

Due mostly to injuries on a mammoth body, Ngata has not produced to the level his contract. Ngata signed a 5 year $61 million deal in 2011. Cutting Ngata would give Ozzie Newsome headaches, costing the team a $15 million cap hit. I do not think cutting Ngata is in the cards no matter what. I don’t think Ngata is worth what he makes (all though emotionally he is one of my favorite all time Ravens). I also believe the Ravens think he still has some good football left in the tank. It would be ideal to restructure the deal.

Question 3 comes from Toya P (@LaLaLaLaToya): Why does Phillip Rivers seem to have Manning’s number; even going back to Indy days?\

Phillip Rivers has a 5-3 record against Peyton Manning. While that started as a 4-1 streak for Rivers while Peyton was a Colt, Peyton has beaten Phillip 3 out of 4 times while a Bronco. I don’t really think Phillip Rivers has Peyton’s number. Rivers may compete against Manning but he plays against the Broncos defense. I do however feel that Rivers gets up for the games against the Broncos. Rivers is a confident guy who thinks he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. I am sure he wants to beat Manning, who is considered by some to be the greatest quarterback of all time.

Question 4 comes from Tracy Cole (@Tracy_Cole65): What are the chances of in your opinion of Underdogs Chargers/ Colts getting to the Super Bowl:

I think the stars have kind of aligned for the San Diego Chargers. Yes they have to get past Denver (a team they have beaten on the road earlier this season) but if they do I like their chances. If they beat Denver (as I have predicted) they would play the Patriots or the Colts. They match up really well against either team. The Chargers match up best with New England. Their run game would give the Patriots fits. I like the Chargers making it to the Super Bowl as weird as that may sound. I would say the Colts have a toss-up kind of game against the Patriots this weekend. It is hard to pick the Colts to win in New England and I think the Patriots pull this one out and the Colts will be going into the offseason earlier than they had hoped.

Question 5 comes from Tracy as well: Could you explain what it means to franchise tag either Pitta or Monroe and why that could be a problem if they do?

The franchise tag is a tool general managers use to avoid losing a player they can’t quite work out a long term deal with. The salary cap is determined by the 5 top salaries of the tagged player’s position. Dennis Pitta’s tag would cost the Ravens about $6.7 million dollars. The tag applied to Eugene Monroe could be around $9.8 million dollars.

The tag does not really make sense for Monroe. He is an adequate left tackle at best. To pay him $9.8 million dollars for a season would be astronomically above his actual value. If the tag were applied to Monroe it would be a bad deal for the Ravens. The franchise tag would also over pay Dennis Pitta. Pitta is probably not going to produce to the level of Tony Gonzales a Rob Gronkowski or a Jimmy Graham. This being said Pitta’s importance to the Ravens cannot be understated.

I would prefer to give the tag to James Ihedigbo. Ihedigbo’s tag would be slightly more expensive than Dennis Pitta’s tag would be; but it is a better bargain for the Ravens. Ihedigbo will not be easily replaced if lost in free agency. The Ravens will not have the cap room to sign a free agent replacement if they don’t have the money to keep Ihedigbo. The Ravens will not find a player in the draft that can match the great production of Ihedigbo, at least not right away. Plus it would not be wise to have both the safeties be so young and inexperienced. This preference of tagging Ihedigbo however is under two conditions. I assume we can work out a deal with Dennis Pitta. Joe Flacco and him are close friends, he wants to stay and the Oz makes deals like this for breakfast. Secondly I am not desperate to keep Monroe and I would not be okay with overpaying him. The roster is skim at tackles. We need Monroe, but we do not need him that badly as to tag him.

Question 6 is from Ravens Rob (@SupermanRob2914): What are the Ravens options at safety?

In my opinion I answered this question in the last question’s answer. I think the Ravens need to keep what they have with Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo. I think that is crucial. I do not think the Ravens will be able to replace Ihedigbo. Also I like that both safeties can play free and strong safety. I don’t think the Ravens agree with me however. I expect the Ravens will look for a FS in the draft. With pressing needs at WR and on the offensive line however I am not sure we take a safety in the first two rounds. I think the Ravens have no choice but find a way to keep James Ihedigbo. I just hope the Ravens figure that out themselves.

Question 7 is again from Toya P: What are the chances of the 49ers winning the Super Bowl?

Well this is a short answer I picked the Panthers this weekend to beat the 49ers. If San Francisco gets past the Panthers they have a shot. The Seahawks however have home field and if they played the 49ers in the NFC Championship game I would pick Seattle. If the Saints beat the Seahawks then the 49ers would have a better chance as they match up well with the Saints. First things first though, the 49ers have a brutally tough game this weekend. I will say the 49ers have a 20% chance of reaching the Super Bowl. Then anything is possible.

Playoff Preview: 49ers vs Panthers

Game Preview By Chris Schisler

Coming off a thrilling last second win In Green Bay the San 49ers play the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The Panthers are a tough team to beat. They have a stingy defense and a dynamic quarterback in Cam Newton. If San Francisco is to make their third straight NFC championship game they will have to beat the NFC South Champions and the number 2 seed in the NFC.

These teams met earlier this season and it resulted in a 10-9 Carolina victory. The rematch looks to be another defensive slug fest. The Carolina Panthers defense is the perfect defense for Colin Kaepernick. The defensive line keeps him in a collapsed pocket and makes him beat them with his arm alone. The Panthers secondary has been very comfortable in their Tampa 2 defense. The big play is not there on most plays. Kaepernick is not known for outstanding patience nickel and diming down the field. The Panthers also stop the run very well. The 49ers offense can not become 1 dimensional or the Panthers will have their way.

Kaepernick is a good passer but he is not a great one. There are times when he makes perfectly delivered passes look easy. For example, when he hit Vernon Davis down the seam before the linebacker could turn around to play the ball against Green Bay. There are also times when Kaepernick struggles. His strengths are rolling out to the right where he can throw or run the football. His running ability opens up options in the secondary because when he kills you with a big run the defense has to respect that. But when Colin rolls out to the left it he struggles with accuracy. He is not an inaccurate pocket passer but I don’t think he is programmed as one. I think the special “wow how did he” plays are when he plays fast rolling out to the right. He seems to see the field better, making for better decisions.

If the 49ers are going to win this game they must pound Frank Gore with tremendous success. If he can average near 4 yards a carry and crank out 80-100 yards that would be their comfort zone. The running game will make play action a real problem for the defense. The Tampa 2 defense requires the middle linebacker to get great depth. The run threat could make him hesitate to drop and I would like to see the 49ers try to split the two deep zones with play action getting behind the linebacker in conflict. I also think Jim Harbaugh needs to call a good bit of the zone read. If the defensive end crashes and Kaepernick gets some big runs it could really boost his confidence.

San Francisco needs to be patient with the passing game. The Tampa 2 defense that is a big part of what the Panthers do; allows the short pass in the middle of the field to be open. Playcalling must allow Kaepernick an option in these windows. The New England Patriots had great success on third downs against Carolina because their receivers were willing to sit in the windows and Brady picked them apart.

When they see man coverage they need to create the best possible match up with formations and motions. The goal should be to have a big day for Vernon Davis when they play man. There is not a defender in the world that does not have trouble covering the veteran TE from Maryland. If the Panthers bracket Davis there is likely to be a 1 on 1 match up for Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree.

The Panthers need to have a strong running attack against the 49ers. The runs can come from Cam, they just need the threat of the run or the 49ers pass rushers will pin their ears back and give Cam Newton hell. The Packers had very good success running the football against San Francisco in the wild card round. Green Bay rushed for 124 yards rushing and averaged 4 yards per carry. The running game was very instrumental in turning it around for the 1st quarter stifled Packers offense. If the Panthers can mirror the Packers ground game they can definitely win this game.

When you have two powerful teams with similar strengths the outcome is on the shoulders of the quarterbacks. Cam Newton is having a phenomenal season and this is an intriguing challenge for Carolina’s Super Cam. The 49ers had several plays where they seemed to have a sure sack on Aaron Rodgers only to see Rodgers slip away and make a great improvisation play. If the 49ers could not finish taking Rodgers to the ground, good luck doing it to Cam. Newton is even more athletic than Rodgers and he thrives outside of the pocket. If a play breaks down and Cam Newton does his thing, can San Francisco’s secondary stay with the receivers? It’s going to be hard for the 49ers to play a lot of man coverage in this game.

If you made me pick between the quarterbacks in this game it would be hard not to take Newton. I think he is a better passer and has less problem areas than Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is a streaky player, if he gets hot, look out. This is such an intriguing pairing of quarterbacks. Both players have similar skill sets. Colin Kaepernick has struggled this season but much of this is because of his receivers’ ability to get open against good man coverage. Cam Newton has really grown this season  though; he has harnessed his strengths and really improved in the areas he had previously struggled. I never thought I would say this before this season but I am a huge Cam Newton fan. A game like this comes down to the quarterbacks and I like Cam Newton to pull through in this game.

This is a heavy weight fight between two physically imposing teams. This is the game to watch if you love smash mouth football and defense. It will be a blast.

49ers vs Packers: Wild Card Finale

49ers vs Packers: Wild Card Finale

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Chris Schisler

Imagine playing on a rock hard field in 5 degree weather and a 10 degree wind chill. That is exactly what the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers did on this frigid evening in Green Bay Wisconsin. It was a premier matchup in a game reminiscent of Vince Lombardi’s “Ice Bowl.” Now that we have talked about the weather in the hallowed frozen tundra of Lambeau Field we can actually discuss the football game.

It did not take long for the game’s first big decision to arrive. On a 4th & 6 at the Green Bay 35 yard line Jim Harbuagh decided to go for it. Colin Kaepernick completed a 31 yard pass to Michael Crabtree who was relatively wide open. The Packers wisely doubled tight end Vernon Davis but Crabtree ran right by the only defender in the vicinity. The 49ers could not punch the ball into the end zone however and they settled for a field goal. San Francisco was fortunate to even get the three points as Kaepernick was nearly intercepted in the end zone. The drive was costly for the Packers. Veteran corner Sam Shields and linebacker Mike Neal left the game with injury.

The Packers came away with nothing but a three and out on their second drive. Two possessions into the game, Aaron Rodgers had yet to complete a pass and had been sacked once. The 49ers defense got great push from their defensive line. Impressively the team from San Francisco did not seem to be effected by the weather. The 49ers started the game as the more physical team and were winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.

The 49ers offense drove right back into the red zone. 17 of 22 49ers plays were in Packers territory. There was just one problem the 49ers were having. Twice they had driven to the red zone only to come away with a field goal. The Packers were getting dominated in many respects but the scoreboard only read 6-0 San Francisco.

The fans had had enough after their team’s third possession and they promptly booed. The Packers once again went three and out. Disaster nearly struck as Aaron Rodgers fumbled under pressure. The Packers were able to retain possession but had lost 5 yards on the play. The 49ers were able to get pressure on Rodgers that kept him in the pocket. They did a great job in coverage and an even better job in run defense. Three drives (if you can call them that) in Aaron Rodgers had not completed a pass and the only thing the Pack could seemingly do is move backwards.

The Packers defense quickly gave their offense another chance as Tramaun Williams intercepted a forced throw to Vernon Davis by Colin Kaepernick. The Packers had struggled but 1 touchdown could give them the lead with a PAT. Rodgers first completion gave the Packers their first earned first down and the Packers offense started clicking.

The Packers went on to have a 12 play drive that was capped off by an amazing 5 yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers dominated the first quarter but failed to score touchdowns in the red zone. The Packers took their punches, turned the page and in the second quarter took a 7-6 lead.

The 49ers would answer the Packers touchdown with a touchdown of their own. They did it with a heavy dose of Frank Gore. First Gore makes a critical block that helped Colin Kaepernick have a 43 yard rush. Two plays later Gore took a handoff and scored from 10 yards out. A game that started as a defensive slugfest featured a sudden burst of offense from both teams.

The Packers were able to end the first half with a Mason Crosby field goal. If it were not for questionable clock management and a penalty from the Packers they could have scored a touchdown. Considering that the Packers struggled mightily to start the game a 13-10 game was a real achievement. The offense really turned it around. They started with three straight three and outs with no Rodgers completions. Rodgers finished the half 11/15 for 97 passing yards and a touchdown. The Packers had a strong 10 point second quarter.

The question at halftime was which team would put together two strong quarters of play? The Packers had captured the momentum at home. The first quarter showed the 49ers what they needed to do. They needed to reroute the Packers wide receivers and they need to get pressure on Rodgers that keeps him in the pocket. They knew they needed to run the ball and take advantage of the Packers desire to take Vernon Davis out of the game. There were huge possibilities for Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin.

The Packers also knew what they needed to do to move on to the divisional round. In the second half they must get the ball out of Rodgers hands quickly and use route concepts that make man coverage difficult. The Packers knew they must contain the 49ers rushing attack and force Kaepernick into questionable decisions. There was a blueprint that emerged for both teams in the second half. The question would be who would deliver.

The second half did not start smoothly for the San Francisco 49ers. After their kick returner failed to return the ball past the 20 yard line, Kaepernick called a timeout before the first play from scrimmage of the half. That was very costly especially for a drive that ended with a three & out. Kaepernick struggled but there was really nothing open as the Green Bay secondary ate up the receivers in coverage. The next 49ers drive did not go so smoothly either. They managed to get a few first downs but had to punt the ball away after Kaepernick was sacked for the 4th time.

The subsequent Packers drive was a high point for the 49ers defense. They were able to play outstanding coverage and collapse Rodger’s pocket and sacked him twice in a row. This set up a 3rd & 22 for the Packers. Rodgers found Jordy Nelson with a 1 on 1 match up but they could not connect on the deep bomb. The Packers had to punt and the 49ers had perfect field position. The 49ers could not take advantage of it however and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers got another opportunity trailing late in the 3rd quarter by 3.

It was a scoreless third quarter. The 49ers defense found their way back to what was so successful in the first quarter. The Packers defense finally played a great quarter, not even bending.

The Packers started the 4th quarter in 49ers territory, thanks to a productive drive by Eddie Lacey and James Starks. Mike McCarthy rolled the dice on 4th down and boy did Rodgers deliver. In one of the most thrilling plays of the entire season Rodgers completed a clutch pass to Randle Cobb (Sound familiar Chicago) after it looked certain he would be sacked. That was an amazing play and no written word can do it justice. A few plays later John Kuhn scored the touchdown to make sure that great play did not go to waste. The Green Bay Packers had their first lead of the wild card game.

The 49ers offense came out onto the field with a new sense of urgency as they now trailed a game they shortly dominated. With a big third down scramble and aided by a penalty the 49ers quickly moved down the field. From the Packers 28 yard line Kaepernick threw a dime, finding Vernon Davis down the seam with linebacker AJ Hawk with his turned to him. The throw was perfectly timed and placed and it capped a quick 64 yard drive to recapture a 49ers lead.

Aaron Rodgers made some amazing plays on the next drive. I was convinced the 49ers had him for a sack when a blitzing safety came flying off the edge, but Rodgers is a magician with his feet. The Packers were able to tie the game at 20 with a Mason Crosby field goal. With 5:06 left in regulation no one could predict how the game would end, at least not on this very wild wild card weekend.

The 49ers had a championship caliber drive. Colin Kaepernick was phenomenal as he moved the 49ers into scoring range. Once the 49ers were in scoring range they were able to run the clock all the way down to kick the game winning field goal. The 49ers knew they could not let Rodgers have another chance and they did not give him one. It was a thrilling weekend of football and it ended with a game that went down to the wire.

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