Packers-49ers: You thought you knew

Packers-49ers: You thought you knew
January 11, 2013, 8:00 am
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The logic of Saturday’s Packers-49ers pregame analysis is so crystalline in its purity that everyone who cares about the game itself seems to agree.

Justin Smith is the key to the game.

Unless it’s the 49ers’ ability to run the ball often.

Or Colin Kaepernick’s skill in finding receiving alternatives to Michael Crabtree.

Or David Akers. Of course David Akers.

Thus, we will all receive great delight when we find out that the result will hinge on none of those things.

That’s the way it always happens. We as a society know just enough about football to be wrong more often than not, which is why Las Vegas still exists. We are comprehensively inadequate in foretelling the future. And we always seem to forget the First Law of Sports Projection:

Stuff just happens.

We all seem to agree that "49ers-Packers I" doesn’t have a lot to offer us in terms to analytical help. Too many things have changed since then. We also have finally realized that records from the distant past are just old cow skulls on the side of a two-lane road –- meant for the tourists and not much else.

But as Redskins-Seahawks taught us only last week, games typically hinge on things we haven’t given enough thought to, or none whatsoever. Nobody, for example, banked on Robert Griffin’s knee telescoping, the event which not only defined the game but a subsequent national debate.

And because we as a society seem to have mastered the art of filling time with ceaseless chatter about what we think is the subatomic minutiae of every coming event, it is amazing to think how we manage to miss the real moment on game day.

All because stuff happens.

It’s the one thing that saves a sport like football, which strangles itself on uber-analysis each and every week. The beast must be fed, and it is fed hour after hour, with everything short of gastric cameras being inserted in the players to see how their diets affect their performance.

In fact, we grade coaches on their ability to hit us with things we haven’t seen before. Their skill and creativity seem to hinge on whether they can make us say, “What the hell was that?” to the point where anyone who finds something that works and keeps using it is considered stodgy, unimaginative and dull. We like to be surprised, almost as much as we like to cover.

Put another way, Vince Lombardi would never have been hired today, and if he had been, he would have been mocked as a tactical troglodyte.

And that’s all well and good, because hey, the beast is starting to pound the silverware on the table again.

Still, we keep trying to analyze the game ahead of time as though we know what the hell comes next. And when I say “we,” I mean everyone at home, too. Their delusions of pre-knowledge before the fact are every bit as ferocious as those of the people who get paid to pretend they have it sussed.

So let us offer one last piece of pregame analysis. Saturday’s game will be decided, somehow, by one of the things we have not covered. Andy Lee, or Jim Harbaugh finally snapping and intercepting an Aaron Rodgers pass, or someone tripping on the turf on a long run, or a fumble that gets wedged in Charles Woodson’s facemask.

And why is this? Because as the guy who declared in Week 4 that Justin Smith was the 49ers’ most important player (which is true), I know just enough to come off like an idiot in the big moments (which is also true).

Besides, I have Alex Boone kicking the winning field goal. Or Jeff Saturday. Or something else entirely.

Just covering my bases, kids. Just covering bases.