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I'm dreaming of one more Candlestick farewell

Wrong call on Joe Staley doesn’t fix the other mistake made


Debbie from Honolulu, HI

A lot of people keep saying the Packers still couldn't beat the 49ers, yet, there were so many positives with our Packers: They kept up with the 49ers until the end, they played physical, they slowed down the 49ers rushing attack, made Kaepernick hesitate to run us into the ground, etc. I see a team that could have even won the game near the end. To me that looked like a team that can go far in the postseason. What is your take from what you saw of this first game? Am I being too much of an optimist?

Toward the end of the game, I started thinking about coming back to Candlestick in January. Mike Spofford hates the place. The press box is painful. I kind of like the pain. It brings me back to my roots and the days of cramped press boxes and having to walk through the crowd to get to the locker room. This is Candlestick's farewell season, and I have a feeling I'm going to get one more chance to say goodbye.

Patrick from Keesler AFB, MS

Vic, the defense played well but I guess my only concern is the pressure on the quarterback in that game seemed nonexistent, with the exception of Clay. Do you see that as a problem for the season or just the fact that San Francisco has a really good offensive line?

You can't know exactly what the strategy was without having it revealed to you, and coaches aren't going to do that, but based on what I saw and what I've heard during interviews, the Packers rushed Colin Kaepernick with a degree of caution. They moved him off the spot, but it sounds as though they held back a bit on their rush so they didn't provide him scrambling lanes. Let's not forget what Kaepernick did to this team with his legs in January. I thought the Packers' pass rush was good enough. It moved Kaepernick off the spot several times, but it did so in a way that directed him toward where the free player was stationed to guard against the open scramble lane. Here's what bothered me most about the Packers' play on defense: "They weren't able to make any plays on the ball." That's a quote from Dom Capers about his defensive backs. It explains perfectly what I was trying to describe in this column on Monday. I'd look downfield and the receivers appeared to be covered. Then Kaepernick would throw the ball and somebody would break into the clear. Packers defensive backs appeared to freeze when the ball was in the air.

Chhayesh from Edison, NJ

Do you think we need more depth at the safety position?

I went out back and looked at the safety depth tree. It was empty. Help is not on the way. How many different ways can I say it? This is not the player-acquisition time of the year. This is the way it is and this is the way it will continue to be. It's not about finding depth, it's about developing depth. It takes time. Week 1 isn't enough time.


49ers LT Joe Staley

John from Ghazni, Afghanistan

Vic, I just read Spofford’s article on the rivalry not cooling down. He states the NFL admitted the error, which doesn't overly upset me; errors happen. What does bother me is why does it seem when the NFL admits a mistake they always add a "yeah, but," in this case saying the penalty against Staley should not have been assessed?

I agree the penalty against Joe Staley was unwarranted. The NFL has literally invented another game day with all of this second-guessing of the officials calls. You get the game on Sunday, and then you get the review of the controversial calls a day or two later, which means the games can be played out in fantasy from the point of the controversial call, often resulting in a new outcome. It's genius. Nothing sells like controversy.

Joshua from Oshkosh, WI

Vic, in the last few seasons, offenses seem to be doing a lot of experimenting and defenses are forced to react. Finding a weakness and exploiting it might be easier on offense, but is there any chance we will see an innovative defense that forces offenses to react?

What was the last true defensive innovation? The zone blitz? In my time covering the NFL, I've also witnessed the explosion in popularity of the 3-4, the flex defense and the stunt 4-3, to name a few. All of those met with long-term success. We seem to have hit a lull in the evolution of defense, however, and it makes me wonder who will be the next genius to create something on the defensive side of the ball that'll change the game, as Lem Barney changed the game with his bump and run? Maybe the next innovation will be a recycling of an old defense with a new twist. How about the return of the "Umbrella Defense"? It would be perfect for today's game, with some new wrinkles added to it, of course. It offers the numbers up front to play against the run, and today's ends, players such as Jason Pierre-Paul, have the athletic ability to execute the pass-defense demands of the "Umbrella." I'm just thinking out loud.

Jim from San Mateo, CA

NFL VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, has determined that only Matthews should have been flagged for a personal-foul penalty after the second-quarter play, and not Staley. If everything was called correctly, the outcome would have been worse for us. Would that have possibly resulted in Matthews being ejected and the 49ers with first-and-goal on the 1-yard line? Without Matthews, the game would have been blown wide open. Your opinion?

It should've been first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. I don't think Matthews should've been ejected and I don't think that was an issue at the time. I acknowledge that Joe Staley was wrongly penalized, but the fact of the matter is he WAS penalized and the assessment of the penalties was executed improperly. That can't be denied. Assuming the league wouldn't have stopped the game to correct the Staley penalty, the botched application of the two penalties allowed the 49ers to score a touchdown instead of a field goal, and that four-point swing changed everything. That's the reality of the situation, not the fantasy.

Eric from Tenvik, Norge

Vic, you've stated that it appeared to you teams were not ready to begin the season. Week 1 is now officially in the books and there were 742 total points scored, at an average of 46-plus points per game. It seems to me like the offensive side of the game held up pretty well. What was your meaning, and how do you envision things changing as the season progresses?

I didn't think the quality of football in Week 1 was regular-season like. I thought the Packers-49ers game was one of the few games that had a regular-season look to it. Not every team has accomplished veterans in their prime years at the critical positions. If you're plugging in young players, you need more practices and more playing time for those players in the preseason games to have them ready for the season opener. The new CBA made it doubly difficult for coaches to prepare those young players in a system that forbids two-a-day practices, but the fear of injury that has caused such a reduction in playing time during the preseason games has really worsened the problem. This is the new normal. Parts of your team will begin the season underdeveloped and teams will have to find a way to deal with that. As fans, I think we have to find a way to deal with it, too. That's just my opinion.


Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal

Jeff from Madison, WI

After watching Perry and Neal in their first game of the season, would you say you saw any reasons for optimism for those two?

Mike McCarthy said Mike Neal and B.J. Raji graded the highest among the defensive linemen. I'm not sure what Perry's role was in the game, so I hesitate to judge. His stat line included no splash plays, but my expectation for Perry was that he would help the Packers control Kaepernick's running and scrambling, and Kaepernick didn't do much of either, so I guess that's a good thing.

Matt from Kula, HI

The running game continues to sputter, in large part due to the offensive line. Which offensive linemen do you see as the weak link in the running game?

Are you sure it was the offensive line's fault? You have a trained eye for making that kind of judgment? How about the 49ers running game? It sputtered? Which one of those Pro Bowlers do you see as the weak link? Be patient. I'll say it every week because it's no less the truth that the development of a consistently strong running game requires patience, and every week there will be a lack of patience, but if this all comes together late in the season when the weather turns cold, yinz'll be giggling right into the postseason.

Robert from Coupeville, WA

Great, now we have an angry Redskins team coming to Green Bay, and Shanahan has had our number since the mid-'90s.

Angst is our constant companion.

Preston from Appleton, WI

I think in football it's difficult to appreciate greatness in real time. Most people look back and say that was a great play or he was a great player. Matthews' sack on Sunday made me stop and appreciate a great play made by a great player. His athleticism and instincts are insane. I'm not sure how many players could make that tackle on Kaepernick the way he did.

It's been my experience that when a player is the subject of a controversial late hit, he often played a great game. Clay Matthews played a great game on Sunday. It's a game of aggression. Great players live on the edge. I'll forgive him.

Jim from Des Peres, MO

Shame on you, Vic. The call changed everything? I thought you were kidding. Who knows if the 49ers wouldn't have run the TD play on fourth down? They had the guts in the fourth quarter to go. And who knows if, after a field goal, the Packers would have had less urgency to score a TD, possibly playing for a FG, or even being OK with being down only three at halftime?

That's right. It changed everything. Get it?

Kirkland from Killeen, TX

Vic, first I want to say that without "Ask Vic," I don't know what I would do. Anyway, I'm seeing that announcers and reporters really don't like the Packers and I don't know why. They are blasting the Packers like we played just horrible. I am kind of mad at the loss but happy we actually competed to the point that I know the Packers will be ready for December. Why are the analysts and announcers so hard on us, like we didn't just really outplay them? Mistakes from refs, Finley and Lacy are the only reason this game wasn't won.

I don't know what I'd do without this column, either. I love reading my inbox every day, and I really mean that. Why does the media hate the Packers? The media doesn't hate the Packers. Passionate fans just tend to be a little sensitive to any commentary about their team that is critical of its play. I heard the same things from fans in Jacksonville and in Pittsburgh. The only difference is that Steelers fans kind of like the hate. They're not well.

Craig from River Falls, WI

Vic, you recently referred to a defensive coaching strategy involving hiding a rookie in his pro debut. I assume you were referring to Micah Hyde. Could you please elaborate on how this was accomplished?

I can't elaborate without knowing the scheme, and Coach Capers isn't going to reveal what he was trying to disguise. Here's what I mean about Hyde: I wasn't able to readily find him on the field because he didn't seem to be in the same place often. He could've just been stuck in the slot all day, but that would've made it easy for the 49ers to target him. Instead, he was here, and then he was there. In presnap on one play, Hyde was in the slot, but then he blitzed. It's what coordinators do schematically to make it difficult to target a guy and isolate him on one particular player.

Erick from Cooper Landing, AK

Every Packers fan I know sees Kaepernick as a great player and a genuine threat to defenses. It sucks losing to him partly because we know he beat us with his talent, not luck.

Packers fans dislike Kaepernick because twice he has been able to do to the Packers what the Packers have been trying to do to him. That's kind of nuts, isn't it? But it's a good kind of nuts.

Jon from Portage, WI

Vic, if winning at the line of scrimmage with the front seven includes the most finger wagging, hitting the hardest out of bounds, allowing the opponent to hold the ball for 39 minutes, bring little to no pass rush, create no turnovers and allow them to basically run out the clock, then I'd hate to see what happens when we lose the battle of the line of scrimmage. Weak sauce, Vic.

You saw what happens when you lose the battle of the line of scrimmage. You saw it last January. Sunday's game wasn't a vast improvement over what you saw last January? Strong sauce, Jon.

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