2

January

All eyes on Packers’ linebackers against Kaepernick, 49ers

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

A year ago, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick set a single-game NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Kaepernick totaled 444 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Packers were perplexed by the 49ers’ offense throughout the game, allowing 45 points to the 49ers despite a Sam Shields pick-six in the first quarter.

The Packers’ secondary, too, had its fair share of problems, as did the defensive line, but perhaps no position group was overmatched against the 49ers’ offense more than Green Bay’s linebackers. Erik Walden signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, but money can’t buy instincts, and Walden is still looking for Kaepernick almost a year after last season’s dud in the playoffs.

Entering the 2013 season, the Packers were determined to be better prepared for the 49ers offense–and specifically, Kaepernick–as a rematch was scheduled for opening weekend in San Francisco.

And the Packers got mixed results. While Green Bay was able to contain Kaepernick to just 22 yards rushing, the quarterback racked up a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry started for the Packers at outside linebacker that game and helped keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but four months later, Matthews is out with a (re)broken thumb and Perry, due to battles with injuries and subpar play, is now merely a rotational player.

Last January, Walden’s debacle against the read-option left many clamoring for Perry’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury as a rookie. Because, at the very least, the 270-pound Perry would be a significant upgrade over Walden setting the edge against the run, right?

As one Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Perry played a season-high 57 snaps (of a possible 81) against the 49ers in the season opener, but he played just 12 snaps last Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a must-win game. Mike Neal–still in his first season at outside linebacker–played 47 of 51 snaps against the Bears, and undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba played 43.

10

January

Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers: Week 1 vs. Now

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick played very little in the first meeting between these teams. He will be a big focus of the Green Bay defense on Saturday

Some would simply look at this season’s week one matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers to start breaking down this upcoming Saturday’s divisional playoff game.  But each of these teams has made a sizable change between Week 1 and now.

So what are the changes?  The 49ers have a new starting quarterback in Colin Kaepernick and the Packers have found a more productive running game.  Let’s examine each of these factors as it relates to this upcoming game.

Quarterback

This is the biggest change for San Francisco.  In the week one matchup at Green Bay, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was the starter and he was extremely efficient.  He was 20 for 26 with two touchdowns and no interceptions.  It helped that Frank Gore added over 100 yards rushing and with Smith not under any real pressure all day.  The 49ers were able to beat the Packers for the first time since 1999 and the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

In a week 10 game against the St. Louis Rams, Smith suffered a concussion and had to leave the game.  That would be his last start and action during the 2012 season.  Smith was forced to miss the next week’s game when he was not cleared to return.

Back up quarterback Colin Kaepernick filled in for Smith and threw for two touchdowns in the team’s next game, a Monday Night win over the Chicago Bears.  From there, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh declared that he would continue with the “hot hand” and keep Kaepernick under center.

Kaepernick helped the 9ers get to 12 wins an secure the NFC’s second seed entering the playoffs.  He finished the season with 10 touchdown passes to just three interceptions.  He had over 400 yards rushing on the season and added another five touchdowns on the run.

In his only snap against the Packers in week one, Kaepernick ran for 17 yards and a big first down.  Green Bay has plenty of film on him and needs to focus hard on his mobility this week.  It’s Kaepernick’s first career playoff start, but he is coming in with a lot of confidence and it’s a home game.

10

September

Packers Loss to 49ers Similar to Early Defeats in 2010

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were chased up and down the field by the 49ers on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers were outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in their loss to the 49ers on Sunday. Other than that, the Packers looked pretty good.

The game reminded me of how the Packers played in the first part of the 2010 season. If you can remember back that far, the Packers lost three of four from week three through six, and got outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in each one. Nonetheless, each game was close.

  • The Bears beat the Packers 20-17 in week three, forcing a late James Jones fumble and taking advantage of 18 penalties on the Packers.
  • After the Packers beat Detroit in week four, they lost an ugly 16-13 game to the Redskins the following week. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in overtime and the Packers were penalized nine times.
  • The Packers allowed 150 rushing yards, Rodgers was sacked five times, and the Packers lost 23-20 in overtime to the Miami Dolphins in week five.

It was a stretch of games where the Packers always looked a step behind. Green Bay’s raw talent was obvious, but something was missing.

That’s what it felt like during Sunday’s loss to San Francisco.

Outplayed: 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman had nine solo tackles and a huge fourth quarter interception to set up San Francisco’s last touchdown. Bownman won his one-on-one matchups more often than he lost them, and he made a big play when it was called for. Other 49ers to do the same included Frank Gore, Alex Smith, Aldon Smith, Vernon Davis, Randy Moss and David Akers. The list of Packers to consistently do the jobs they were assigned and mix in a big play or two was significantly shorter.

Outhustled: Morgan Burnett should be forced to stand outside Green Bay city hall and hold up a giant sign that says “I’m sorry” after the pathetic effort he showed on Gore’s touchdown run. We hear a lot of talk about the Packers focus on fixing their tackling this offseason. It looks like they still have a lot of work to do, especially in the effort department.