SAN FRANCISCO — At first it looked like the 49ers caught a break. Then it appeared they were getting jobbed. Hours later came the final word: Jim Harbaugh's team definitely got lucky.
When Clay Matthews went airborne to hit Colin Kaepernick out of bounds with 9:02 left in the second quarter, it enraged the 49ers — left tackle Joe Staley, right guard Alex Boone and wide receiver Anquan Boldin were among the teammates who rushed to Kaepernick's defense and got physical with the Packers — but it was clear that Matthews had made a huge mistake, turning a third-down stop into a penalty for a late hit.
Then referee Bill Leavy announced offsetting penalties; Staley had been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, though it appeared Matthews had taken a swing at him, and not vice-versa. Harbaugh went nuts, but to no avail.
After the game, though, Leavy acknowledged the real officiating error.
"On the play where the quarterback 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," Leavy said in a choppy statement distributed to media. "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."
Instead of fourth and 2, it reset to third and 6. Kaepernick fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to Boldin on the next snap.
As for the fracas, Matthews and Staley both sounded contrite afterward.
"I had already committed to hitting the quarterback," the Packers linebacker said. "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. Not a very smart play."
<b>NNOT THE SAME OLD NNAMDI</b>
<MC>Nnamdi Asomugha, the 49ers' third cornerback, was on the field for the vast majority of snaps against the pass-happy Packers, and the results were mixed.
Asomugha did have a couple of pass breakups, but the 11-year NFL veteran had some rough patches, too. He was largely isolated on wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and it was a matchup the Packers loved. Nelson reached over Asomugha for a 31-yard catch in the first quarter, slipped his tackle and gained 16 yards in the second, and beat Asomugha for a touchdown on a simple slant route in the third.
"I was playing to my help," Asomugha said of the touchdown. "But they were in basically the one route where the help leaves."
Because the NFL is so pass-oriented these days, it's likely Asomugha will be a big part of the 49ers' defense. He called his debut in red-and-gold a moderate success.
"Did some things well," the former Raider said. "There were a couple plays that I'd like to have back. But first game, I think those things are to be expected. Just good to go out there and compete against one of the best passing offenses in the entire league."
<b>REID-ING THE QUARTERBACK</b>
<MC>San Francisco safety Eric Reid was another defensive back who had an up-and-down day. The first-round draft choice from LSU missed two tackles in the first half. He also had a couple of big hits (including one on a punt return), broke up a pass in the end zone on a free play after the 49ers were offside and, best of all, made his first career interception.