Dawson’s Peak II- This is why the 49ers signed him last off-season. For the second straight week Phil Dawson delivered, only this time with the stakes being much higher. His 33-yard field goal as time expired sent the 49ers to the divisional round of the 2013-14 post season as the red and gold squeezed out a hard fought 23-20 win over the host Green Bay Packers at the literally frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The 49ers used the game’s final 5:06 to drive down field and set up Dawson’s game winning field goal ending a back and forth battle played in three degree temperatures with a wind chill of 10 below zero. A key play in the 49ers game winning drive was an 11-yard run by 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick on a third down and eight play as he was able to elude a Packers defense that had committed itself to defending the pass. Michael Crabtree also caught a key pass on a third down and ten early in the drive to begin the sequence that would lead to Dawson’s game winning kick. The 49ers overall have won seven straight games and will head to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday in the NFC’s divisional round. Dawson’s field goal was his third of the game as he got the 49ers their first six points with successful field goal tries on the 49ers first two series of the game. The 49ers defense though it bent a few times in the game made key plays late in the fourth quarter to hold the Packers to a field goal on a drive that proceeded a 49ers go ahead touchdown. The 49ers defense also came up strong early in the game holding the Packers to three and outs and just eight total yards on their first three possessions of the game.
A See-Saw Battle- The cold weather that prevailed in Green Bay honestly had a lot less of an effect on the game that originally feared. This was a contest that was well worth the price of admission providing one could handle the conditions. Kaepernick was 16 of 30 for 227 yards and a touchdown while his counterpart Packers QB Aaron Rogers completed 17 of 26 passes for 177 yards and touchdown as well. Rogers TD pass came in the second quarter completing 14 play 74 yard drive that was started after Green Bay’s Tramon Williams intercepted a Kaepernick pass stopping the 49ers third possession of the game. Rogers found Jordy Nelson in the end zone on a third down and goal play from the six-yard line. Nelson was able to get to a spot where Rogers could zip the ball to him just out of the reach of the 49ers Trummaine Brock. The 49ers answered the Packers scoring drive with a touchdown drive of their own. After a kickoff return by LaMichael James that gave the 49ers the ball on their own 32-yard line, the 49ers needed just five plays to regain the lead. A key play in the drive was a 42-yard run by Kaepernick which set the 49ers up on the Green Bay 10-yard line. Frank Gore on the very next play took the hand-off from Kaepernick and finished the drive with a run right up the middle into the end zone to give the 49ers a 13-7 lead. Green Bay finished the first half with a drive that again tested the 49ers defense before settling for a Mason Crosby 34-yard field goal to cut the 49ers lead to three at halftime.
Second Half Story- The third quarter was a defensive duel as both teams were three and out on their first offensive series. The 49ers put together a drive on their second possession that got them as far as the Green Bay 25 but sputtered after a sack of Kaepernick by the Packers defense took the red and gold out of field goal range. Late in the third quarter the Packers would embark on a drive that would carry over into the final period. Starting from their own 20-yard line the Packers gave the 49ers defense a steady diet of Eddie Lacy who gained 26-yards on four plays. Before the third quarter had run out Rogers completed a pass to Nelson to get the Packers into 49ers territory. James Starks ended the quarter with a 10-yard run that put the Packers on the 49ers 38-yard line. The fourth quarter began with the 49ers defense appearing to have made three plays which kept the Packers from gaining a first down. Electing not to try a game tying field goal, the Packers went for it on fourth and two. Rogers was able to somehow elude Ahman Brooks and Ray McDonald and complete a 26-yard pass to Randall Cobb which put Green Bay on the 49ers 4-yard line. Two plays later John Kuhn ran the ball in from a yard out to give the Packers the lead at 17-13. Once again the 49ers were able to pull themselves up and answer the Green Bay touchdown drive with another one of their own. Another quality kick return by James allowed the 49ers to set up shop on the Packers 37 yard line. From there the 49ers needed four plays to retake the lead. On the fourth play of the drive Vernon Davis, who had been held to one catch all day beforehand was able to pull down Kaepernick’s 28-yard pass in the end zone to give the 49ers the lead back at 20-17.
Pumped Up Kicks- The Packers not phased by the 49ers scoring drive once again took possession of the football on their own 33 yard line after an 18 yard kick return by Kahlil Bell. Rogers despite taking some shots from the 49ers defense kept his cool and again led Green Bay down field as he was able to get his offensive unit to drive all the way to the 49ers 9-yard line. A key play to set this up was another pass completion to Cobb for 25 yards that got the Packers deep. The 49ers defense knowing they needed to allow no more than a Green Bay field goal try owned up to the task at hand and held the Packers to just three more yards before Crosby came out to kick the game tying field goal. With 5:06 remaining the 49ers knew their next possession would be with their season on the line. This would likely be a series where if it failed and Rogers got one more crack at it, it would be another 49ers Lambeau Field failure. The 49ers offense however wasn’t going to let this happen again. On the first play of the series Kaepernick found Crabtree who was able to maneuver around the Packers defense to pick up 11 yards and a first down. The next to plays were incomplete passes to Davis and Anquan Boldin. Facing a third and ten the 49ers had no choice but to make a play, and that they did. Rolling to his right Kaepernick again found Crabtree who snagged the football before it could get past him. Crabtree took the ball to the 48-yard line for a gain of 17 and a 49ers first down. Three plays later and facing another third down, Kaepernick took off on an 11-yard scamper just making the first down and keeping the drive going. The 49ers would then use Gore to hammer at the Packers defense to pick up one more first down to set up Dawson for a 33 yard field goal try with two seconds remaining. Dawson’s kick curved inside the right upright and had more than enough distance to seal the win for the 49ers in a hard fought playoff game.
49ers Statistics- Kaepernick was also the 49ers leading rusher picking up 98 yards on seven carries which underscores his value to the team. Gore rushed the ball 20 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. Crabtree also had a big day with eight catches for 128 yards with many being clutch plays that extended 49ers drives. Anquan Boldin was double covered for most of the afternoon and was limited to three catches for 38 yards. Davis only caught two passes, but one was for a touchdown in the fourth quarter which helped springboard the 49ers towards this victory. Defensively NaVorro Bowman had a big day with 10 tackles. Patrick Willis and Eric Reid had eight tackles each while Ahmad Brooks and Justin Smith had five tackles each. Brooks, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith combined to sack Rogers four times.
49ers Next Game- The 49ers will now have a rematch with the Carolina Panthers who are the number two seeded team in the NFC. The Panthers were the winners of the NFC South Division and were one of two visiting teams to beat the 49ers at Candlestick Park this season (10-9 on November 10th). QB Cam Newton will be playing in his first NFL post season game and in many ways rivals Kaepernick in mobility and being able to think on the fly. The 49ers will be looking to get a measure of payback and take down the Panthers in Charlotte. The game will be this next Sunday (January 12th) at 10am PT/1pm ET. The game will be carried nationally on FOX.
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