There was plenty of talk this past week from the Green Bay Packers about how they were going to stop Colin Kaepernick from running.
Perhaps they should have paid more attention to stopping his throwing.
On Sunday – in the opener of the last season ever to be played at Candlestick Park – Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns as the 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 34-28. And, in so doing, Kaepernick discovered a new go-to receiver in veteran Anquan Boldin, who had an amazing debut as a 49er. Boldin, acquired from the Ravens in an offseason trade for a sixth-round pick, caught 13 passes for 208 yards – the second-best game for yardage in the 11th season of his pro career – and a TD
The 49ers also got a big receiving day from tight end Vernon Davis, who had six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Boldin’s smashing totals – 10 or more receptions and a TD catch – mark the first time in the Super Bowl era that a 49ers receiverr has done that in a season opener, according to ESPN Stats.
Tweeted NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks during the second half: “The 49ers’ Anquan Boldin is getting it done today. He already has unbelievable chemistry w/Kaep.”
And remember, that was one of the big questions the 49ers had going into this season: how to replace No. 1 wideout Michael Crabtree, who’s likely out for the season with an injury. Based on Sunday’s Game No. 1 results, that question may have been answered. With Kaepernick now comfortable going to both Boldin and Davis in crunch time – and with veteran Kyle Williams (three catches) back healthy again – Kaepernick had plenty of targets. Rookie tight end Vance McDonald had his first NFL catch, too, good for 25 yards.
The game was tight the whole way, as might be expected in an opening-season matchup of two of the NFC’s best teams.
The Niners scored first on Davis’ 20-yard TD catch, and the Packers matched it with Randall Cobb’s 5-yard strike from Aaron Rodgers later in the first quarter. The teams then went into halftime tied 14-14 after a Boldin 10-yard TD catch and a 12-yard Packers TD catch by Jermichael Finley.
In the third quarter, the teams again matched each other, with Davis catching a 2-yard TD pass and Jordy Nelson then catching an 8-yard pass from Rodgers to tie the game at 21-all.
Phil Dawson opened the 49ers scoring in the fourth quarter with a 27-yard field goal, but then the Packers went on top for the first time all day with rookie Eddie Lacy’s 2-yard TD run.
That’s when Kaepernick responded immediately by leading the Niners on a five-play, 80-yard drive that included a 43-yard toss to Boldin and a 23-yard dash by Kendall Hunter around the right side. Frank Gore finished off he drive with a 1-yard TD run to put the 49ers up for good.
The Niners defense then held Green Bay to three-and-out, and the 49ers came back with a clock-eating 11-play possession that ended by Dawson’ 33-yard kick to put the 49ers up 34-28.
By the time Rodgers and the Packers got the ball back, they had just 26 seconds and no timeouts, and couldn’t advance past the 49ers’ 42-yard line, ensuring the Niners’ season-opening win.
The Packers did achieve one of their goals: they stopped Kaepernick on the ground. The last time they played, in the playoffs last season, Kaepernick ran for 181 yards, an NFL record for a QB in the postseason. This time, he had just 22 yards rushing.
But, he carved up the Packers secondary, moving left and right to buy time when he needed, and then hitting Boldin and Davis. He'd never had a 300-yard passing game before, let alone a 400-yard game. He has both now.
Said Harbaugh after the game to reporters: “Colin Kaepernick throws as good or better than anybody I’ve ever seen on the run.”
Now, the 49ers will begin preparations for their first NFC West matchup, against the 1-0 Seattle Seahawks on the road next Sunday night.