One big curiosity heading into the new season was how the Packers would utilize receiver Randall Cobb on offense. A lot of ways, it turns out.
Cobb lined up in the backfield and took swing passes, motioned out of the backfield and ran slant routes, and just found whatever ways he could to get open.
The result was a team-leading and career-best nine catches for 77 yards, as Cobb caught every ball thrown his way in Sunday’s 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field. At times, Cobb seemed like the only thing the Packers had going for them on offense, but performances like his on Sunday are likely to spark the unit more often than not.
“It was tough,” Cobb said. “They’re a great defense. They got pressure on the quarterback, played a lot of man coverage, and didn’t give us much space to work.”
Cobb’s biggest play of the game, of course, came in the return game with a 75-yard punt return for a score that got the Packers back in the game in the fourth quarter. In just one rookie season plus one game, Cobb already has three kick returns for scores (two punts, one kickoff), which ties him with six other players for second most in franchise history. Travis Williams heads that list with six.
“I saw the field open up to the wide side, tried to race them to the sidelines, and I got three good blocks along the way,” Cobb said. “When I set the kicker up, I knew I had a chance. As a returner, if you get tackled by the kicker, you’ve got some problems.”
Sack master: Outside linebacker Clay Matthews had six multi-sack games in his first two seasons (including playoffs), but enjoyed just one such game last year.
So it was a good sign to see him start 2012 strong with 2½ sacks on Sunday, just shy of his single-game career high of three sacks, which he accomplished in the first two games of 2010. He went on to post 13½ sacks that year (17 including the postseason).
“I think you saw us get after the quarterback a little more and improve on some things from last year,” Matthews said. “But as with any opening game, there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Take it away: It’s probably not a coincidence that the last time the Packers lost a regular-season game was also the last time the defense failed to register a turnover. It came in Kansas City last December.
The only turnover in the game was an interception by San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman, which the 49ers quickly turned into a touchdown. San Francisco’s offense turned the ball over only 10 times last season, fewest in the league, and the 49ers stayed true to that identity on Sunday, using their strong running game and tough defense to keep control.
“Obviously, they didn’t take the chance,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “I think their mindset is there’s no need to take chances turning over the ball.”
The only time the Packers really came close to getting a takeaway came late in the second quarter. A pass that deflected off tight end Delanie Walker hung in the air a little bit, but not long enough for Charles Woodson to dive for it. The drive ended with a field goal.
“We needed a big spark on defense,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “A turnover would have been huge. Randall’s return put us right back in that game, but we could have used something like that on defense.”
Long one: San Francisco kicker David Akers’ 63-yard field goal on the final snap of the first half, which hit the crossbar and bounced over, tied for the longest in NFL history with three other kickers. Tom Dempsey (New Orleans, 1970), Jason Elam (Denver, 1998) and Sebastian Janikowski (Oakland, 2011) have also hit from 63.
The kick also shattered the mark for the longest field goal in Lambeau Field history. The previous long was a 58-yarder by Seattle’s Josh Brown on Oct. 5, 2003. The longest field goal by a Packers kicker in the stadium’s history is 53 yards, accomplished by Chris Jacke (twice), Ryan Longwell and Mason Crosby (twice). Additional game coverage - Packers vs. 49ers