After a big game, such as the Packers-49ers game yesterday, many of the fans seem to lose track of the important things going on. Yes, the Packers lost and it is upsetting, but given the circumstances, they were not the better team on the field that day. First, the Packers did not have a good enough pass rush to disrupt Colin Kaepernick either throwing or running the ball. He had all day in the pocket to find is receivers, but then was also easily able to find room to run for either a first down or more when needed. This could be in part due to Clay Matthews being out of the game with a thumb injury. The bigger factor is that the packers have not had a powerful pass rusher all season. This is one area that they will need to improve on in the draft.
The injuries sustained by Sam Shields, and later on, Davon House, were important in the success of the 49ers passing game. Green Bay’s defense was never able to get off the field when necessary, which led to extended drives and a tired defense, more likely to give up bigger plays.
The Packers’ offense was not a problem during the game, except for their first three drives. I think the problems to start were directly related to settling into the cold. These early drives set up what was going to happen later. While the offense was stalling early on, the defense was huge with their red zone stops to keep the game at 6-0. But once the offense picked up, the defense began to have a let down.
The final offensive drive for the Packers had some questionable play calling once they reached the red zone. Instead of a powerful runner like Eddie Lacy, the Packers decided to have quick wide receiver Randall Cobb take a handoff on first down. On second down, Rodgers rolled out and had to throw the ball away because of pressure. Third down was not successful either, as Green Bay settled for a short field goal to tie the game.
With the 49ers getting the ball back with around five minutes left in the game, they were able to sustain a long drive to eat up yardage and the clock. The Packers were almost able to escape by an almost interception by rookie Micah Hyde that hit his hands, but fell to the ground. Their drive continued after a big 3rd down scramble by Kaepernick with which Packers CB Jarrett Bush blitzed, but was not able to contain the quick QB. With that, San Francisco was able to run out the rest of the clock to attempt a final field goal to win the game.
Many fans will bring up the point that the Packers almost blocked the field goal, as the ball flew threw the hands of a defender going to block the kick. They do not seem to realize that he was called for offsides, so a blocked kick would have meant that San Francisco gets to try another kick.
With the cold and physical, it is not a surprise to me that San Francisco was able to pull out a victory in Green Bay. They definitely looked like the better team throughout the game. Green Bay can learn from the loss and use this to their advantage next season. With the draft, they will need to get better with their pass rush, run defense, or their offensive line. Another area for improvement would be the secondary, as more playmakers on the back-end would allow Dom Capers more flexibility with his blitz packages and to be more aggressive in general.
Playmaking defensive backs are some of the most important players on the field, just take a look at the Seattle Seahawks. Isolating receivers 1-on-1 can bring more defenders into the box to stop the run. I think this is what the Packers have to do with their draft picks, but I will have more draft previews coming up in the near future.