Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers vs 49ers game review headlines.
Packers 34-49ers 16–QB Rodgers’ star shines brightest: The most wattage Sunday came from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And after yet another impressive performance, 21 for 30, 298 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 135.1 passer rating, to lead his team to its fifth victory in the last six games. If the Packers are only going to go as far as their quarterback takes them, then they should have a playoff berth, an NFC North division title and a Super Bowl berth. “We ask a lot of the guy. He does a lot of things out there for us,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “He makes a lot of adjustments; there’s a lot on his plate. And he’s really handled it extremely well. I really like the discipline that he’s playing with. He’s doing a good job.” Try a great job. Over the past four games, victories over Minnesota, Dallas and San Francisco and Atlanta loss, Rodgers has completed 96 of 130 passes (73.8 percent) for 1,232 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 131.3. Rodgers has gone five games and 177 passes without throwing an interception, the longest such streaks since Hall of Famer Starr. “Aaron is playing sharp. He’s really in a groove,” said coach Mike McCarthy, whose Packers (8-4) rolled up 410 yards of offense, with Rodgers getting help from rookie James Starks’ 73-yard NFL debut. “Aaron is in a very good rhythm. And really, offensively, our ball security is right where it needs to be and we need to keep it there. I think we’ve had one turnover in the last five games, so I am very pleased with the offense on that aspect.”
Driver, Jennings deliver: Both made game-turning catches. The difference? One did it for the first time in awhile; the other while continuing the most productive stretch of his career during which the only people who’ve been feeling sick have been opposing defensive backs. The Packers saw vintage Donald Driver and Greg Jennings during Sunday’s 34-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field. They welcomed back Driver, who once again reminded everyone that he should never be counted out, even at age 35; and they saw more of the same from Jennings, who delivered his third consecutive 100-yard game and second multi-touchdown performance in three weeks. “You’ve got to have some big plays in the game to kind of make it a game-changing game,” said Jennings, who caught six passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. “That’s what happened. We had some big plays. I got ‘em on my touchdown. Driver got ‘em on his. Game-changing plays. Sudden change. The defense is back on their toes now, and you’ve got ‘em where you want ‘em.” The Packers’ offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have Driver and Jennings right where they want ‘em too: Making plays and delivering the 1-2 punch in the passing game that has been absent largely because of Driver’s decreased productivity. Jennings actually made the first game-turning play. With the Packers looking out of sorts offensively and trailing 6-0, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks jumped offsides. As they’re taught to do, Rodgers and Jennings recognized the free play and went deep, with Jennings beating cornerback Shawntae Spencer down the left sideline and making a terrific catch for the 57-yard score. But Driver’s 61-yard touchdown Sunday not only gave the Packers breathing room at 21-13 early in the third quarter, it also provided proof that the old man still can make plays when called upon.
Packers back to old winning ways: That it took a big play from their oldest player to get the Green Bay Packers going was fitting on a day the team sported throwback uniforms. For a few brilliant seconds Sunday, Donald Driver did some turning back the clock of his own. The 35-year-old wide receiver, whose production has slipped this season, caught a pass and refused to be tackled, willing his way to a touchdown that served as the spark the Packers needed to avoid a loss that would have severely damaged their run to the postseason. Driver’s 61-yard touchdown reception on the opening series of the third quarter began a dominant stretch that saw Green Bay turn a one-point halftime lead into a 34-16 rout of the San Francisco 49ers before a crowd of 70,575 at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns as the Packers (8-4), whose uniform Sunday was a re-creation of the one worn by the organization’s first world championship team in 1929, remained one game behind the Chicago Bears in the NFC North standings. Two of those scores belonged to red-hot wide receiver Greg Jennings, who caught six passes for 122 yards – his third consecutive game over the century mark – and upped his season touchdown total to 11. But it was Rodgers’ other touchdown pass – the one to Driver – that Packers coach Mike McCarthy called the “biggest play in the game” and Rodgers said was “the one of the best plays I’ve ever been part of.” Starting with that touchdown, the Green Bay offense scored on its first four possessions of the second half to break open a game it led 14-13 at the half. The Packers outgained the 49ers 220-95 in total yardage in the second half and held the ball more than 20 minutes during those two quarters to finish with an overwhelming 37:11 to 22:49 cushion in time of possession.
RB Starks hits the ground running in Packers debut–Packers running back James Starks has 73 yards in 18 carries and also returns two kickoffs for 25 yards in his first NFL action: James Starks sported a big, white bandage on his forehead and a big, wide grin on his face Sunday afternoon. Not only had he just suited up for his first NFL game, but he had played a key role in the Packers’ 34-16 victory over the 49ers. Rookie Starks had 18 carries for 73 yards. He was activated from the PUP list Nov. 9 but was inactive the last two games. According to Elias, Starks’ 73 rushing yards were the most by a Packers rookie running back in his first game since Ralph Earhart had 78 at Boston on Sept. 17, 1948. “I was just anxious to get out there and play with my teammates, play with ‘A-Rod’ (Aaron Rodgers), play for the fans here at Lambeau,” Starks said. “It was an exciting moment for me. I just took it all in. I was like an excited little kid out there.” Whether Starks breathed some life into a struggling running game or the offensive line blocked better after a tough loss in Atlanta, the result was 136 yards on the ground for the Packers. “We established the run today,” said receiver Greg Jennings. “I thought we ran the ball really well. We’re still not where we want to be. We’ve got a new kid on the block who is trying to step up and give us that power back. “Our offensive line did an outstanding job opening holes for him, and he did a good job reading them.” With Starks shouldering most of the load, starter and Packers leading rusher Brandon Jackson got just four carries and gained 13 yards. He did catch four passes for 63 yards, including 37 on a beautifully executed screen. Starks is a big back at 6 foot 2 and 218 pounds. He might be more powerful than the 5-10, 216-pound Jackson, and he’s faster than backup John Kuhn (six carries for 13 yards).
Jenkins hopes for good news: Packers hoping they didn’t suffer yet another body blow during Sunday’s 34-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field. After registering two sacks on 49ers quarterback Troy Smith – giving him a career-best seven on the season – veteran defensive end Cullen Jenkins reinjured his troublesome calf with 1 minute 59 seconds left in the game. Jenkins originally injured his calf during pregame warm-ups against Minnesota on Oct. 24, and he said after the game that it felt worse this time around. “I’m going to visit Doc (Pat McKenzie) to get it checked,” Jenkins said. “We’ll see how it is.” Asked how serious he thought Jenkins’ injury was, coach Mike McCarthy replied, “You really don’t know until tomorrow. Anytime you have a strain, particularly of a muscle … it’s the same one that he’s strained in the past, so that’s the concern there. We’ll have more information for you tomorrow.” Before going down, Jenkins made two colossal plays. His first sack on Smith came on second-and-goal from the Packers’ 2 and the 49ers leading, 3-0. Smith initially eluded Jenkins, but Jenkins spun around and kept after him for the 8-yard loss. Two plays later, the 49ers settled for a field goal.