Three and Out: Gore's role, pass rush improving
When Perrish Cox blitzed in the fourth quarter, it left rookie free safety Eric Reid all alone with Packers receiver Randall Cobb. (AP)
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The 49ers had every reason to feel manly after their 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.
“I haven’t found anything that makes you feel more like a man than to go, not only beat your opponent, but you’re beating their crowd, and then, the elements, in a playoff game,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday.
Of course, there were many elements and occurrences throughout the game that led up to Phil Dawson’s 33-yard field goal as time experienced. But these two plays stand out:
Fourth quarter, 7:07
Packers ball, second and 2 from SF 34
At the time this appeared to be a huge play for Green Bay. But it ended up being a potential game-saving play for the 49ers’ defense.
Nickel back Perrish Cox came off the right slot on a blitz. He got his hand on Rodgers, who deftly stepped up in the pocket to avoid the sack. Rodgers continued to buy time – more than seven seconds before he could find anyone open.
When Cox blitzed, it left rookie free safety Eric Reid all alone with Packers receiver Randall Cobb. Reid had Cobb covered initially, but when Rodgers kept the play alive, Cobb broke off his route and moved toward the left sideline. Rodgers found him for a 25-yard gain.
But it would have been a touchdown had Reid not stayed with the play. He tripped up Cobb as he turned tried to turn the corner with the end zone in sight. Instead, the 49ers defense stiffened after being faced with a first and goal from the 9-yard line. The Packers had to settle for a game-tying field goal with 5:06 remaining.
And that play set the stage for some heroics from the 49ers' offense.
Fourth quarter, 1:19
49ers ball, third and 8 from GB 38
The 49ers had already picked up one first down on the drive with Colin Kaepernick’s 17-yard pass to Michael Crabtree on a third-and-10 pass. The 49ers were not in field goal range, so they needed another first down at this point to have any hope of winning in regulation.
The Packers came with a seven-man blitz, and the 49ers’ offensive line had it blocked up perfectly. Anthony Davis, Alex Boone and Jonathan Goodwin teamed up to take care of Mike Neal, Nick Perry and safety Morgan Burnett on the right side. Mike Iupati and Joe Staley handled an attempted stunt from Mike Daniels and Andy Mulumba. Then, Iupati managed to pick up blitzing linebacker A.J. Hawk, too.
Running back Frank Gore proved why is so so valuable even when he does not have the ball in his hands. Gore lined up on the right side of Kaepernick in the shotgun formation. He immediately recognized cornerback Jarrett Bush on the other side of the formation. Gore swiftly moved in front of Kaepernick to not only pick up Bush but drive him inside, completely out of the play.
Gore’s blitz pickup enabled Kaepernick to slide outside to the left. Kaepernick turned the corner, outrunning a gimpy Mulumba to the edge. And Packers cornerback Davon House was preoccupied down the field with Crabtree, so he could not prevent Kaepernick from rushing for 11 yards to the Green Bay 27 before stepping out of bounds.
Gore ran four times for 12 yards to pick up a first down and take the clock down to :03 to set up Dawson’s winning kick.