Three and Out: 49ers burn Packers through air; Reid grades well
SAN FRANCISCO – Ah, the read option. It’s an element of the 49ers’ offensive arsenal that the Green Bay Packers spent the better part of eight months studying for and plotting against.
Chalk up a little victory for the Packers on Sunday.
But there was a much larger defeat in store for them.
The 49ers’ run game, in general, did not create a whole lot of issues for Green Bay’s defense. But, now, the Packers have found a new set of problems when it comes to dealing with the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers rolled up 494 yards of total offense in a season-opening 34-28 victory over the Packers on Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Kaepernick rushed for just 22 yards in the regular-season opener on Sunday after dispatching the Packers from the playoffs in January with 181 yards – the most rushing yards from a quarterback in NFL history.
Instead of killing the Packers with his legs, he used his powerful right arm this time. Kaepernick threw for a career-best 412 yards, completing 27 of 39 passes, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We felt like they were going to have some game plan to really stop the read option, because it hurt them so bad in the playoffs last year,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “And we did a great job of showing them we are not a read-option team. It’s just a wrinkle in our offense. We have various ways we can move the ball.”
And the interstate of choice for Kaepernick and the 49ers on Sunday was via the team’s new No. 1 wide receiver.
[RATTO -- Harbaugh: Boldin 'worth every penny']
The 49ers can consider themselves highly fortunate that Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh called his brother to see if the 49ers would want Anquan Boldin in a trade for a sixth-round draft pick. The trade took all of 30 minutes to finalize, as the Super Bowl champs did not want to absorb Boldin's $6 million salary.
"I think we got the better end of that deal," Kaepernick said.
It didn't take the 49ers much time in the season opener to realize they made a wise decision. Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Vernon Davis added six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns to add to the aerial assault.
“The emphasis was to stop the run,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We have great respect for Frank Gore. For the most part, I thought we achieved that and he (Kaepernick) made plays from the pocket today. Between him and Boldin, those two guys had huge days.”
Gore was held to just 44 yards rushing on 21 carries. But -- again -- the Packers had no answers for Kaepernick.
Kaepernick did not have a 300-yard passing game in any of his seven regular-season starts last season after taking over for Alex Smith. Kaepernick’s previous high passing game was in Super Bowl XLVII, in which he threw for 302 yards.
It was the most passing yards for a 49ers quarterback since Tim Rattay threw for 417 yards in an overtime victory against the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.
The Packers – and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, in particular – spoke last week about the importance of hitting Kaepernick to encourage the 49ers abandon their quarterback-driven run game.
Matthews’ best shot on Kaepernick, as it turned out, was an illegal hit out of bounds that got him popped with a personal foul. (The penalty was offset when Staley came to Kaepernick’s defense and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.)
The Packers did not do much to slow down Kaepernick, but they continued to talk a lot, Kaepernick said.
“I’m not worried about what people are saying,” Kaepernick said. “If intimidation is your game plan, I hope you have a better one.”
Kaepernick completed eight passes of 20 yards or more. But one of more impressive plays was on a fourth-and-2 situation with three minutes remaining. Kaepernick bought time on a rollout to his right and found Boldin for a 15-yard gain to pick an important first down.
“It was designed to be a quick-hitter right to Anquan into the flat,” Harbaugh said. “And Kap kept his poise, kept moving. Anquan did a great job of coming back inside and finding the soft spot in the defense and making the play.”
Said Boldin, “Whenever you have a quarterback like Kaepernick, he can get outside the pocket and make plays happen. So if a play breaks down initially, you need to stay alive with him because he is great at getting outside the pocket and throwing the ball accurately, even if it is across his body.”
When the 49ers acquired Boldin, he figured to team up with Michael Crabtree. Now, with Crabtree out for most of the season after sustaining a torn Achilles in May, Boldin’s ability to immediately mesh with Kaepernick has given defenses another element with which to contend.
“We are getting there,” Boldin said. “I think the more we play together, the better we will be.”