There for the Taking - 49ers: 23 Packers: 20

National anthem flag stuff. I've started and re-started this column at least four different times, in part because it's been a long day of travel and sitting in the cold and in part because there are so many little fractured thoughts about this game that I can't unite.

Like why the refs picked a key moment in the fourth quarter to throw the first flag on the Packers' secondary in a game where both sides were being more or less allowed to just have at it in terms of pass defense.

Or why Micah Hyde only grew to be 6' tall instead of 6'1", depriving him of the extra inch he needed to make what could have been a game sealing interception.

Or why instead of making Colin Kaepernick pay for his mistakes (the Hyde interception, the lollipop pass that ended with Vernon Davis in the end zone), the Packers allow him second and third chances every single time they play, leading to the ridiculous narrative that Kaepernick "has their number" or some other inane assertion.

Or why Mike McCarthy deviated so sharply from the quick hitting, fast paced passing offense that served the Packers so well the last few games and essentially wasted the entire first quarter.

These are my questions, all without answers. At this point, there's just one thing I actually do know:

Victory was there to be had.

It was there. The Packers had chance after chance to either seal the game away completely or put it enough out of reach that the odds of the 49ers coming back would be too slim to be realistic. But whether it was a facemasking call that took the Packers from the four yard line to nearly outside field goal range to another red zone trip that ended with a field goal instead of a touchdown, the Packers couldn't get out of their own way and couldn't be bothered to get in Colin Kaepernick's.

And so it begins. A long off-season with a familiar narrative (because sports media doesn't report in these situations any more. It does narratives...giant arcs of perceived meaning): the Packers have once again been scattered to their various off-season homes by a familiar foe.

Yes, maybe we shouldn't be so glum. The Packers were unquestionably underdogs in this game. Barely a month ago, they were incredible long shots to even make the playoffs. In that light, I guess we should be grateful for the opportunity to participate. Happy to be here, as it were.

But "happy to be here" is no longer acceptable. After 2010, after the Super Bowl, after tasting the first bite of what seemed to be a dynasty in the making, being a perennial also-ran is simply not good enough. Yeah, maybe the Packers shouldn't even have been in the playoffs this year, but the fact that our all-world quarterback willed us to this point is evidence enough that a "lost year" isn't just a bump in the road. It's a wasted season of the prime of one of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation.

I've asked plenty of questions already, but there are many more to be answered that I can't begin to unravel this early in the game. Will Dom Capers be back? If so, will linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett be back with him? Will Jermichael Finley, James Jones, and James Starks get contract offers? What about Sam Shields? Why will some of those guys be back and not others? Can the Packers ever return to the mountain top? Will Aaron Rodgers ever get another shot at a Super Bowl?

The questions are there. The answers will come in time. And Green Bay once again has plenty of time on its hands.