Episode 1: The Train Wreck

Can't really imagine how the opener could have gone any worse for the Packers, who were lackluster on offense and absolutely brutal on defense in a 30-22 home loss to the 49ers.

Let's start with the defense, which looked suspiciously like last year's defense, except for the 'forcing turnovers' part. No pass rush, missed tackles, soft coverage in the secondary. Granted, Alex Smith has come into his own, but the Pack made it way too easy for him, giving him time to get comfortable in the pocket and find open receivers all day long.

The run defense was no better, unable to slow the combination of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. They gained 163 yards between them, averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Unacceptable.

Offensively, Aaron Rodgers never found a rhythym. When the Packers were gifted six points on the Randall Cobb punt return, which should have been negated by a block in the back penalty, it looked like they were being given new life. But after stopping the 49ers after three plays, Rodgers threw a pick on the first play of the next series. The Gore touchdown on the next play was an embarrassment of missed tackles.

Cobb was the lone bright spot for the offense, catching eight balls. Clearly Mike McCarthy has designed a number of plays to take advantage of his unique talents. But there was far too little playmaking by Jennings and Nelson. Finley had a few moments, but also dropped a key third down pass early in the second half to kill a drive.

Let's pause for a moment to reflect on the officiating. It was absolutely brutal--for both sides. Flags dropped late all day. They missed a number of defensive holding calls both ways. The Cobb TD went the Pack's way, but the Niners got more of their share of bad calls. The locked out officials should gain leverage if they make the league sit down and watch this game from start to finish.

The fact that the Packers got the ball back with 3 1/2 minutes left in a one possession game with a chance to tie was remarkable. But the drive fizzled when Rodgers, under duress most of the day, got sacked and couldn't convert on 4th and 10.

Too many penalties. Lousy run defense and zero pass rush. San Francisco looked the part of a championship team on this day and the Packers looked anything but.

It's tempting to overreact to the first game of the year, but it is just one game. Still, the Packers were dominated on both sides of the ball by another NFC team on their home turf. There's a lot of work to do and not much time to reflect and think about this one.

The Bears come to town on Thursday night, with a high flying offense that put up 40 against the Colts. The Pack needs to figure things out quickly because they absolutely must win this one. Guys like Forte, Cutler and Marshall will be licking their chops to face this defense. The defense must rise to the occasion.

It suddenly feels like a must win.


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