GREEN BAY, Wis. – A revamped defense didn't look revamped. A revived running game didn't look revived. And not even Aaron Rodgers could bail out the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers' attempt at a fourth-quarter rally fell short and the Packers were handed a harsh reality check Sunday, opening the season with a 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
It was an unsettling start for a team that only lost one game in the 2011 regular season, but Rodgers cautioned against blowing it out of proportion.
"It's one game," Rodgers said. "This is a team that was in the NFC championship last year. It's a good team. Hopefully we see them down the road in the playoffs."
The Packers don't have long to prepare for their next game, with the division rival Chicago Bears visiting Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
Asked if he at least was pleased that his team put together a comeback, Packers coach Mike McCarthy held his tongue.
"Boy, I'd like to answer that truthfully," McCarthy said. "We're 0-1. We have some work to do. We're up in 96 hours."
Rodgers finished 30 of 44 for 303 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but the 49ers held him in check until late the in the game.
Jermichael Finley had a 1-yard touchdown for the Packers.
Randall Cobb had a big day, returning a punt 75 yards to begin the Packers' attempt at a fourth-quarter comeback and catching nine passes for 77 yards. With Cobb getting so many touches, veteran Donald Driver barely got on the field and went without a catch.
Rodgers finished the game as the Packers' leading rusher, with new addition Cedric Benson gaining just 18 yards on nine carries.
The Packers' defense struggled, too.
"We're going to be better," defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. "It's tough to learn from. But this is a good team that came here, take nothing from them. But we were not at our best today."
49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said the 49ers made a statement.
"You turn on the TV or you hear people say, 'No, the Packers are going to beat them by two or three touchdowns,' and you hear everybody saying all this and that," Willis said. "But we know what we have and we have complete confidence in one another here across the board, offense, defense and special teams. As long as we have that and we're still together, I think we're capable of doing anything."
The 49ers took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, then twice let Rodgers and the Packers cut the lead to 8. But the defense held firm on a potential game-tying drive in the final minutes.
The 49ers appeared to be cruising to victory early in the fourth quarter when Cobb gave the Packers a chance with his punt return. A 2-point conversion cut the lead to 23-15 in the fourth quarter. But Rodgers threw an interception to linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and Frank Gore ran for a 23-yard touchdown.
Rodgers answered with a drive, throwing a 10-yard touchdown to James Jones.
With the clock near the four-minute mark, a sack by Clay Matthews helped force a punt and the Packers took over at their own 16-yard line with 3:37 left and no timeouts.
Rodgers steadily marched the Packers down the field, but Ahmad Brooks sacked Rodgers. Facing fourth-and-10 near midfield, Rodgers threw deep toward Jordy Nelson but the pass fell incomplete.
Alex Smith was 20 of 26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns while Gore rushed for 112 yards.
Randy Moss scored a 14-yard touchdown in the second quarter, a familiar — and painful — sight for Packers fans.
Smith found Moss wide open in the end zone early in the second quarter. Moss turned his back to the crowd and pointed to the name on his jersey, opting for a more subdued celebration than the now-notorious fake mooning motion he made toward fans at Lambeau during his Minnesota Vikings days.
The replacement officials called 18 penalties, some of them questionable and drawing animated complaints from both sidelines.
"Some of the penalties were definitely bizarre," Rodgers said.
NOTES: The three other kickers to hit 63-yarders were New Orleans' Tom Dempsey in 1970, Denver's Jason Elam in 1998, and Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski in 2011. ... Harbaugh was furious with the replacement referee crew early on, after they called Aldon Smith for unsportsmanlike conduct for taking off his helmet after a sack of Rodgers in the first quarter. Harbaugh seemed to question several other calls but didn't criticize the crew afterward. "I don't know what I'm supposed to say or not say," he said. ... Sunday's attendance was 70,523.
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