Akers, defender Smith answer questions key to 49ers' success
Kicker came through in clutch against Green Bay
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO — Two topics dominated the week leading up to the 49ers’ NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay: Who would do the placekicking for San Francisco? And would Justin Smith be able to answer the bell.
Jim Harbaugh settled the first issue by sticking with David Akers, a decision he announced Thursday.
Question No. 2 wasn’t answered until Saturday, when Smith gutted out a long and productive game. The defensive lineman was on the field for virtually the entire evening, his left arm in a futuristic brace to prevent his torn triceps (muscle? tendon? will we ever know?) from being further damaged.
“From my eye, looked like he was stout against the run,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And his legend grows.”
Smith finished with five tackles, most of any defensive lineman on either team. Predictably, he downplayed his impact afterward.
“I’m just glad to be a part of this team and get a chance to play in the NFC championship game,” he said.
Linebacker Clay Matthews is the rock star of the Packers defense, not so much for his flowing blonde locks but for earning four Pro Bowl berths in four NFL seasons. He’s a dynamic pass rusher, and he did have one sack of Colin Kaepernick on Saturday. But Matthews did not have a high-impact game, and the credit goes to 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, who faced Matthews just about all night and did a stellar job.
“Yeah, I was pretty happy with the way I played tonight,” Staley said. “I knew going in he was gonna be a great challenge. He’s given a lot of tackles fits this whole season, and he’s a phenomenal player. So I was really challenged by the coaching staff and by our players, and I knew I was gonna have to have a big game for us to be successful.”
Matthews’ sack was the only one the Packers had on Saturday.
“I thought protection was very good,” Harbaugh said. “Colin had a chance to go through his reads, set his feet and fire the ball. Consistently, good protection all day.”
Double dose of Harbaugh
On Jan. 22, 2012, both Harbaugh brothers were saddled with crushing playoff defeats. Jim’s 49ers fell in overtime to the Giants just a few hours after John’s Baltimore Ravens lost to New England on Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal with time running out.
Saturday was a much happier day for the clan. The Ravens edged the Broncos in double overtime after staging a comeback before the 49ers ran the Packers off the field.
Jim Harbaugh said he learned of his brother’s victory sometime in the first quarter.
“Congratulations to John and the Ravens,” he said. “That was a real football fight. I had the chance to watch some of it before our game. Feel great for John and his team.”
Kickoff was pushed back to 5:25 p.m. when the Ravens tied the score late in regulation in their game at Denver.
Michael Vick and Roger Craig both lost records to Kaepernick on Saturday. Vick held the NFL mark for yards rushing by a quarterback in any game, with 173 against the Vikings on Dec. 1, 2002. Craig held the 49ers record for rushing yards in a postseason game, with 135 versus the Vikings on Jan. 1, 1989. ... Harbaugh elected to receive the ball after winning the pregame coin toss — a departure for the coach, who normally prefers to defer his choice to the second half. The move fooled Akers, who started to take the field for the kickoff before retreating to the sidelines.
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