Monday, September 09, 2013

Recap: The Green Bay Packers Lose Their Second Consecutive Game In San Francisco

The score wasn't as lopsided this season (34-28) as it was during their playoff loss (45-31) but there were a lot of similarities, in a bad way. The defense couldn't stop them, they couldn't get off the field, and the Packers were killed in time of possession. The offense did it's part but couldn't keep up with a baffled defense. In defensive coordinator Dom Capers's last three games against the 49ers, his defenses have seemed overwhelmed by what the 49ers had to offer.

Unfortunately it wouldn't be a trip to the west coast without a major mess-up by the refs. At least, this time, the refs admitted their mistake. This one absolutely made a difference, it gave them a third chance to convert, and they scored a TD instead of settling for a FG. However, there's nothing to do be done about the refs, so moving on.

First off, the defensive line. DE Johnny Jolly's return continues to be a success story after recording a sack in his first regular season game since 2009. It was a quiet game for rookie DE Datone Jones, but his presence gives them another inside pass rusher who can sub for NT B.J. Raji. Still, the pass rush was lacking, however, the 49ers have a great offensive line. Maybe the rush from Jones or elsewhere will show up later this season. Eventually, they got winded, on a hot Sunday afternoon when the Packers were killed in time of possession (38:35 to 21:25), but the entire line played great against the run and they look better this season.

How could WR Anquan Boldin be left so wide open? It wasn't just Boldin; TE Vernon Davis was left free to run on a few occasions too. Unfortunately, Trent Dilfer is right. The defense usually plays a lot of man technique, but against the 49ers, after getting burned so badly by Kaepernick on the ground last January, the defense played a lot of zone to maintain a cohesive run defense. Maybe the 49ers saw that and threw out their read-option playbook against a zone coverage, but then the 49ers took what the Packers were giving in the passing game.

That zone is not their usual scheme and they played like they didn't know what they were doing. While Boldin's game icing reception on 4th down was in a man, the cornerbacks were often letting him run free, to be picked up by a safety or linebacker elsewhere in the zone coverage, and it appeared they were either confused or a step too slow in their rotation. A couple missed tackles, it was a poor game for second year S Jerron McMillian, and missing two of their best defensive backs (CB Casey Hayward and S Morgan Burnett were out with hamstring injuries), didn't help. I either hope they limit the zone schemes in the future, or hopefully they get better at them during the season. Also, the return of Hayward and Burnett can't come soon enough.

Losing the turnover battle was a big problem. They survived TE Jermichael Finley's tip ball INT (it led to a missed FG) but RB Eddie Lacy's fumble led to a touchdown, and the defense's failure to create a single one, didn't help. Also, the field position battle, where WR Jeremy Ross's poor return decisions were a clinic in what not to do, left them in terrible field position on too many possessions. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone else, maybe CB Micah Hyde, start returning kickoffs. Outside of LG Josh Sitton's first half struggles, he was called for three penalties, the Packers only had two other penalties accepted and played a disciplined game.

As for the rest of the offensive line; rookie LT David Bakhtiari did allow 1.5 sacks to one of the elite pass rushers in Aldon Smith, but he otherwise held up well considering it was his first NFL start. They often had to help him with an extra blocker, but it should only get better for him with more experience.

RB Eddie Lacy had his costly fumble, and was mostly quiet except for the one drive when the 49ers gave DL Justin Smith a breather and Lacy ran for a touchdown. He does have to hold onto the ball, but he could also use some blocking help up front. Still, he provides more of a rushing threat than anyone the Packers have had in years.

It was a pretty spectacular game for WR Jordy Nelson and WR Randall Cobb, but the MVP of the game goes again to QB Aaron Rodgers. The Packers ran 18 fewer plays than the 49ers, but they averaged the same yards per play (6.6) and almost kept up with six scoring drives (seven if you count the missed field goal). At least the offense is picking up right where it left off, and hopefully the defense can right the ship as soon as next week.

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