GREEN BAY, Wis. — San Francisco’s defense smothered Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense for most of the game, then made one last stand to stop a late rally as the 49ers beat the Packers 30-22 on Sunday.
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.
Facing a Green Bay team that lost only one game during the regular season in 2011, it was a tough road test to start the season for the 49ers. But San Francisco got a boost just before halftime when David Akers kicked a 63-yard field goal, a boot that bounced off the crossbar and then kept going through the uprights to tie an NFL record.
The 49ers appeared to be cruising to victory early in the fourth quarter when Randall Cobb gave the Packers a chance with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion cut the lead to 8, at 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.
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.
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.
The replacement officials called 18 penalties, some of them questionable and drawing animated complaints from both sidelines.
With the 49ers leading 3-0, 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.
Akers hit three field goals in the first half, including the 63-yarder as time ran out for a 16-7 halftime. A wide-eyed Akers held up his arms in celebration – and, perhaps, disbelief.
Smith and the 49ers then carved up the Packers’ defense to start the second half, with Smith throwing a 20-yard strike to Michael Crabtree, Gore running for 21 yards and Smith hitting Vernon Davis for a 29-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 9.
Kendall Hunter had an apparent touchdown taken off the board when a replay review ruled that he stepped out of bounds, but Smith threw a dart to Davis on third-and-goal for a 23-7 lead.
Cobb’s long punt return gave the Packers hope, although there were a few anxious moments. An official threw a flag as the play unfolded, but the crew then ruled that there wasn’t any foul for a block in the back and the touchdown counted.
Television replays showed that Green Bay’s Terrell Manning appeared to block a San Francisco player in the back.
Rodgers then threw to Nelson for a 2-point conversion, cutting the lead to 23-15 with 11:16 left in the game.
Gore then was marked short of the first down on a third-and-2 attempt, and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot.
After a replay review, officials ruled that the ruling on the field stood and the 49ers punted.
But Rodgers threw the interception to Bowman, and Gore scored to seemingly put the game out of reach until Rodgers began to rally the Packers late.