5

September

Are the 49ers still Tougher than the Packers?

The 49ers still are tougher than the Packers…for now.

The San Francisco 49ers beat the hell out of the Green Bay Packers last season. Twice.

In week one, the 49ers ran for 186 yards and averaged almost six yards per carry. Alex Smith had only six incomplete passes and routinely hit wide open receivers hanging out in the middle of the field, unafraid of being laid out by Packers defenders.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, things got even uglier. Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and threw for 263 more. When Kaepernick took off, he made Packers’ defenders look like lead-footed, lifeless zombies in a scene from The Walking Dead.

All of that damage was easy for even the average viewer to see while watching from his or her couch. If you broke down the film after the game and paid attention to what was happening in the trenches, things got even uglier for the Packers.

The 49ers offensive line operated like a machine — a modern, deadly, ruthless machine that was sent to Earth specifically to blow Packers defenders off the line of scrimmage, seal off the edges and create giant spaces for guys like Frank Gore and Kaepernick to gallop through.

When compared to the Packers offensive line, the 49ers wrecking crew was on a completely different level. The Packers allowed 20 quarterback hurries in the two games and never established the run. Green Bay’s front five always seemed to be flailing as yet another San Francisco defender broke through and set his sights on Aaron Rodgers.

The middle of the field — where both toughness and athleticism have a chance to shine — was also heavily tilted in the 49ers favor. Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the 49ers two middle linebackers, combined for 30 tackles, a key interception and a sack.

In the week 1 loss, Alex Smith consistently found open receivers in the middle of the field while Kapernick simply ran by, through and around whoever happened to be manning the middle for the Packers in the playoffs.

A.J. Hawk totaled 22 tackles, but were any of them impact plays?

The 49ers left little doubt last season that they were tougher than the Packers. With the two teams set to meet again this Sunday, have the tables turned at all?

You’d have to look hard for anybody besides those who work at 1265 Lombardi Ave. to tell you that the Packers are now the tougher of the two teams. Not only do the 49ers have most of their tough guys coming back, the Packers are already down a few players from their tough guy column.

Starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga is out for the season. David Bakhtiari is replacing Bulaga and looks promising as a pass blocker, but likely won’t be blowing any 49ers defensive lineman off the ball while run blocking.

DuJuan Harris ran like a rolling ball of butcher knives at the end of last season and brought some semblance of toughness to the running game.  He’s also out for the season (although Eddie Lacy, Harris’s replacement, has a shot at being a tough runner himself).

Might there be a few new(ish) faces on both of the Packers lines to up the toughness level a few notches? Depends if you think Don Barclay and Evan Dietrich-Smith — both undrafted and both smallish — fit the bill. On defense, first-round pick Datone Jones has been slowed by an ankle injury. We’ll see if Johnny Jolly’s display of toughness carries over into meaningful snaps when the games count.

The previous 576 words were a long and depressing way of saying that, as of now — before any real games have been played — the answer to the question posed in the headline is a definite “no.” The 49ers are still tougher than the Packers.

But the key phrase in that previous paragraph is “as of now.” It’s a long season, folks. It’s easy to toss out labels and make broad assumptions before any real snaps have taken place. Four weeks from now, many of the labels pasted on teams will be proven untrue. Bold preseason declarations will be forgotten.

Remember the 2010 Packers? They didn’t look all that tough as the calendar turned to December. Then all of the sudden they grinded out a late-season win over the Bears to reach the playoffs, developed a decent running game with James Starks, grinded out playoff wins in Philadelphia and Chicago, and won the Super Bowl.

Toughness can build over the course of the season. Sometimes, toughness built over 16 games pays off more in the end than entering the season as the biggest bully on the block.

Am I just trying to put on a happy face as I resign myself to the fact that the Packers are going to get pushed around and lose again to the 49ers on Sunday? Maybe.

But I do believe the Packers will be tougher than they were last season. Will they ultimately end up being tougher than the 49ers when January rolls around?  That’s a tall task, but one that I believe the Packers are up for.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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25 Responses to “Are the 49ers still Tougher than the Packers?”

  1. Art says:

    Still makes me shake my head and wonder how and why Dom Capers is still here.No excuse for not being prepared for any game, let alone a playoff game. He embarrassed his employer, Packer fans, himself as well as all football fans for not knowing his opponents “game” and proved it further with no adjustments in the second half.

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  2. lebowski says:

    I am so envious of that offensive line SF has assembled. Wow.

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    • aaronqb says:

      It’s probably the best offensive line in the NFL. But, outside of Vernon Davis, I’ll take pretty much all of our backs/WRs over the 49ers.

      Looking forward to the game. Should be a good opening test.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Mojo says:

      It helps that their first-round draft picks on the line(Staley, Lupati & Davis) are not injured. Consider the Packers two Bulaga and Sherrod are both currently not playing. Also the three first round 49ers averaged around the 19th pick while GBs two averaged near the 28th. They should be better.

      What is impressive to me is that SF expended such high draft capital on the o-line, yet still have good players at the other positions.

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  3. Brooklyn81 says:

    Can’t wait to see Datone and Jolly out there wrecking the 9ers oline. If one thing on this team is tougher i have to say its the d line. They will br poised to push the pocket and get to the Qb. And allow Matthews and Perry to dominate. Jim Harbaugh is already scared that Clay is gonna get consistent hits on his QB. I can’t wait! I can’t wait!

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    • steve cheez says:

      While I can’t necessarily say I share your optimism, I certainly do appreciate it.
      Hope you’re right!

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  4. BRinMilwaukee says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • aaronqb says:

      This year is no change from previous years for TT. With this strategy, the Packers have the second best regular season record over the past 4 years (only New England is better … and NE does not have a Super Bowl victory in 10 years). In Ted We Trust. He is the best in the business.

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      • BradHTX says:

        And re NE’s record, bear in mind also the divisions they and the Pack play in: MIA, BUF and NYJ are all awful and have been for about ten years, while CHI, MIN, and DET have all been playoff teams. GB has been consistently good in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.

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  5. mike says:

    would not say they were tougher the first time. they just came in with a different game plan and caught us off guard. with our front line now i dont see them pulling off half of that stuff. i dont see to many teams getting past our front. the only part that im worried about is our rookie at left tackle . we are really asking a lot out of him right out of the gate

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    • Dobber says:

      I really don’t see Bakhtiari in year one as being any more of a liability than Newhouse at this stage of his career. I think the Packers will expect the Niners to attack him, and will help him out some.

      I would like to see the Packers get ARod on the move a little more in this game with designed rollouts and the like. It cuts the field in half, which isn’t ideal, but it cuts down on the D’s ability to attack, also.

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  6. brian says:

    Clay Mathews and Jen Harbaugh both think the packers are tougher.

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  7. GBPDAN says:

    IMO, the 49ers are the team standing in the Packers way to the SB. I think the Pack would have a great chance of beating any other team on opening day, or in the playoffs, and thats because of their trenches. This game will be a good indicator of where the Packers fronts stand in terms of playing with the big boys. I hope the Pack is improved. There’s only one slough team on our schedule this year, the Browns. This is going to be an interesting year. Please, no more injuries!

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    • Dobber says:

      The Niners are one of 13 teams standing between the Packers and the playoffs, and are only marginally more significant at this point than any other non-divisional NFC team.

      There’s no guarantee (although it looks likely) that either SF or the Packers will make the playoffs, nor is there a guarantee that they would even meet if they both did.

      The most important game on the Packer schedule is always the upcoming one…meaning that SF becomes irrelevant come Sunday evening.

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  8. GBPDAN says:

    ‘Slouch team’ that is

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  9. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    In short – the 49ers have been lucky. They sucked for 20 straight years. They drafted in the top 12 from 2003-2010. 1/2 of that time they were in the top 5.

    And they had to handicap Alex Smith’s inability to make plays in the passing game. So they drafted road graders really highly at RB, OL and DL every darn year.

    Then they get Harbaugh and strike gold in Kaepernick in round 2. They’re in salary cap heaven right now – in a sweet spot where their roster age and expense meet up. It won’t last. They’ll have to pay Kaep HUGE money. Their WR’s suck. Their DB’s are decidedly below average and aging. They’re going to have to replace them.

    Then what happens to their vaunted OL and DL when they’re not spending top 10 picks on them every year?

    The NFL is designed to bring teams back toward the middle. The 9ers and Seabags have been benefitting from this system for at least the past 8 years each.

    Now lets compare that to GB: They’ve won more games than anyone else since 1991. Since then, they’ve only missed the playoffs 2 times: 1999, 2005, 2008.

    They’ve had two of the best QB’s to ever play the game in that time – which means they’ve gotten more bites at the playoff apple. That’s the way to win championships over the long haul.

    Not dominant line play.

    Long answer: Short question. Yes, the 49ers are more physical than GB right now. But it may not matter because GB has the advantages where they count most: QB/WR and a stalemate at pass rush.

    And GB will be better for longer.

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    • Jerry says:

      Agree with you. The 49′ers have sucked arse prior to 2010 and have a lot of high draft picks on their roster.Now they are enjoying the benefits of being doormats with an awesome o-line and a very talented front seven. They should be favored to win the big one but lets hope the Packers can open a can of woop ass on them!

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    • PissedoffinAZ says:

      “Since then, they’ve only missed the playoffs 2 times: 1999, 2005, 2008.”

      Math was never my subject, but – isn’t that THREE years?

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  10. NYPACKER says:

    One of the big differences in the two teams that will be on the field Sunday is that while the 49ers have three first round picks on their oline, the Packers will have none (our only two are out injured. As an above post pointed out, the 49ers had numerous picks in the top half of the first round, that have panned out. On Sunday they will have four top 15 picks playing; Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, & Aldon Smith, all 4 regarded as one of the best at their positions. The Packers have two top 15 draft choices; AJ Hawk & BJ Raji. Hawk is solid but not in the same category as Willis. Raji has shown glimpses, but does not consistently play like a top dlineman. Based on the above, it will be very impressive if we can challange SF for the top spot in the NFC this season.

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  11. C says:

    San Fran’s scouting department is only human too. Their entire 2012 draft class is an epic bust. They were a healthy outlier last year compared to the league norm, they’re beat up and lack depth this year.

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    • NYPACKER says:

      They have definitely been “luckier” than the Packers: 1) Lowest number of injuries last season 2) Kaepernick turned out to better than anyone imagined 3) All of their top 15 picks have panned out.

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  12. C says:

    Last years San Francisco draft class did not pan out. 12′ was an utter disaster.

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  13. Since '61 says:

    Until we see anything different, and hopefully we will this Sunday, the position where the Packers are better than SF is at QB. Maybe also at WR due to SF injuries. Vernon Davis is better than any of our TE’s. They have an O-line. The Packers have hopes and prayers and look out blocks. They have Running Backs the Pack has question marks. Their DL is better today but may change on Sunday. Their LB’s are better, we have more question marks. SF DB’s are not great, but again the Packers have a lot of ???’s back there as well, such as both safety positions, is Tramon Williams back, is House healthy, can Micah Hide play in a real game? Who is returning punts and kick offs for the Packers? I don’t know 3rd base. Do we really want to depend on Crosby to kick a game winning or tying FG’S in candlestick? In spite of all of the above, hope and 53 years as a Packer fan, spring eternal. Go Pack Go!

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  14. tim says:

    At least we know a little more what Kaepernick is. Here’s hoping the packers show up!

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