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Mike Vandermause column: Packers can't afford blunders against top-notch opponent

Sep. 8, 2013
 
Green Bay Packers offensive lineman David Bakhtiari tries to grab a fumble by running back Eddie Lacy (not shown) during Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco.
Green Bay Packers offensive lineman David Bakhtiari tries to grab a fumble by running back Eddie Lacy (not shown) during Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco. / Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette Media

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s hard enough to beat a team as good as the San Francisco 49ers on their home field, but the Green Bay Packers made things even more difficult by tripping all over themselves in a 34-28 loss Sunday at Candlestick Park.

Physical and mental mistakes proved costly and no doubt will make the Packers wonder what might have been in a closely contested game that went down to the wire.

Despite giving up 494 total yards to the 49ers, the Packers could have overcome that and claimed an upset victory with a cleaner performance.

“I didn’t particularly care for a number of things that went on as far as mental errors,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “We had some guys that weren’t quite as sharp as they needed to be today.”

The mistakes started on the second play of the game, when one receiver failed to go out for a pass and another ran the wrong route. The result was a sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and punt.

Add it to the Packers’ collection of “what-ifs,” “could haves” and “should haves” that led to their demise. They simply couldn’t stop making killer mistakes, particularly during a brutal second quarter.

Rookie running back Eddie Lacy fumbled and gave the 49ers the ball just 14 yards from the end zone, which ultimately led to a gift touchdown.

“I should have went down and protected the ball a little more,” Lacy said. “But I tried to get extra yardage. It’s a mistake on my behalf. I just learn something and move on.”

Lacy’s mistake was compounded by linebacker Clay Matthews, who committed a blatant late hit on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a third-down stop. So instead of settling for a field goal, San Francisco was given another chance and put it in the end zone.

“It wasn’t a very smart play,” Matthews said.

Mistakes are difficult to overcome against a team like the 49ers, according to Matthews.

“We need to help ourselves in any way possible, and we didn’t do that tonight,” he said.

Tight end Jermichael Finley joined the second-quarter comedy of errors when he dropped a pass from Rodgers, with the ball ricocheting into the waiting arms of 49ers safety Eric Reid. Instead of a first down inside the 49ers’ 40, the Packers suffered another gut-wrenching turnover.

“That was my fault of course,” Finley said. “It’s hard to forget about it. You’ve got to overcome it.”

Finley tried to make amends when he scored on a 12-yard touchdown catch later in the quarter after breaking one tackle and diving into the end zone.

“I had to make up for the interception,” Finley said. “I had to get in the end zone. I needed to score to make up for the interception I caused.”

Another veteran, guard Josh Sitton, was flagged for three penalties in the second quarter, two for holding and another for illegal hands to the face.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Sitton said.

Maybe Lacy gets a pardon for his fumble because he’s a rookie, but when seasoned veterans like Matthews, Finley and Sitton make errors, the Packers will be hard-pressed to beat a talented opponent.

The Packers can take no solace in giving the 49ers a legitimate run for their money.

“We came here to win the game,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know who the hell you think we are. We lost a game we were capable of winning today. We are in the mindset of feeling the pain of losing. This is not what it’s all about.”

Packers football is not supposed to be about penalties, turnovers, dropped passes and mental errors. They know all too well that’s a sure-fire recipe for defeat.

mvandermause@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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