GREEN BAY, Wis. It took until Week 15 last season for the near-perfect Packers to finally lose. But with the 49ers in Green Bay on Sunday, Alex Smith, Frank Gore and San Francisco's elite defense didn't let the Packers even get out of Week 1 without their loss this season.
The 49ers, who were an overtime win away from reaching the Super Bowl in 2011, came into Lambeau Field and dominated Green Bay for the majority of the game, beating the Packers, 30-22.
Green Bay found out last season, though, that a 15-1 regular-season record doesn't do much good if the team isn't playing its best when the playoffs begin.
That's why Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is already looking forward to seeing the 49ers again, a hypothetical rematch that would have to take place in the postseason in order to happen.
"We will meet them again," Finley said. "I guarantee it will be a showdown. I'm hyped. I want it tomorrow."
Green Bay's offense, which led the NFL in scoring last season, was held in check by a San Francisco defense that was second-best in the league in 2011 in keeping points off the scoreboard and had all of its starters back from last year.
Despite throwing for 303 yards, Aaron Rodgers was only able to lead the Packers on two scoring drives all game. Green Bay was forced to punt on six of its first seven drives, with the eighth drive ending with an uncharacteristic Rodgers interception, something he did only six times in his MVP-winning season in 2011.
"I'm mad about the interception," Rodgers said. "Greg (Jennings) thought he was wide open, that jolted me, I made a snap decision, what I usually don't do. Disappointed."
With the exception of the one touchdown drive to begin the second quarter, the Packers' offense looked out of sync through the first 51 minutes of the game. A punt return for a touchdown by Randall Cobb early in the fourth quarter gave Green Bay some momentum, but Rodgers' interception on the Packers' next drive -- which was followed one play later by a 49ers 23-yard touchdown run -- created a 15-point deficit that effectively sealed the outcome.
"It was a tough start to our regular season," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We lost to a very good football team today. The 49ers defense is a very good defense. We knew that going into today. We knew they were going to be a challenge. The game went probably a little differently than we would have liked it to."
Rodgers had some success with his receivers, completing 30 of his 44 pass attempts, but the addition of running back Cedric Benson didn't help Green Bay's ground game at all. Benson had 18 yards on nine carries before the Packers completely abandoned running the ball in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't run it very well," McCarthy said. "You want to credit their run defense. We wanted to get into a run-play mix there early with the no-huddle offense. I thought Aaron did a good job with that. But, yes, the production definitely wasn't there.
"I mean, two (yards per carry)? That's not good enough. That's not what we're looking for."
Defensively, the Packers allowed a well-mixed run-to-pass 49ers offense to sustain long drives and keep Rodgers off the field for the majority of the game. San Francisco ran the ball 32 times and had 26 pass plays. Gore got the bulk of the carries and had 112 yards on 16 rushing attempts (7.0 yard average) and one touchdown. When Gore wasn't running all over Green Bay's defense, Smith managed the passing game well, completing 20 of his 26 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Though the Packers tied for the league lead in takeaways last season, their defense was the biggest issue, finishing last in the NFL in total yards allowed. On Sunday, Green Bay's defense against the 49ers didn't look much better than it did a year ago, but veteran defensive back Charles Woodson was actually encouraged by what he saw.
"I felt good about today," Woodson said. "I really felt good. Yeah, they made some plays on us, they put up 30 points, but I thought overall as a defense, we made strides from where we were last year. I come away from this game feeling good about our team."
Woodson acknowledged that there were several missed assignments -- including one that left Randy Moss wide open in the end zone for a touchdown -- and a few missed tackles -- including three in one play on Gore's 23-yard touchdown run -- but that it was still an improvement.
"We're a better team, trust me," Woodson said. "Trust me. I'm going to continue to say it. I'm encouraged about what we went out there and did today. I feel good about the defense. I really do. I feel good about the Green Bay Packers."
For 364 days, spanning from Dec. 19, 2010 until Dec. 18, 2011, the Packers didn't lose a single game. That run included a Super Bowl victory, 19 total consecutive wins and a 13-0 regular-season record. Now, suddenly, Green Bay has lost its last two important games, both at home. The Packers were thoroughly beaten at Lambeau Field by the eventual-champion New York Giants in last season's playoffs, and the 49ers didn't seem to mind the 70,000 fans filling the stadium to root against them.
"It's one game," Rodgers said. "It's a good team. Hopefully we see them down the road in the playoffs."
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