A Perfect Weekend (Except the Bengals)

The Niners adjust, wisely.

I know exactly why Jim Harbaugh set a personal record for post-game giddiness Sunday in Green Bay. When he finished his post-game press conference, he hugged one veteran beat man, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area and said, “I love you, Matt!” And he kissed another one, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, on the top of the head and said, “I love you too, Matt!”

Michael Crabtree's return has revitalized the 49ers offense. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Michael Crabtree’s return has revitalized the 49ers offense. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

So many reasons to be happy. He’s got a kicker he can rely on, Phil Dawson—who booted Sunday’s 33-yard game-winner at Green Bay—after losing faith in David Akers last year. He’s got a pass rusher, Aldon Smith, who’s playing his best at the most important time of the year. He’s got fresh defensive linemen in Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, because the Niners purposely rested them a lot more this year. He’s got a versatile defensive line, too, as Glenn Dorsey showed Sunday. Dorsey had to play nosetackle for nine snaps in the San Francisco nickel package Sunday, and he’s not used to being a run-stuffer, but he filled in adequately against the Pack.

Harbaugh’s got an offense with the ability, now, to play two different ways with Michael Crabtree back from Achilles surgery, and Frank Gore able to grind out the tough yards even when the defense knows he’s coming. But mostly, Harbaugh was giddy because his quarterback, on Sunday, was the electric Colin Kaepernick of 2012. He knew when to run so smartly, taking off on four scrambles and three designed runs for 98 rushing yards, including the most important of the day—an 11-yard scramble that set up the winning field goal.

But put that run in context. Fifty-five minutes into the game, the wind chill at Lambeau Field was minus-17. Kaepernick, sleeveless (“It’s mind over matter,” he said), took over at his 20 in a tie game. Now, as important as scoring here was scoring without letting Aaron Rodgers have the ball back. Play after play, Niners players stayed inbounds. The clock ran down, and with 1:13 to play and 3rd-and-8 from the Green Bay 38, the game was on the line: Convert or punt to pin Green Bay back—but also leave the Packers with a minute to drive for the winning field goal. Kaepernick wanted to hit Crabtree, but he was covered. So Kaepernick sprinted left, evaded a linebacker, and ducked out at the 27. First down. Gore for five. Gore for two. Gore for three. Gore for two. Dawson’s 33-yard field goal won it. He kicked the ball through Green Bay corner Davon House’s arms, but House was offside, and Dawson would have had a re-kick had it been blocked.

This is the offense San Francisco will need if it’s to win at Carolina, with Kaepernick posing a dual threat and Gore pushing the pile. Funny thing: Carolina’s convinced it has the same thing, a quarterback who can beat you running or passing, and a couple of physical backs.

* * *

* * *

Diary of a mad fan …

I asked Packers fan Kyle Cousineau, 33, to keep an account of his day at Lambeau Field Sunday. He lives a mile from the north end zone and has been to a ton of games over the years. None quite this cold though, with the temperatures in the single digits and wind-chills in the minus-teens at the wild-card game between the 49ers and Packers. He corresponded with our Emily Kaplan as the day went on.

Noon (CT): It’s about three and a half hours before kickoff, and it’s a very frigid three degrees—the kind of day where if you spit on the sidewalk it would freeze. I went outside a little while ago to gauge the weather, and decided on my attire: long underwear; jeans; a pair of sweat pants; a pair of thick, thermal coveralls; a thermal long sleeve t-shirt; a hooded sweatshirt; my big winter ski jacket; a scarf; a face mask; sunglasses to protect my eyes and lastly a pair of mittens with hand-warmers inside.

Packers fan Kyle Cousineau was one of those who braved the cold in Lambeau Sunday. (Courtesy Kyle Cousineau)
Packers fan Kyle Cousineau was one of those who braved the cold at Lambeau Sunday. (Courtesy Kyle Cousineau)

2:45 p.m.: Greetings from Lot 1 of Lambeau Field. The weather is about what I thought it would be. It’s still ridiculously cold. The scene at the tailgate party is a little more subdued than normal. It’s probably a perfect storm, if you will. First, there’s the ticket policy change this year, with the Packers not refunding money for unused playoff tickets, which has been a big ordeal out here. Couple that with the weather, which has at least something to do with it. (Did I mention it was frigidly cold?) But, of course we’re having fun. Eating chili from a portable camp stove, drinking a few Miller Lites. We’ll head inside to the stadium in about a half hour.

End of the first quarter: Before the game, everyone was fired up. I mean, it’s a home playoff game after all. Then after the Packers went three-and-out and had three straight punts to open the half, the crowd became a little bit on edge and dejected. The cold is on everybody’s mind. There have already been a few public service announcements: If you see somebody having trouble in the weather, don’t be afraid to tell an usher or text this number. Luckily, everyone seems to be doing OK. And I can feel all of my extremities. When we walked in we thought we were warm. Right now we’re comfortable. And by the end of the game, we’ll probably be freezing.

Halftime: It is getting colder and colder as time ticks away on the game clock. Considerably colder than when we were at the tailgate party, and when we got to our seats. It’s kind of a surreal scene. I’ve been to dozens of Packers games here over the years, and I’ve never seen a crowd not sit down for the whole game. Everyone is standing up. They only sit down when there’s a break in the action or a timeout.

End of the third quarter: As the drama on the field intensifies, the temperature drops. Significantly. The guy in front of me is wearing a thermometer around his neck, and right now it reads minus-15 degrees. A few minutes ago I took off my hat to adjust my facemask and my buddy was like, ‘Uh, your head is steaming right now.’ You’re going to sweat when you’re as bundled up as we are, and cheering and jumping around as much as we are. Truthfully, you know it’s cold but you don’t really think about it. You’re more focused on the game. And man, it’s become a really good game.

End of the fourth quarter: In the back of my mind, I had tempered expectations. The Niners lined up for the winning field goal with three seconds left, a 33-yarder, so obviously makeable. But maybe he’ll miss, maybe something magic will happen. So as Phil Dawson lined up for the field goal, I was hooting and hollering, going ballistic. I could see my breath in front of me, obviously, and that made me just cheer louder. Maybe, maybe … And of course he made it. That was it. I didn’t move for about 15 minutes. I just stood there, in our section, in silence. I watched all the players walk off the field, the fans file slowly out of the stadium. Everyone hung their heads; it was like a funeral procession. Afterward in the parking lot, win or lose, there’s usually some kind of noise. Somebody plays music, or we cheer because the Vikings or Bears lost. But today there was none of that. There’s just the cold.

8:45 p.m.: I’ve had some time to decompress, and I’ve warmed up, but that doesn’t make the pain go away. As far as cold goes, this was the second-worst game I’ve ever been to. The first was the NFC Championship game in ’08, Favre’s last game. That was a devastating loss. After that game, my brother and I just stood there. We didn’t say anything. Then we kind of just gave each other this look, then walked all the way home in silence. We didn’t talk the whole way. Today’s loss was a notch below that. The Packers are a way of life out here. They’re all we have. When they lose, it becomes winter. Three months of bitter cold and nothingness. Tomorrow they’re predicting minus-50 to minus-60 degree wind chill. Schools in the Green Bay area are already cancelled. Grocery stores are closed. So that’s what we have to look forward to … until the draft in May.

Frozen in Time: Check out SI photographer Simon Bruty’s best shots from Niners-Packers.

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537 comments
PubliusK
PubliusK

Hey Peter.  I was looking at your One and Done piece and thought: finally someone is talking about Peyton's playoff futility.  Then I read it.  I thought that Jack Del Rio and Mike McCoy were asking Peyton if he was a one and done guy like he has been for the majority of his playoff career.  Peyton is a freakish fantasy guy.  It is the reason why he gets the love.  His stats are amazing, the best ever.  So if we're going to look at stats, why not look at these:  12 playoff appearances (amazing) 8 years or 67% one and done (not so much) and 10 seasons where he played in 2 games or less (seeing a trend).  In the seasons where 'he' was successful and went further, it was the defense that won it, not Peyton.  In his SB year, he threw 3 TD's and 7 INT's and got bailed out.  His career playoff record is sub .500 (9-11).  In other words, he does not win unless his defense is superior.  And this one gave up more points than any other team in the AFC other than the Raiders and Browns.  Add to this the fact that the team he is playing has never lost to him in a playoff game and has given up fewer points than all but 3 other AFC teams, we are not beating up on the poor guy, we're pointing out the obvious.  Can we take back his 'Sportsman of the Year' award when he does it again?

Jon8
Jon8

I like the all the home teams except Carolina.

scuser1985
scuser1985

I don't care what anyone thinks about previous games, it's going to be the Seahawks and the Broncos on that SB field. This 2014 Super Bowl survey tells us the same too (http://questionpro.com/t/AKpfOZQkn5) Sure, 49ers and Patriots come close, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing Russell Wilson step onto that field. 

cozmikrebl
cozmikrebl

Andy Dalton gets raked over the coals throughout most of the article leading the reader to believe he was the sole reason the Bengals lost yet when it comes to the headline we get "except the BENGALS" and under "things i didn't like"  "same old BENGALS". Well, whose fault is it Dalton's or the entire team? Make up your mind.

Fran Fried
Fran Fried

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me: That you used to work in the original "Jeopardy" studio. Much coolness. I started watching the show when it first aired in 1964 and I was a precocious 3-year-old tot in Brooklyn. One of my life goals is to be a five-time champ. And I'm preparing to take the online test again tomorrow night. I've been in the contestant pool three times now -- the fourth has to be the charm, right?

kissandraknight
kissandraknight

peter ... either you or bedard needs to change the name of your column. seriously. what happened to creative thought? surely mmqb isnt all there is.

scottmacnj@aol.com
scottmacnj@aol.com

BTW- can anyone tell me what the rule for Pass Interference is now, regular season or post season? At least when the rule was yo couldn't touch an eligible receiver when the ball was in the air it was clear. Now with all the pushing off (both offense and defense) "incidental contact", etc. I have no idea what the rule is and I don't think the officials do either. 

scottmacnj@aol.com
scottmacnj@aol.com

If they are using all star officials how the heck did Jeff Triplett get in?!

Serena
Serena

Dalton 3 turnovers = Goat

Luck 3 turnovers = NFL glowing over him


An the media doesn't have favourites

GregAtkin
GregAtkin

Another great PK article  but  the Fouts/train conversation is just showing off.

We get it Pete; players call you.

Never ever did Friedman of the NY times or Elsberg mention how Presidents talked to them. It's like a pilot bragging that he talked to air traffic control.

JeremyMartinM
JeremyMartinM

Agreed about Andy Reid's dumb time management. Real dumb. 

MartinPStockdale
MartinPStockdale

Hey, PK. Here's your coffee nerd answer. I just cleaned my K-Cup machine for the third time following the same process.

Fill the reservoir with water until nearly full. Leave enough room for a cup of white vinegar. After adding vinegar fill to top with water.

Now just run the water through continuously, continuing to add water for 15 or 20 times.

After the 20th time or so, change out the cup you have been using and run it one more time. Take a big sniff of the hot water. If you still smell vinegar, run some more water through it. If no vinegar smell make a cup of coffee and do the taste test. It should be fine.

Like I said, used this method three times with great success.

usurper
usurper

Gushing about Kapernick when he was pedestrian passing wise against one of the worst D's in the league and lost the game for his team with an egregious pick on the final drive...except the Packer dropped it.  He had a couple nice throws and some fine runs in an otherwise poor game.

TimLynch1978
TimLynch1978

It's funny, every opponent for the 49ers now is a revenge game for them...but the Broncos ain't getting past the Chargers.  lol  The Broncos are 1-1 against Chargers...the 49ers are 0-1 against the Panthers.


Way to spread the love dillhole.

psychsports
psychsports

The Saint-Eagles game reinforces the old cliché –that is why they play the games!

Few gave the Saints a chance in this game and actually I had my doubts (see below). But I did think that Sean Peyton, Drew Brees and the crew were going to find a way to give Kelly’s group a hard time.

I also felt that Rob Ryan who is underrated in my opinion was going to do just enough to take the edge off the Eagles game and he did that and more.

Sean Payton and crew outfoxed Kelly no one gave the Saints a chance that is why they play the games.

Read more…..

-http://psychologyofsports.com/2014/01/05/saints-eagles-brees-payton-and-ryan-sink-eagles-updated-picks/

.

psychsports
psychsports

Andy Dalton is going to be stuck with the stigma that he cannot win in the playoffs until he does so. He had another horrendous game and his team joined him. The Bengals are going home left to figure out what went wrong after a great regular season and perhaps to ponder what to do with Dalton.

You can bet that there will be a ton of stories speculating if the Chargers are a team of destiny.

http://psychologyofsports.com/2014/01/05/dalton-and-bengals-fail-again-and-fall-to-chargers-denver-charger-preview/

jooo83
jooo83

Peter king should drop political views from his column. Not sure why he or others (Michael Wilbon, Bob Costas, etc) think we are interested in the marriage between political commentary and sports commentary. 

big55ed
big55ed

Would love to see the Chargers win the SB since they got in on the Steelers dime the same way the Steelres usually get in, bad officiating.

bbc
bbc

Would be fun to watch where Chargers end up on these rankings if they manage to win the SB. I'm guessing they might be able to nudge Saints and get as high as 5.

EmmittDale
EmmittDale

Fine fifteen is stupid once the playoffs start. Just make fine whatever amount of teams are still in the playoffs.

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

Predictions for next weekend , home teams will lose in the AFC and win in the NFC .

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

sooo...Peter King just told everybody about Aaron Rodgers probable social life, admomishing you to "leave it alone"...the exact opposite of what Peter King did by bringing it up.

wwwcash
wwwcash

correction:

andrew luck dug himself a hole and andy reid dug him out of it.

onemoremile
onemoremile

The Vikings took Christian Ponder with the 12th pick the same year that Dalton and Kaepernick were drafter 35 and 26.  Yeouch!

George
George

king actually DID make one decent point this week


I was amused and slightly aggravated by some of the "muggings" of receivers by dbs - that were ignored by zebras, with enabler-commentators providing the same old lame excuse:  "it's the playoffs - let 'em play." 


I hate cheap ticky-tack chicken-yet-game-impacting  PI calls as much as the next person -

but the refs need to at least try to call *flagrant* examples of pass interference and defensive holding the same way they do during the regular season.


Or hey, just remove defensive holding and pass interference rules during the playoffs altogether.  

Equip all defensive backs & receivers with sharp close-in-fighting hand daggers and pepper spray too while we're at it - fun to watch for the whole family!!  Let 'em "play!"

:D


Starstruck
Starstruck

Good photo in this piece of the Chargers contacting Dalton as he fumbled hitting the ground. He had full control of the ball before he hit the ground. Why doesn't the rule ' The ground cannot cause a fumble' apply here? Why does the NFL make an exception for a QB vs. any other position? This is a rule that needs to be changed. Once a QB starts running, he loses the protection that is normally afforded a QB under NFL rules. So why isn't he judged under the rules of a runner and protected against a fumble clearly caused by the ground?  

canadianox
canadianox

@Serena W despite 3 picks, 4 TDs passing, one rushing TD (in one of most heads up plays I have ever seen) and 443 yds helped the glow.

KevinB2014
KevinB2014

@Serena Seriously?  Luck's 3 turnovers were balanced by an incredible comeback effort. After his first two interceptions, his next two possessions resulted in TDs. Then the third interception, followed by three more TDs.  Dalton's 3 turnovers were balanced by.....nothing.

Luck's playing next weekend.

Dalton's looking into disguises so he won't be harassed by everyone in southwestern Ohio over the next 8 months.

Anyone who knows anything about football favors Luck over Dalton. Don't blame the messenger.

blynder
blynder

@Serena 

If Dalton had won; that might be different.  That's is a pretty big IF tho

GregAtkin
GregAtkin

@usurperNot an easy pick at all but i agree with your sentiments. Lots of blatant favouritsm with PK. But i still like the guy.

MartinPStockdale
MartinPStockdale

At least Dalton leads his team to the playoffs. Chokey Romo -- not so much.

MartinPStockdale
MartinPStockdale

It's Peter King's column. If you don't like to read what he wants to write, read someone else's column.

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

@jooo83 You might be the millionth person with that view. Don't think he cares if you still you read his column.

#31DShell
#31DShell

@big55ed You MUST be from Seattle. Believe it or not, the Steelers get their full share of bad calls too. I'll take Big Ben over Jerramy Stevens any day.

jj55
jj55

@bbcWell, maybe. Do you think Peter and the rest of the East Coast media would actually mention the Chargers by name if they won, or would they simply focus on why the other team lost? 

MartinPStockdale
MartinPStockdale

Yeah, that's a pretty valid point. Maybe he should rename it each week to something like Top O'the Heap of Who's Left.

#31DShell
#31DShell

@liquidmuse3 I hadn't heard about it until he mentioned it. Resisted the momentary urge to Google it. Continuing to do so.

canadianox
canadianox

@wwwcash Andrew Luck is filthy money.......he is more money than the US prints every month. I just drank a gallon of the koolaid on Saturday and think he will put up another 40+ points on the Pats. That being said, D may give up  over 50, seems like DBs for Indy don't mind letting receivers behind them.

canadianox
canadianox

@onemoremile Brady was a 6th rounder, Alfred Morris was too, so was Antonio Brown, Terrel Davis was 6th rounder for Broncos (Elway was pleased to see him). Ponder may be better than Dalton. Arian Foster wasn't drafted. Kijana Carter went first overall. Drafting is not an exact science, if it were, parity would be insane.

canadianox
canadianox

@George I have an even better idea than King's....IMHO....call the regular season PI penalties the same as they did this weekend. There is far too much throwing it up for grabs on long passes with  sole intention of looking for P.I. penalties.....specifically Brady, P Manning and Rodgers. It is so nice when players decide the game, not the officials.

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@MartinPStockdaleHad Romo not gotten hurt, I say they make the playoffs....and playing with a messed up back like he did and winning the game he played....is pretty darn impressive. I'd rather have Romo than Dalton..

George
George

@canadianox @George True - up to a point.  I get sick of (e.g.) Broncos receivers going palms up and whining after every incomplete pass where a db had the gaul to try to cover them.


But there HAS to be limits.  Otherwise I just tell my dbs "mug the $#*t out of 'em and sit on 'em" right at the line of scrimmage, or hold / smother them if they get by you.   It's a complex issue with 2 sides to it.

Starstruck
Starstruck

@UBERTAXTHERICH Looks like a touch to me, but regardless, does a RB or receiver have to be touched to negate a fumble caused by the ground? 

pmk1790
pmk1790

@Starstruck @UBERTAXTHERICH The ball was already out before he was touched and the rule doesn't apply to any runners. Its mean so if a player in the air gets hit and loses the ball upon contact with the ground. Any time a ball carrier (RB, QB, TE, WR, etc) simply loses the ball after full possession without being hit (unless he gives himself up, which a headfirst dive is not) it is going to be called a fumble. 

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