A game of inches. Niners move on to their third straight NFC Championship contest.
“Colin (Kaepernick) scrambles out of bounds, you get the personal foul play. You talk about launching, you talk about a clothesline to the neck area when our quarterback is 6-7 feet out of bounds… I was kind of struck.
I looked at it with my own eyes, I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s (Staley) head. Well, one punch and one open slap. If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles.
I think that young man (Clay Matthews) works hard on being a tough guy, he’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap. All in all, there were a lot of things going on in that stretch. That certainly was a cheap shot.”
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers got burned in the Super Bowl after Ravens WR Anquan Boldin toasted their secondary. So, this year, the Niners took Boldin from the Ravens, picked up CB Nnamdi Asomugha and now, traded up in the draft with the Dallas Cowboys. Taking Safety Eric Reid out of LSU with the 18th pick, the Niners are utilizing their 13 picks wisely and confidently.
"Walter Payton is one. Myself is two."
— Randy Moss, on football players he admires.
/via Peter King
Take your hats off everyone. Except you, Aldon Smith. You, leave your hat on.
As a Ravens fan I am terrified by how much these guys enjoy being around each other. What a team environment.
Strange Week, and now, Football
Strange week, if we’re putting it mildly.
Fake girlfriends created through real lies, a celebrated cyclist comes clean (kind of) making “Did you watch Oprah last night” an acceptable water cooler conversation for sports fans in offices across the world. And, well, that’s about it really.
So it’s kind of nice to get back to the regular schedule programming of football, and no big deal, just two games for a chance at the Super Bowl.
In Atlanta, the proverbial monkey is off Matt Ryan and Mike Smith’s back, no thanks to the strangest (there’s that word again) last two minutes of a playoff football game I can remember. There’s now playoff wins on the resumes of the quarterback and coach, and yet, who exactly is picking the Falcons at home this week?
Hard to imagine the court of public opinion not backing the San Francisco 49ers after Colin Kaepernick turned the Green Bay Packers defense into a Rookie settings Madden blowout. The 49ers have been here before, before as in last year. Prior to Kyle Williams’ personal nightmare, you’d have to go all the way back to 2002, and reference names like Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and Garrison Hearst to remember their last playoff appearance.
Back to back NFC Conference Championship appearances signifies progress, a return to better years for the storied franchise, but in a league where dominance is more or less a year to year thing, this game feels important for the 49ers too. It’s easy to look at the core on defense, the promise of Kaepernick and say that there’s still years of contending to come. It’s harder to actually realize that future potential. Instead, this is as good an opportunity at winning it all as any. When is that not true?
Over in New England, no big deal, just a sixth Super Bowl appearance for Tom Brady if the Patriots win, and a few more weeks of the Ray Lewis farewell tour if the Ravens can get revenge on what is a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. No Lee Evans or Billy Cundiff this time around — although ESPN gave them a great profile this week — just a chance for guys like Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith to elevate themselves into a different stratosphere. It’s what playing in the Super Bowl does to players.
And so, with no idea whether I’m picking with my head or heart, or caught in so many web of lies this week that the truth seems harder to see, I’m going to go with the 49ers because I know that Eugene Robinson is thinking the same, just so no one brings this up again.
And in New England. I think the Ravens find a way to get it done.
See you at the Harbaugh Bowl.
What does everybody else think?
That was special.
Colin Kaepernick breaks the record for rushing yards in a playoff game (previously held by Michael Vick) by running for 181 yards. Oh and he tacked on 263 passing. Not bad for a playoff debut.
Packers at 49ers: Bookends
These two teams met in Week 1 of the regular season, with San Francisco winning 30-22 in Lambeau Field. The game was not as close as the final score indicated. Let’s use what happened in that game to give us a sense of how these two teams have changed since.
Expectations coming into the season: Many people expected the 49ers to regress from their performance from last year, though few thought they would have much challenge from the rest of their NFC West counterparts. They were wrong on both. The 49ers retained all their starters on defense and that group came up big. A mid-season quarterback change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick has worked for the most part, though it will be the defense and special teams that will decide how far the 49ers go in these playoffs.
As for the Packers, they were coming off a historic regular season tainted by a home playoff loss to the Giants. The Week 1 loss to San Francisco surprised some, and Green Bay would get off to a slow start before turning it around, and have rounded into a popular pick as Super Bowl contenders again.
David Akers kicks 63-yard field goal: He did in the first game, one of three in the first half, to give the 49ers a 16-7 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. The rest of the season hasn’t gone as well for Akers, and now he is competing with the Billy Cundiff for the starting kicker spot. The last thing you want is a question mark at that position in the post-season. We’ll see if that comes back to haunt the 49ers.
Randy Moss catches first touchdown pass of the season: At the start of the season, many were thinking about how the Smith-Moss combination would ignite the team’s offense. Now, it’s Kaepernick-Crabtree with a heavy dose of Gore, who’s quietly put together yet another great season. We’ll see how Kaepernick does in his playoff debut.
James Jones catches a touchdown late in the game: And went onto lead the league in touchdown catches this season. The Packers — like the Saints last year, like Warner’s Rams before that — are the sexy pick. They have Rodgers, they have their full set of wide receivers back, and a defense that bends but doesn’t break.
But the home field will make a difference, the 49ers defense — if healthy — will give them an edge — and we’ve seen this year how Rodgers can be taken out of a game when his offensive line can’t protect him (see: at Seahawks, at Giants and their first matchup against San Francisco).
And too often, we get caught up in the team that we remember most recently, the teams that played in the wild card week, and forget how the other teams actually earned their byes. There’s a bias there, this one is a close call, but I like the way this 49ers team is built, and I think when you put it all together, they’re the better overall team.
49ers win 27-21.
What does everybody think?
"I don’t think there was ever a question there. I think it’s just a lot of gobble, gobble turkey. Just gobble, gobble, gobble turkey from jive turkey gobblers. That paints a pretty good picture of it."
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)