4

January

Cory’s Corner: Vernon Davis is a nightmare for Packers

When the weather is under 40°, Vernon Davis has four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

When the weather is under 40°, Vernon Davis has four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Packers fans have taken a beating by many folks leading up to Sunday’s playoff game.

The green and gold faction has been accused of being soft for the biblical cold that is supposed to engulf the upper Midwest like a tiny blanket that always keeps your feet freezing.

But thanks to sponsors that kicked in the final dough to mark the 320th straight sellout on Sunday while keeping the last time the Packers didn’t sell out was January 1983.

So, a blackout and empty frozen aluminum bleachers won’t be a problem.

But Vernon Davis will be.

At a chiseled 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Davis might be the most impressive looking athlete on the field Sunday. He’s a huge target that can catch, run and he regularly makes safeties and cornerbacks fold up like lawn chairs. Think of Davis as a carbon copy of Packers’ tight end Jermichael Finley, except a little more sure handed and sure headed.

In a game in which it will feel like -17° at kickoff and drop 7° three hours later, the ball will contract which will make the vertical passing game much more difficult.

Enter Davis. He is second on the team in targets and he has set career highs with touchdowns (13) and yards per reception (16.3). The eighth year tight end has shown this year he’s a favorite of Colin Kaepernick when it matters because of his 52 grabs, 38 percent of them have been made on third down.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers wants to keep this worn and weary defense off the field as much as possible. And now with Michael Crabtree back from injury and playing well, the Packers won’t have the luxury of double teaming Davis because they also have to deal with quasi tight end Anquan Boldin as the other receiver.

Which means, a linebacker will more than likely be matched up with Davis for much of the game.  Which is music to San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Davis’ ears. He can run circles around just about any linebacker in the league — sans his own — and he can run over most defensive backs.

4

December

Green Bay Packers – San Francisco 49ers Preview: NFL Week 13: A Running Start?

Last week the Green Bay Packers fell on a last second field goal, losing to the Atlanta Falcons 20-17 and snapping the Packers’ four-game winning streak. Now the San Francisco 49ers, fresh off of a Monday Night win, come to Lambeau hoping to pull an upset.

While the Atlanta game was by no means a devastating loss, the Packers now likely will not get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs although they still can get the number two seed and a first round bye should they be able to wrestle the NFC North from the Chicago Bears.

This week, the Packers return home for the first time in four weeks to face the “underachieving” San Francisco 49ers.

I use quotation marks there because somehow the 49ers are only a game out of first place in their division despite their record of 4-7.  That’s how bad the NFC West is this year. A 7-9 record could be enough to make the playoffs.

If the Packers want any motivation, it’s that. They could end up sitting at home for the playoffs with a 10-6 record while a team at 7-9 gets in.

There’s a major problem with that logic, but that’s a debate for another day.

Breaking down the 49ers

For the first time since Week 1, the Packers face a dual threat quarterback in 49ers starter Troy Smith.  Since taking over for Alex Smith (no relation), Troy has provided a spark to an offense that badly needed one.  Troy Smith’s running ability added a whole other dimension to an offense that already featured two talented pass catchers.

Those pass catchers are wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis.  Davis is one of the best tight ends in football who plays in a style similar to the Packers’ Jermichael Finley. He’s fast, physical, and not afraid to go up and over defenders to make the catch.

Crabtree is just as big a threat. His speed and soft hands make him a dangerous perimeter receiver. The Packers’ corners will have their hands full with him.

The 49ers rushing attack should have died when Frank Gore was lost for the season this week with a hip injury. However, the suddenly revived Michael Westbrook picked right up where Gore left off. When he’s healthy, Westbrook is one of the best and most versatile backs in the league as he was a favorite target of Donovan McNabb during their time with the Eagles.  He should see plenty of carries as well as passes on Sunday.