Monday morning mailbag: Where was Willis?

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Monday morning mailbag: Where was Willis?

The 49ers answered many questions with their 30-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.But other questions remain, and perhaps I can lend some assistance . . . Q: Any word on why Bowman was the primary LB in the dime package instead of Willis? (@49ers5XAs9X)
That was certainly the first question I had when I noticed Patrick Willis coming off the field on the Packers' first drive when the 49ers went with six defensive backs. NaVorro Bowman played most of the time when sixth defensive back Perrish Cox entered the action.The Packers lined up for 72 offensive plays (including penalties). Willis was on the field for 48 plays, while Bowman played 59. Cox played 55 snaps.Here's how 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio explained it:"I think Bowman played a little more than Pat did just because the position that's left for that linebacker is Bow's normal position," Fangio said. "But Pat did play some in there, too."There were times when both Willis and Bowman were on the field when the 49ers had six defensive backs in the game, too. Willis would replace Ahmad Brooks and the 49ers would go with a three-man defensive line. Brooks came off the field for 16 plays.
"It's difficult to take him off the field," Fangio said of Willis. "But it's either that or he has to line up on a receiver sometimes, which he did a couple of times."Bowman had an outstanding game with 11 tackles, an interception and another pass broken up. Willis had six tackles. Afterward, Willis was all smiles in the winning locker room as Bowman was getting praise from coach Jim Harbaugh.Said Bowman, "You put the work in week-in and week-out. Me and Pat are in this thing together. It doesn't matter who's on the field. We are rooting for each other, and whenever he needs a breather and whenever I need a breather, we're there to help each other out."The 49ers can be expected to use more of their six-DB package on Sunday when the Detroit Lions come to Candlestick.Q: Did any rookies get any snaps? (@youngmannyp)

On offense, no.On defense, no.On special teams, safety Trenton Robinson, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State, was on the field for 15 plays. Robinson was the only rookie to see action.First-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins suited up for the game. He and newly added veteran linebacker Clark Haggans were the only players in uniform who did not get into the game.Running back LaMichael James, chosen in the second round, was a healthy scratch. He was among the seven inactive players. NFL teams can suit up only 46 of the 53 players on the roster.Fourth-round draft pick Joe Looney, a guard, was also declared inactive, as was undrafted free-agent tight end Garrett Celek.So what does this mean? Obviously, the 49ers have a veteran roster and did not require any help from the first-year players to go into Lambeau Field and emerge with a victory.Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said the 49ers look at the big picture or developing their young players and not rushing them into service. It's quite possible both Jenkins and James will both be inactive in future weeks, as Brandon Jacobs and Ted Ginn get healthy.Q: Would you say this was a GPS game? (@AntonyJones12)
I resisted the temptation of declaring this a GPS Game -- a contest that provides an exact location of where a team stands within the NFL -- because everything we think about teams this early in the season is based off last year.But, yes, this was an eye-opening performance.
It's only Week 1 of the regular season, but the 49ers showed that they're not going to sneak up on anybody. They clearly established themselves as a Super Bowl contender. Look for them to rise atop NFL power rankings throughout the country.The most impressive part was how the 49ers physically dominated Green Bay. They ran the ball effectively, and they completely shut down the Packers' half-hearted attempt to run the ball.Backup offensive linemen Leonard Davis and Daniel Kilgore, along with defensive lineman Will Tukuafu, saw plenty of action as extra blockers. Davis played 12 snaps. Tukuafu and Kilgore saw six and five snaps, respectively.
Running back Frank Gore gained 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and Kendall Hunter added 41 yards on nine attempts. The 49ers rushed for 186 yards. Meanwhile, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gained a team-high 27 yards on five scrambles. Cedric Benson managed just 18 yards on nine attempts."They got their win," Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We'll see them again."For the first week of the regular season, it doesn't get much better than what we saw Sunday. A January rematch would be great fun.

Rodgers, Packers headed to NFC championship after thriller with Cowboys

Rodgers, Packers headed to NFC championship after thriller with Cowboys

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This time it was a catch, and another win for the Green Bay Packers.

Call it a "Half Mary" from Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday.

The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook on third-and-20 with 12 seconds left - confirmed on review - wasn't nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant's famous catch that wasn't in the Cowboys' divisional round loss to Green Bay (12-6) two years ago.

Cook, who led Green Bay with 104 yards receiving, kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds.

And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final 5 minutes behind rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debut.

It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:33 - two from Crosby and one from Dallas' Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt.

Rodgers, who sparked last week's wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before halftime, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta's Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game - all on the road.

"Unbelievable effort. I mean, what a game, what a game," said Rodgers, who threw for 356 yards with two touchdowns. "We're going to celebrate this and move on to Atlanta. We're just going to enjoy this right now."

Green Bay's win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the playoffs dating to last season. The Packers were the previous road team to win - over Washington in last season's wild-card round.

The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when "Captain Comeback", Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco.

Instead, top-seeded Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game.

Prescott, whose 11-game winning streak during the regular season sent Tony Romo to the bench when he was ready to return from a back injury, rallied the Cowboys in a way that probably made Dallas' 10-year starter proud.

The fourth-round pick, who was supposed to be the No. 3 quarterback before injuries changed everything, got Dallas' rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first playoff TD for the star receiver.

Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a 6-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first postseason touchdown for the 14th-year tight end.

Rodgers led the Packers to a go-ahead 56-yard field goal from Crosby with a big boost on a pass interference penalty against rookie Anthony Brown that wiped out an interception from Jeff Heath, whose pick earlier in the game helped Dallas rally.

The Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Bailey.

Prescott threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and Elliott had 125 yards rushing.

Rodgers didn't seem to miss receiver Jordy Nelson, out with a rib injury sustained in the win over the Giants.

Rodgers found six different receivers, including a 34-yard touchdown to Richard Rodgers that was his longest since catching one of three successful Hail Mary passes from Aaron Rodgers in the past 13 months.

SAY AGAIN?

The Cowboys had a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that doesn't happen often. Dallas had a first down wiped out by the penalty against receiver Brice Butler, who wasn't even part of the play. And that was actually the issue.

Referee Tony Corrente threw the flag immediately after the snap. After Terrance Williams made a catch the referee announced that Butler was penalized for going into the offensive huddle and then leaving the field.

There was even more confusion when the penalty was initially marked off only 5 yards. After Packers coach Mike McCarthy pointed it out, Corrente announced the correction and the ball was moved back another 10 yards. The Cowboys punted soon after.

UP NEXT

Packers: At Atlanta in the NFC championship game next Sunday.

Report: Jags interviewed Chip Kelly 'very quietly' before hiring Marrone

Report: Jags interviewed Chip Kelly 'very quietly' before hiring Marrone

The 49ers fired Chip Kelly on January 1. But it didn't take long for Kelly to get a job interview.

Between January 1 and January 9, when the Jaguars hired Doug Marrone, Jacksonville reportedly interviewed Kelly for the job.

The interview happened "very quietly" according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Jaguars had interviewed six known candidates: Marrone, Tom Coughlin, Harold Goodwin, Mike Smith, Kyle Shanahan and Josh McDaniels.

While the Jaguars hired Marrone and most other teams filled their head coaching vacancy, the 49ers are the lone team remaining without a head coach.

The leading candidates for the 49ers’ job appear to be McDaniels and Shanahan. The 49ers interviewed Shanahan and McDaniels on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as their teams earned first-round playoff byes.

The 49ers are also scheduled to interview Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable on Sunday.

Three days after he was fired by the 49ers, Kelly addressed his next possible career move with CSNBayArea.com.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” he said. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”