Game Review: Packers Start Fast, Close Out Victory

The Packers played one of their most impressive halves of football this season on the way to a 20-point halftime lead over San Francisco, and withheld a second-half rally by the 49ers to post a 30-24 victory and stay in the thick of the NFC playoff race. - More Packers-49ers Game Center

The Packers played one of their most impressive halves of football this season on the way to a 20-point halftime lead over San Francisco, and withheld a second-half rally by the 49ers to post a 30-24 victory and stay in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

Green Bay's second straight win improved the Packers to 6-4 on the season, which ties them with the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles for fifth in the NFC and the top wild-card spot.

The Packers dominated the 49ers in every statistical category in the opening half, outgaining them by over 300 yards, 362 to 57, posting 17 first downs to San Francisco's one, and controlling the ball for 22:32 to 7:28 for the 49ers. The 362 yards were the most in a half since the Packers put up the same number at Oakland on Dec. 22, 2003, in the opening half.

"I thought we played an extremely productive first half as a football team, you know, in all three phases," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought the defense really set the tone. They had the one long run and the ability to give off the field on third down and to continue to give us the ball back on offense.

"On offense, we had a lot of production. We didn't play as well as we liked in the red zone on those first two series. I thought the special teams was really...they kind of picked up where they left off against Dallas."

Green Bay was able to move the ball inside San Francisco's 10 on its opening two possessions with the help of two big gains, a 26-yard run by running back Ryan Grant on the first drive and a 37-yard reception by wide receiver Greg Jennings on the second, but were only able to come away with two Mason Crosby field goals.

San Francisco's only offensive production came on its first drive with a 42-yard run up the middle from running back Frank Gore on the 49ers' second offensive play that set up their only score of the half, a 46-yard Joe Nedney field goal.

Taking the long Gore run out, the 49ers generated just 15 yards on their 16 other plays. Quarterback Alex Smith completed his first pass midway through the second quarter and only 3-of-7 for 5 yards in the half, and was sacked three times.

With just under 10 minutes remaining in the half, the Packers were able to get in the end zone, courtesy of a big play. On first down from the Green Bay 36, Rodgers found Jennings over the middle about 10 yards down the field, and Jennings did the rest, eluding safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Tarell Brown at the San Francisco 45, before taking it the rest of the way for the 64-yard touchdown.

After Green Bay's defense forced a three-and-out, Rodgers led the offense on a 10-play, 81-yard drive that was capped off with his second touchdown pass of the half, a quick-hitter to wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the 7-yard score. The series included two catches by wide receiver Donald Driver for 27 combined yards, a 16-yard screen to running back Brandon Jackson, a 15-yard run from Grant, and a 11-yard scramble by Rodgers.

The Packers would tack on three more points on a 27-yard kick from Crosby as time expired, capping one of their most productive stretches on offense this season.

"I think we had good tempo and good rhythm in the passing game, a lot of time, good scheme, good concepts, and we were just kind of clicking," Rodgers said. "I think Greg made a good play off a little 10-yard pass, and good to have Jermichael (Finley) back making plays. He kind of opens things up for everybody. Just got into a good rhythm."

Rodgers finished the half with 274 yards on 22-of-31 passing, a career-high for passing yards in a half. Jennings went over the 100-yard mark with four receptions for 121 yards, also a career-high for a half, and Grant piled up 70 yards on just 10 carries (7.0 avg.).

For as much as San Francisco's offense struggled in the first half, the 49ers were able to get back into the game courtesy of some big plays from their offense and special teams.

Facing a third-and-20 midway through the third quarter, Smith connected with rookie wideout Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard touchdown with cornerback Al Harris covering to narrow the margin to 23-10.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Packers pinned San Francisco deep in its own territory with a Jeremy Kapinos punt downed at the 2, and the defense took advantage immediately with a Nick Collins interception that he returned to the 49ers' 11. Grant scored on a 1-yard run three plays later, and Green Bay had a commanding 30-10 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining.

But in a scene that is all-too-familiar from the fourth quarter of games vs. Minnesota and at Tampa Bay, San Francisco was able to swing the momentum back with a 76-yard kickoff return from wide receiver Josh Morgan that set up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Smith to tight end Vernon Davis. Davis finished the afternoon with 108 yards on six catches.

The Packers went three-and-out on their next series, and Smith led the 49ers on another scoring drive that was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gore on fourth down, narrowing Green Bay's lead to six points with just under six minutes remaining.

"We didn't take the foot off the gas," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "We just made too many mental mistakes. Just because you are up on a team doesn't mean they are going to quit, and they didn't quit.

{sportsad300}"We gave them some big plays in that second half and let them hang around and gave them some confidence. In this league you've got to stay consistent throughout the whole game and we didn't."

With the six-point lead and the 49ers still possessing two timeouts, the offense had to come through with at least a couple of first downs to put the game away. Despite having posted just over 80 yards of offense in the second half to that point, Green Bay's offense came through when they needed it most.

Taking over at the Green Bay 9, Rodgers found Finley on the sideline for a 5-yard gain on 3rd-and-4 to move the chains. Grant bounced a run outside for 21 more yards on the next play, and after two runs from Jackson picked up 9 yards, Rodgers' quarterback sneak on third-and-1 at midfield for 2 yards iced the win.

"We were kind of backed up there on the 9, and what we like to say coming out is, 'Let's just start with one first down,'" said Rodgers, who completed a career-high 32 passes on 45 attempts for 344 yards on the afternoon. "We knew their timeout situation; they had two left. We were going to have to put together some yards to give our punter some room to punt and make it a longer field for them.

"Once we got that first first down and then 'RG' kind of broke out to the left there, we knew (we needed) just one more first down and Brandon had a nice run to put us in third and less than one."

The Packers now face a short week of preparation as they look ahead to a Thanksgiving tilt at Detroit. While there were certainly some positives to take away from Sunday's victory, it doesn't change the fact that there is plenty of work to do as well.

"I play it real," McCarthy said. "I don't believe in that false stuff. I'm not a good phony. I'm not a positive guy to be positive. I'm not a negative guy to be negative. I just think you've got to walk right down the middle and when you see it you got to call it.

"I'm going to tell them exactly what they did good and I'm going to tell them exactly what we need to work on. And we're going to focus on doing whatever it takes to win games and then with that approach we're going to focus on improving."

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