It was a strong statement from a team on a quest to prove its conference supremacy.
Eight months after the Green Bay Packers and 49ers were on course to meet for a trip to the 2011 NFC championship, the 49ers held off a furious comeback for a 30-22 victory on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
“Green Bay is phenomenal,” 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. “They are a powerful team offensively. They have some things on defense to be really good. This win just shows the type of character that we have and what we wanted to accomplish today. We made a statement today.”
The 49ers led 23-7, but didn’t secure the game until defensive back Perrish Cox blitzed in untouched off the right side to force Aaron Rodgers into a desperation heave on fourth-and-10 that was knocked away by Chris Culliver.
“I consider it a great victory for us,” Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said, “and we’ll get back to preparing in what we believe in and that is preparing and working.”
San Francisco played to its strengths.
The 49ers, who led the NFL in giveaways and turnover margin last season, didn’t turn it over. Their defense held the Packers to 3.2 yards per rush. Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards and the team ran for 186. Alex Smith was an efficient 20-of-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns. The first of those scores was a 14-yarder to Randy Moss — the 154th receiving touchdown of his career, breaking a tie with Terrell Owens for second place behind Jerry Rice (197).
“We got what we were looking for and he blew open,” Smith said of Moss’ touchdown. “I think his eyes lighted up bigger than mine and he made a great catch.”
The Niners also got a big boost going into halftime when kicker David Akers tied the NFL record for longest field goal after his 63-yard try hit the crossbar and bounced over for a 16-7 at halftime.
What looked like a rout midway through the third quarter turned into a thriller. Trailing 23-7, the Packers seized momentum in the first minute of the fourth quarter with Randall Cobb’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh was incensed that a flag for an illegal block was picked up. Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for the two-point conversion to make it 23-15.
After a NaVorro Bowman interception, Gore rumbled around right end, bouncing off two defenders inside the 10-yard line for a touchdown that made it 30-15 with 8:41 to go.
The Packers answered behind Rodgers-to-James Jones connections of 49, 9 and 10 yards, with the 10-yarder resulting in a touchdown that cut the margin to 30-22 with 6:05 to play. That gave Green Bay a chance, but that couldn’t finish off the drive.