Cold Hard Facts: The Better Team Won

Let's face it. The better team won at Lambeau. As usual in games like these, it's easy to point to one play (the Micah Hyde potential pick), but the 49ers were the superior team on this day and during this season and they are moving on.

It's disappointing, because we didn't see enough of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb this season. We wanted more. It felt like the kind of team that could get stronger as the playoffs wore on and be a dangerous road team. Instead, the 49ers defense and the legs of Colin Kaepernick were just a bit too tough. The Pack converted on just three of eleven third downs; San Fran was six for twelve. The third down conversion that sealed it featured a Jarrett Bush mental lapse (stop me if you've heard this before) and Kaepernick danced down the left sideline, allowing Phil Dawson to exhale. His team was now in range for him on this unpredictable day.

As for Kaepernick, once again his legs were the difference. A near 100 yard rushing day for him was the difference. Until the Pack can figure him out, they'll be in Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin 1990's purgatory.

Three plays later, facing a third and three and the clock winding down, everyone knew Gore was getting it, yet the defense couldn't stop him. That play was a microcosm of too many fourth down situations this season.

But you can't criticize Dom Capers and his defense for this performance. Not from where I'm sitting. He's down Matthews to start and then loses Sam Shields and Mike Neal on the first series. Andy Mulumba and Davon House were also in and out with injuries. Yet his unit kept the team in the game, dead even with five minutes to go. Yes, there were some letdowns on the final five-minute drive, but the defense did enough on this day to win.

This loss is really on the offense. Settling for a game tying field goal late when they had first and goal sealed their fate. The Niners have the league's best red zone defense and they demonstrated why on the Pack's final drive. First, they had to burn a timeout. That was a bad omen.

They opened with a run by Cobb that fooled no one for no gain; second and goal from the nine. Next, with Bakhtiari out with a concussion and Marshall Newhouse playing left tackle, Rodgers was getting a little jumpy. He got flushed out of the pocket, rolled to his right and threw it out of the end zone. Third and goal from the nine, plenty of time, but no one open and Rodgers is forced to scramble for a few yards. Holding is declined and in came Crosby. The Pack never came close to punching it in.

After the 49ers settled for field goals early in the game, the Pack had to settle late and it gave the Niners all the chance they needed to answer and punch their ticket to the divisional round. The Pack owned the Niners in the mid-90s. They're getting even this decade. Maybe next year it's our turn for the Young to T.O. miracle to go our way. This year it wasn't in the cards.

A couple of things to grumble about. James Jones, why were you out there? Didn't look like you wanted to be. Couldn't hold on to anything. Micah Hyde, you were a revelation this season. Your play at corner and return skills were sorely needed. But, oh man, you get that pick and the Pack is moving on. Not to mention you would have helped me nail my prediction of a late Kapernick mistake sealing it. So close.

There's work to be done, but as it stands right now the Pack will enter next season favored to win their fourth straight division title. We'll expect them to last a couple weekends longer at least. Some significant roster changes on defense and a little more luck with injuries should give them a shot.


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