Packers Periscope: Eyeing the Enemy (49ers)

Packers periscope - Eyeing the Enemy

Packers periscope – Eyeing the Enemy

Welcome to the 2013 NFL season.

The Green Bay Packers open their schedule the same way they closed out last season—with a trip to San Francisco to face the 49ers.  While it is only Week 1, Packers fans should get a pretty good handle on what the 2013 version of their team looks like as they face off against the defending NFC champions and a team many predict will return to and perhaps even win the Super Bowl.

When we last met….

Both the Packers and their fans need little reminding of their last encounter with the 49ers.

Last January, Green Bay traveled to San Francisco to face the 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoffs and ended up being sent home in one of the most embarrassing playoff defeats in franchise history. 49ers Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns in addition to two touchdown passes and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense just couldn’t keep up.

San Francisco brilliantly executed the read option against a Green Bay defense that was woefully unprepared for it.  Charles Woodson said after the game he didn’t realize how fast Kaepernick was.  If that doesn’t show lack of preparation, who knows what does?

The defeat shell shocked the Packers so bad that Mike McCarthy sent his entire defensive coaching staff to Texas A&M to study the read option and how to stop it.  The Packers’ two backup quarterbacks also happen to have been on the 49ers’ roster at some point this year.

Sounds like Green Bay wants this one pretty badly.

What they’re good at

As you can tell above, the read option offense but there is more to the 49ers attack than just that.

Kaepernick has both quick feet and a strong arm.  Everyone focuses on what he can do outside the pocket but he is also underrated in what he can do in the pocket.  He is lethal as a runner but his arm is still very strong and can make his throws from inside the pocket as well. With as much emphasis the Packers have made on stopping the read option, the 49ers could use a more traditional attack and still get results.



Packers vs. 49ers Week 1 Game Predictions from AllGreenBayPackers.com

Week 1: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Name Record To-Date This Week’s Pick Score Prediction
Kris Burke 0-0 Green Bay Packers 24-21
Probably the toughest game to pick on the schedule and it’s only the first one.  Everyone is going crazy over the 49ers, much like how everyone treated the Packers after 2010. Mike McCarthy has put much focus on beating the 49ers and I think they do it this time, but barely. Notice will be served that the Packers are still among the NFC elite.
“Jersey” Al Bracco 0-0 Green Bay Packers 31-27
While everything on paper is telling me the 49ers are the safe bet here, something inside me feels the Packers will come out on fire against the team that booted them out of the playoffs. I feel good about the Defense – the big question for me is the offensive line. If they can hold up against the 49ers front seven, the Packers are more than capable of winning this game.
Adam Czech 0-0 San Francisco 49ers 27-24
I’m more confident in the Packers today than I was earlier in the week — the 49ers WRs are terrible and their secondary looks weaker than last season — but their front seven will steamroll the Packers offensive line to victory.
Marques Eversoll 0-0 San Francisco 49ers 27-24
This is going to be very interesting. Although it’s only one week in a long season, the Packers (specifically the defense) will certainly be out to prove they’re better and more physical than they were in January. I think this is a close game, but the 49ers probably win a close one at home.
Thomas Hobbes 0-0 Green Bay Packers 21-17
I’m calling it right here; I’m picking the Packers every game no matter what.  The difference this time around is the Packers defense, which will have more pass rushing options outside of Clay Matthews, which is a focus of a Dom Caper’s 3-4 blitzburgh defense.  On offense, more “shh” from Aaron Rodgers will show that’s he’s already honed in the passing game.
Cory Jennerjohn 0-0 San Francisco 49ers 23-20


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?



A Green Bay Packers Spy Story: WHODUNNIT?

Packers Spy 49ers

Erik Walden and Clay Matthews – Packers Spys?

I spy… a blitz?

The impetus for writing this post was to determine once and for all, how much actual “spying” of Colin Kaepernick did the Green Bay Packers do and who was involved? On twitter after the game, there was a wide disparity of opinions on this topic. Some bemoaned why the Packers didn’t employ a spy, others claimed they were spying most of the game. I knew the truth lied somewhere in-between.

I had spotted two instances myself during the first half, always with a linebacker as the spy. As the second half rolled along, I started looking for the Packers to possibly spy the speedy Kaepernick with a DB, but it never came. I was thinking perhaps a modified version of nickel, where a linebacker (Hawk or Jones) would come out instead of a defensive lineman.

My first thought was to use Woodson in this role, but that would have made things a lot easier for Vernon Davis. So I settled on fan favorite Jarret Bush. As the gunner on punt returns, he is face to face at high speed with a guy trying to run by him with the ball. Bush could have handled the job.

In any case, I just had to find out how hard the Packers tried to contain Kaepernick. So, I went through the coaches’ All-22 film of the game and noted every time Kaepernick either ran the ball or threw a pass.  A complete listing of the plays is found below, along with video of the four plays where the Packers employed a Spy.

But first, lets summarize and discuss what I found:

37    PASSES:  Number of times Kaepernick dropped back to pass.

4       SCRAMBLES:  Number of times Kaepernick scrambled after dropping back to pass.

8       PLANNED RUNS:  Number of times Kaepernick kept the ball on a planned run.

4      SPYS:  Number of times Packers used a spy (all in second quarter)

13     BLITZ:  Number of times Packers rushed five or more players.


So, I pretty much found what I expected with regards to spy plays. They tried it four times, all in the second quarter. They used Walden twice and Clay Matthews twice. Video and a brief discussion of each play is a little further down in this post.



Two Simple Things That Beat the Packers in San Francisco

Colin Kaepernick 49ers Packers

Colin Kaepernick owns the 2 things that beat the Packers

In the aftermath of the Packers’ loss to the 49ers, there were fingers pointing in every direction. If you were a Packer, there was no escape from the scrutiny, whether it was deserved or not.

Players, coaches, GMs, scouts, everyone except the owners were raked over the coals (we never do anything wrong, right?).

But in reality, and despite the final score, this was a game that midway through the third quarter was still tied. This despite the offense hardly being on the field in the first half.

This also despite the Packers’ gift of two turnovers which resulted in 14 points for the 49ers. You could easily make the case that those were the “two things” I alluded to in the title. But it’s not.

There are, in fact, two reasons the Packers are not travelling to Atlanta for the NFC Championship game. They both happen to be attached to be attached to Colin Kaeprnick’s body: They are his legs.

There is little doubt in my mind that if Alex Smith were quarterbacking the 49ers on Saturday night, we would not be listening to season-ending press conferences this week. We would not be hearing chants of “Fire Capers,” and “Our defense still sucks.”

You hear the term “favorable down and distance” a lot. Mike McCarthy uses it a lot. Any NFL coach will tell you that maintaining favorable down and distance improves your chances of winning dramatically. Especially on third down.

The Packers defense (the one that improved greatly this season but seemingly everyone now thinks is so awful), were able to put the 49ers into unfavorble down and distance on third down a total of eight times in the first half. EIGHT TIMES the 49ers were looking at third down distances of  8 to 12 yards.

Think about that a bit. Does that sound like a “horrible” defense? Any defense would take that performance in a heartbeat, knowing that they would probably get off the field at least six times out of those eight.

Instead, five times Colin Kaepernick’s legs kept the ball in the 49ers hands and kept the Packers’ offense off the field.



Packers’ Mike McCarthy: Stubborn and Loyal to a Fault?

Mike McCarthy

Is Mike McCarthy becoming so stubborn he’s hurting his own team?

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has many admirable qualities, both as a head coach and as a person.

One such quality is that he is incredibly loyal.  McCarthy has stood by his coaches and his players when someone’s ability or dedication has been called into question. That is something so many people struggle with. When the stuff hits the fan, someone usually goes under the bus.  That’s just the way society works, but such is not the case with McCarthy.

That said, at what point does loyalty evolve into stubbornness and when does that stubbornness turn into a negative instead of a positive?

That is the point where McCarthy has fallen in the eyes of many Packers fans as well as beat writers in the wake of the Packers’ stunning 45-31 season-ending playoff defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.

After yet another defensive implosion in the postseason, McCarthy remained so steadfast in his support of his allegedly beleaguered defensive coordinator that he said he was “appalled” that Dom Capers’ job security should even be in doubt during his season ending press conference.  That comment in turn sparked passionate reactions from fans and local media alike.

While McCarthy should again be commended for feeling loyal to Capers, at what point does this stubbornness start to hurt the Packers?

One could argue that it already has and it has nothing to do with Capers.   Look at how Mason Crosby struggled this season.   Crosby flirted dangerously close the 50% rate on his field goals, which is horrible by NFL standards, yet McCarthy remained steadfast in his support for Crosby. While a missed Crosby field goal didn’t cost the Packers a game in the end, it was a big risk by McCarthy and he’s lucky he didn’t get burned by it.

In fact, what would have happened had Crosby cost the Packers a game? It would fair to assume that McCarthy would have then been forced to at least bring a kicker in to compete with Crosby.  While that would have satisfied fan anger to a certain extent, it still should not have gotten to that point.  McCarthy is beginning to show a habit of not making a change until the Packers lose because of it.



My Top Ten Second Thoughts: Packers vs. 49ers

Packers 49ers Football

Kaepernick Sandwich

Having had some time to sleep on and digest the Packers’ loss to the 49ers, there are 10 things about this game I feel the need to address in a little more detail. Here goes:

Packers coaching philosophy: In the NFL, it’s all about success.  There are no style points, no points for technical brilliance. Find what is working and stick with it. If something’s not working, make adjustments. If something is killing you, throw out the caution book and try anything you can. This last aspect becomes especially true when you’re in a one & done situation like the playoffs. Did the Packers coaching staff do any of this in the 49ers game? No they did not.

DuJuan Harris: Harris had nine carries for 47 yards in the first half – that’s a 5.2 ypc average and three more yards than Frank Gore had. Nine carries in only 8 minutes of possession for the Packers offense is actually pretty impressive. This was the balanced attack McCarthy had been touting as being so important to their success. Harris was given 2 carries on the first plays of the second half (ironically when the Packer’s OL was in mild disarray with Sitton having a problem with his shoe).  He didn’t have another carry the rest of the game. Zero. Zilch. Nada.  How did that work out for the offense, Mike? An adjustment that wasn’t needed.

Jeremy Ross: This isn’t second guessing, but it needs to be addressed with what happened. I thought, said and wrote last week that McCarthy did the right thing in the Vikings game by keeping Cobb on punt returns and using Ross just on kickoff returns. I even praised McCarthy for being so smart about it. Punt and kickoff returns are two completely different animals. On punt returns, ball security trumps everything else. I assumed he would stay with this winning combination so I was shocked when I saw Ross back there to receive the punt. Why? I asked of my TV screen. Unfortunately, we got a perfect example of why not to do it.  Another adjustment that wasn’t needed.