49ers' D makes stop to clinch big win
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)
Randy Moss found his way back to familiar turf, celebrating a touchdown at Lambeau Field in his new uniform.
Showing the same brand of dominant defense that powered them to the NFC Championship Game last season, the 49ers smothered Rodgers and the Packers offense, then made one last stand to stop a late rally in a 30-22 victory on Sunday.
49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks said the 49ers' win could be an "eye opener" for the Packers, and a sign that the 49ers are poised for another big playoff run.
"Maybe we'll see them again in the NFC Championship," Brooks said.
Facing a Packers team that lost only once in the 2011 regular season was a tough opening road test, but the 49ers were more than ready.
"We were just tremendously on it today, and that was a big part of our victory," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Things went so well for San Francisco that when David Akers tried a 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half, it bounced off the crossbar and then kept going through the uprights to tie an NFL record.
"When you hit the goal post at any part it usually makes that horrific noise and then it usually bounces back," Akers said. "This time it got there. It was a sweet bounce. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime type of a deal."
Moss scored on a 14-yard reception in the second quarter. He then turned his back to the crowd and pointed to the name on his jersey, opting for a more subdued celebration than the now-notorious fake mooning motion he made toward fans at Lambeau during his Minnesota Vikings days.
"He had a lot of juice, he blocked well," Harbaugh said. "He got open and he was a great big target in there."
The Packers came into their opener with hopes that a rebuilt defense and improved running game could help get them back to the Super Bowl after coming up short in the playoffs last season.
"They've got a great defense," Rodgers said. "You've got to give them credit. They've got some of the top guys in the league at their position."
Rodgers finished the game as the Packers' leading rusher, with new addition Cedric Benson gaining just 18 yards on nine carries.
The Packers don't have long to prepare for their next game, Thursday night at home against the division rival Chicago Bears.
Asked if he at least was pleased that his team put together a comeback, Packers coach Mike McCarthy held his tongue.
"Boy, I'd like to answer that truthfully," McCarthy said. "We're 0-1. We have some work to do. We're up in 96 hours."
Rodgers cautioned against blowing one loss out of proportion.
"It's one game," Rodgers said. "This is a team that was in the NFC Championship last year. It's a good team. Hopefully we see them down the road in the playoffs."
Rodgers finished 30 of 44 for 303 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but the 49ers held him in check until late the in the game. Jermichael Finley had a 1-yard touchdown for the Packers.
The replacement officials called a total of 18 penalties, some of them questionable and drawing animated complaints from both sidelines.
"Some of the penalties were definitely a little bizarre," Rodgers said.
The 49ers took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, then twice let Rodgers and the Packers cut the lead to 8. But the defense held firm on a potential game-tying drive in the final minutes
Randall Cobb gave the Packers a chance with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, and a two-point conversion cut the lead to 8, at 23-15 in the fourth quarter. But Rodgers threw an interception to linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and Frank Gore ran for a 23-yard touchdown.
Rodgers then threw a touchdown to James Jones, cutting the lead back to 8.
With the clock nearing the four-minute mark, a sack by Clay Matthews helped force a punt and the Packers took over at their own 16-yard line with 3:37 left and no timeouts.
Rodgers steadily marched the Packers down the field, but Brooks sacked Rodgers. Facing fourth-and-10 near midfield, Rodgers threw deep toward Jordy Nelson but the pass fell incomplete.
Linebacker Patrick Willis said the 49ers made a statement.
"You turn on the TV or you hear people say, `No, the Packers are going to beat them by two or three touchdowns,' and you hear everybody saying all this and that," Willis said. "But we know what we have and we have complete confidence in one another here across the board, offense, defense and special teams. As long as we have that and we're still together, I think we're capable of doing anything."
The three other kickers to hit 63-yarders were New Orleans' Tom Dempsey in 1970, Denver's Jason Elam in 1998, and Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski in 2011. ... Harbaugh was furious with the replacement referee crew early on, after they called Aldon Smith for unsportsmanlike conduct for taking off his helmet after a sack of Rodgers in the first quarter. Harbaugh seemed to question several other calls but didn't criticize the crew afterward. "I don't know what I'm supposed to say or not say," he said. ... Sunday's attendance was 70,523.