GREEN BAY – Here are my grades for the 49ers, who beat the Packers 23-20 at Lambeau Field in a wild card playoff game Sunday night.
KAEPERNICK: B+. His passer rating the first three quarters was 58.9, but his passer rating in the fourth quarter was 118.2. So, he was clutch, although he completed just half of his passes in the fourth quarter (4-of-8), and one of his incompletions was a dropped interception. If Mycah Hyde had caught that pass, he probably would have run it in for a touchdown and the Packers might have won and Kaepernick wouldn’t be clutch. He would have choked. But Hyde dropped the ball, and Kaepernick made three plays after that to get the 49ers into field goal range. He also was the 49ers’ leading rusher – 7 carries for 98 yards. Without Clay Matthews, the Packers had no chance of stopping Kaepernick when it counted.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B. Crabtree was excellent – 8 catches for 125 yards, his best game of the season. Most of that production came after the Packers’ No.2 cornerback, Sam Shields, left the game with a knee injury. Anquan Boldin was not excellent – he caught just 3 passes for 38 yards. Quinton Patton never was targeted. He ran the ball once on a fly sweep and lost a yard.
RUNNING BACKS: B. Frank Gore gained just 66 yards on 20 carries, but he scored a touchdown and made a key block downfield which allowed Kaepernick to explode for a 42-yard run.
TIGHT ENDS: B. Vernon Davis caught just two passes but he was open frequently. Sometimes Kaepernick didn’t see Davis. Sometimes Kaepernick underthrew him, and sometimes he overthrew him. Kaepernick threw one perfect pass to Davis, though, and it was a 28-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B. They gave up a couple sacks and five tackles for losses. But they were terrific on the final drive, pushing the Packers’ defensive line back when they knew the 49ers were going to run.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+. Aldon Smith had 1.5 sacks and Ray McDonald had .5 sacks. Justin Smith had a tackle for a loss. Overall, the pass rush was better than it has been since the game against the Seahawks a few weeks ago.
LINEBACKERS: B+. Ahmad Brooks had two sacks and his best game since Week 12. NaVorro Bowman had a game-high 10 tackles, and his last one was the most important. He tackled Randall Cobb for no gain at the 49ers’ 9 yard line, and the Packers had to kick a game-tying field goal two plays later.
SECONDARY: B+. They gave up a 97.8 passer rating, but only177 passing yards, and most of those came when Aaron Rodgers scrambled, extended the play and made the 49ers’ defensive backs cover longer than they typically would. In the second half, Tarell Brown knocked away a deep pass intended for Jordy Nelson, and Tramaine Brock knocked away a deep pass intended for James Jones.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Phil Dawson made all three of his field goal attempts, and LaMichael James had another good game returning kicks. His 37-yard kick return kicked off the 49ers’ final touchdown drive of the game.
COACHING: B. As has been the case recently, the 49ers’ offensive game plan was good and they moved the ball easily in the first half. But they scored just 13 points. Then they scored no points in the third quarter and looked completely disjointed. And then Kaepernick bailed out the coaches by scrambling and running and scrambling and passing in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick made most of those plays happen. But give Greg Roman credit for taking a shot at the end zone from 28 yards out in the fourth quarter. The 49ers were not-so-good in the red zone the first three quarters, so Roman skipped the red zone and went for the touchdown. Kaepernick made a perfect throw and Davis caught it for a touchdown.