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?