49ers edge out Packers in season opener, 34-28

Packers' 2013 season gets off to rocky start
Packers vs 49ers graphic

The last time San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick faced the Green Bay Packers, he beat them with his feet, running for 181 yards — an NFL rushing record for quarterbacks — in a 45-31 victory in an NFC divisional playoff game in January.

In the rematch at Candlestick Park on Sunday, Kaepernick beat Green Bay with his arm.

Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns, lifting the 49ers to a 34-28 victory.

Kaepernick, who destroyed Green Bay’s defense with read-option runs in January, spent most of the day playing catch with wide receiver Anquan Boldin. In his first game as a 49er, the former Baltimore Raven caught 13 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown.

“(Kaepernick) did exactly what he’s capable of doing,” Boldin said. “He did exactly what he needed to do. He’s a quarterback first. Being able to run is just a bonus.”

Kaepernick completed 27 of 39 passes, including two to tight end Vernon Davis for touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 129.4.

“I feel like there are more throws I should’ve made out there,” Kaepernick said. “There were plenty of times I feel like I should’ve completed passes I didn’t. That’s something I have to get better at.”

Boldin came within nine yards of matching his single-game career high for receiving yardage that he set in his NFL debut for Arizona on Sept. 7, 2003 at Detroit. Boldin caught his most passes in a game since grabbing 13 as a Cardinal on Nov. 16, 2008 against Seattle.

“You never know when your number is going to be called,” Boldin said. “You never know when you’re going to have that big game. You just have to be prepared.”

Boldin caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Baltimore’s 34-31 victory last season in the Super Bowl. The Ravens traded him to San Francisco over the offseason for a sixth-round draft pick.

“I think we got the better end of that deal,” Kaepernick said.

With the Packers geared to stop Kaepernic’s read-option runs, he carried just seven times for 22 yards and had an aerial duel with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 21 of 37 passes and posted a passer rating of 102.6. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson caught seven passes for 130 yards and a score.

“I don’t think we played our best game,” Rodgers said, pointing to two turnovers. “We’ve got to do a little better.”

The 49ers took the opening kick in the second half and drove 80 yards for a touchdown, Kaepernick hitting Davis on a 2-yard scoring strike to put San Francisco ahead 21-14 with 9:46 left in the third quarter. During the drive Kaepernick completed four passes to Boldin for 70 yards.

“He was very tough,” Packers cornerback Sam Shields said. “My first time ever guarding him. He’s real aggressive. He’s very strong. I realized that today.”

The Packers answered with Rodgers’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Nelson with 3:48 remaining in the third. Lined up right, Nelson beat nickel cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on a slant for the score.

Phil Dawson hit a 27-yard field goal with 14:17 left to play, giving the 49ers a 24-21 lead, but Rodgers marched the Packers 76 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy leaped into the end zone from 2 yards out, putting Green Bay ahead 28-24 with 8:26 left to play.

The 49ers answered quickly, driving 80 yards in five plays as Frank Gore bulled in for a 2-yard touchdown, putting San Francisco ahead 31-28 with 5:47 left. Kaepernick hit Boldin for 43 yards to the Green Bay 32, and running back Kendall Hunter gained 23 yards around right end to the 9. Gore gained 7 yards on first down and reached the end zone on his next carry.

Shields said he wasn’t surprised by Kaepernick’s ability to throw from the pocket.

“We knew that he had a strong arm,” Shields said. “They changed up just like we had to change up. Everybody knew they did the little pistol (offense) thing, so I guess they changed up their little scheme or whatever and started throwing it.”

The 49ers forced a quick punt then made on a long drive capped by Dawson’s 33-yard field goal with 26 seconds left that extended their lead to 34-28.

The 49ers and Packers battled to a 14-14 tie in the first half.

The 49ers struck first, taking a 7-0 lead on Kaepernick’s 20-yard strike to Davis with 2:52 left in the first quarter. Lined up right, Davis shot off the line, then angled sharply toward the right corner of the end zone, beating safety M.D. Jennings for an easy score to cap a 13-play, 83-yard drive.

Green Bay pulled even on Rodgers’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 1:05 left in the opening quarter. The Packers marched 80 yards for the score, with Rodgers hitting Nelson for 31 yards on a deep strike and Lacy for 31 on a screen pass.

The 49ers capitalized on a Lacy fumble — forced by outside linebacker Aldon Smith and recovered by cornerback Tarrell Brown at the Green Bay 14 — to regain the lead.

Kaepernick connected to Boldin for a 10-yard touchdown with 8:57 remaining in the first half, putting the 49ers up 14-7. Lined up left, Boldin ran a quick slant, grabbed Kaepernick’s pass, slipped a tackle and bolted into the end zone.

Facing third-and-6 from the Packers’ 10 earlier in the drive, Kaepernick scrambled to his left and out of bounds for four yards, but Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews delivered a late hit — a forearm across the throat — drawing a flag. Niners offensive tackle Joe Staley quickly confronted Matthews, drawing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct as the two teams pushed, shoved and yelled along the sidelines.

“First off, it wasn’t a very smart play,” Matthews said. “I had already committed to hitting the quarterback. I guess I should have figured he was going to step out of bounds, but it was nothing personal. I went up to him later and was joking around with him.”

The offsetting penalties occurred after the play, but the officials still had the Packers and 49ers replay third down. Referee Bill Leavy admitted after the game that the officials erred in administering the offsetting dead-ball penalties and that it should have resulted in a fourth down for the 49ers.

Kaepernick hit Boldin for a touchdown when they replayed the down.

In a post-game statement, Leavy said: “On the play where the quarterback (Kaepernick) went out of bounds and was hit late out of bounds. And then there was a subsequent hit by a San Francisco player. The down should have counted. The penalties were both dead ball, and they should have offset at the spot where the runner went out of bounds. And it would have been fourth down.”

Green Bay pulled even again with 16 seconds left in the half on Rodgers’ 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. Rodgers hit Finley with a quick pass along the right sideline. He broke cornerback Perrish Cox’s tackle and powered into the end zone. Earlier in the drive, Rodgers hit Nelson for 15 yards on third-and-15 from the 49ers’ 39, many of those yards coming after Asomugha whiffed on a one-on-one attempt to tackle the wide out.

NOTES: Jerron McMillian started at free safety for Green Bay in place of the injured Morgan Burnett (hamstring). … Rookie FS Eric Reid, a first-round pick out of LSU, started for the 49ers in his NFL debut and had his first career interception.