GREEN BAY, Wis. — Welcome to the live blog for the 49ers’ 2012 season opener against the Green Bay Packers. I’ll be updating this frequently with analysis and impressions.
My dad and I entered the breakfast area of our hotel in Appleton. Wisc. a little after 10:15 a.m., Central Time. The place was packed with out-of-towners wearing full Packers get-ups, one man sporting a yellow and green wig as he ate his muffin.
At 11:00 a.m. my dad fired up our rental car, a Chrysler 300 – the White Shark – and we hopped on 41-North to Green Bay, a 30-mile drive.
It almost felt like we were driving in a different world. The landscape was green, flat and covered with silos. Are there silos in California? Every quarter mile we passed something that looked like a giant golf ball on a giant tee. I have no clue what those are.
We got off the freeway in Green Bay and we were in the middle of Small Town America. The houses reminded me of my Nonni’s old house – small and cute.
It was 64 degrees with a breeze and you could feel the fall in the air. I’ve never felt fall.
All of a sudden we saw Lambeau Field emerge – a sublime, enormous structure with red brick and green trim. It reminded me of AT&T Park if AT&T were in the middle of San Leandro or San Lorenzo.
Inside Lambeau, the seats – actually benches – are green and yellow like a college stadium. Above them is a horse shoe of new luxury boxes, and over the south end zone about 5,000 new seats are being built around the Jumbo Tron.
The fans haven’t been admitted inside yet. I feel like I’m sitting in an American monument – our version of the Roman Coliseum.
2:12 (Central time): The following 49ers are inactive: Brandon Jacobs, Ted Ginn Jr., Scott Tolzien, LaMichael James, Garrett Celek, Ian Williams and Joe Looney.
That mean A.J. Jenkins is active, which doesn’t surprise me. James being inactive doesn’t surprise me, either. Any time the 49ers could put him in the game, they’d be better served putting in Kendall Hunter.
The following Pakcers are inactive: Jarrett Boykin, Sean Richardson, Davon House, Brandian Ross, James Starks, Jamari Lattimore and Mike Daniels.
2:15 The Packers list Jarrett Bush, not Sam Shields, as the starting right cornerback.
3:00 The Niners have completed their warmups and they’re back in the locker room. The Packers are still on the field running plays with 35 minutes to go until kickoff.
3:24 The Niners won the toss and elected to receive. That’s a first in the Harbaugh Era, I believe. They always defer.
3:28 The Niners ran on first and second down, and on third and 1, Clay Matthews tossed Joe Staley to the ground and sacked Alex Smith. Staley has to do better than that.
3:36 Aldon Smith sacked Aaron Rodgers and then immediately popped his own helmet off, earning a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first-down for the Packers. Not smart.
Jim Harbaugh is on the field after almost every play, badgering the refs. He’s yelling and stomping his foot.
3:41 The Niners end the Packers first drive with a big blitz, and Carlos Rogers sacks Aaron Rodgers. The Niners seem confident calling blitzes so far.
3:48 The Niners first drive ends when Alex Smith throws high to Delanie Walker on third and 4. Michael Crabtree was covered one-on-one by Nick Perry in the slot on the other side of the field, but Smith never looked that way. David Akers makes a field goal: 3-0 Niners.
1:58 Suprise: The Packers chose to punt on fourth and three from the Niners’ 45. Niners ball at their 8.
Tarell Brown had a monster series, breaking up a deep pass and making the tackle on third and long.
4:02 It’s the end of the first quarter and the Niners face third and three from their own 15 yard line. They’re 0-2 on third down so far.
4:11 Alex Smith threw a 14-yard TD pass to a wide open Randy Moss in the end zone. 10-0 Niners. The Packers forgot to cover him. The Niners drove 92 yards easily. Smith got in a rhythm on first down in the Packers territory. The Packers are having a really tough time stopping the run.
4:29 Aaron Rodgers just threw a 1-yard TD to Jermichael Finley (10-7 Niners) after a Dashon Goldson pass interference penalty away from the play in the end zone. Rodgers completed four passes to Randall Cobb, who is dominating Perrish Cox so far. Rodgers also converted a third-and-12.
4:34 The Packers have Nick Perry covering the slot receiver and Alex Smith is starting to take advantage – 11 yard completion to Manningham on first down.
4:45 Smith is 10-10 throwing to wide receivers. The Niners face third and one at the Packers’ 25 with 1:05 left in the first half.
4:47 Greg Roman calls a Frank Gore run up the middle and he gets nowhere. Bad, obvious, conservative play call. No wide receivers were on the field.
4:49 43-yarder, Akers. 13-7 Niners. 0:55 seconds left. Packers have 2 timeouts.
4:56 The Packers go 3-and-out, punt, and Kaepernick’s in with 18 second left.
4:56 He runs a draw and gains 17 yards. Great play call. Roman is a good first-down play caller. 11 seconds left, ball at the Green Bay 45, and Alex Smith is back in the game.
5:00 David Akers just made a 63-yard field goal, tying the record for longest field goal ever. 16-7 Niners at halftime.
5:17 The Packers face third and one from their own 30 and Aaron Rodgers calls timeout. That’s going to hurt them later in the game.
5:20 Aaron Rodgers fakes a handoff and throws deep to Jordy Nelson, but overthrows him. That was the worst play call of the game. Packers punt. Niners ball at their 16.
5:27 Now Alex Smith has to burn a timeout on first and goal at the nine. The Niners are making the Packer’s defense look pathetic. It seems like every receiver is wide open. Alex Smith isn’t missing them. In fact, he’s playing one of the best games of his life, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt.
5:30 Kendall Hunter appeared to step out at the 2 on first down.
5:36 Alex Smith missed Crabtree wide open in the back of the end zone on second and goal, but Smith hit Vernon Davis in the front of the end zone on third and goal. 23-7 Niners with 8:16 left in the third quarter.
5:44 Jermichael Finley dropped a third-down pass on third and 2, and the Packers punt. Out of bounds at the Niners 4 yard line. Bad call by the Pack. They should have gone for it on fourth down at midfield.
5:51 The Packers absolutely cannot stop the run, but Roman calls two straight passes and the drive stalls, Andy Lee punts and the Packers take over at their 19.
6:00 The Packers are punting at midfield again. Unbelievable.
6:05 The Niners go three-and-out for the first time all game with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. A holding penalty on Joe Staley killed that series.
6:06 Cobb returns a punt for a touchdown but he appeared to benefit from an illegal block in the back. The refs throw the flag but pick it up. Wow, what? 23-13 Niners, and the Packers are going for 2.
6:12 Aaron Rodgers completes a short pass to Jordy Nelson for the 2-point conversion. 23-15 Niners with 11:16 left. The Niners should be able to run for the win.
6:15 Alex Smith swings a pass to Gore in the flat on third and 2 and the refs spot the ball a yard shy of the marker. It looked like Gore’s knee was down. Harbaugh’s challenging the spot.
6:19 The refs confirm their ruling. No more challenges for Harbaugh, and just one more timeout. Andy Lee is on the field to punt. Cobb makes the fair catch at the Green Bay 25 with 8:59 left.
6:21 Aaron Rodgers throws a pick right to NaVorro Bowman. Niners ball at the Green Bay 23. Not a good game for Aaron Rodgers. Alex Smith has outplayed him.
6:22 Next play, Gore runs for the touchdown. It looks like the Packers have folded. 30-15 Niners.
6:31 Bryan Bulaga gets called for a holding penalty that should have ended the drive, but Aaron Rodgers completes four huge passes in a row to drive the offense all the way down the field for a touchdown. He hit James Jones three times in a row, beating Tarell Brown all three times. 30-22 Niners with 6:05 left.
6:46 The Niners call their final timeout on second and 10 at their 46 yard line.
6:48 Clay Matthews beats Joe Staley for about the fourth time and sacks Alex Smith. Third and 17. Green Bay calls timeout.
6:40 Alex Smith scrambles for five yards and the Packers call their final timeout. Andy Lee time.
6:41 Aaron Rodgers gets the ball back with 3:37 left at his own 16.
6:42 Donte Whitner drops an interception on first down. He read the pass but just dropped it.
6:49 Chris Culliver knocks away Aaron Rodgers’ final prayer. The Niners will win. I’m happy to admit I had this game all wrong. The Niners were sharp and improved, and the Packers were not. I’m going down to the locker room. More to come later.