Legendary senior writer, Packers, lead blogger & NFC North columnist jclombardi’s insider final reviews, grades & commentary.
Photo credit: Mike De Sisti Jsonline.
SUMMARY: For the 2nd straight year, in a repeat divisional playoff game performance, the inept Packers defense allowed a whopping 579 total yards and the west coast offense wasn’t efficient enough to overcome big turnovers and awful calls losing to the 49ers 45-31. 49ers QB Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns & threw 2 touchdowns to crush the Packers.
GAME BALLS: WR James. WR Jennings.
INJURY REPORT: Packers fans (heart attacks from watching game).
PASSING OFFENSE: C+ vs C vs B. QB Rodgers completed 26 0f 39 passes for 257 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 big interception & 91.5 passer rating, but it wasn’t enough to win. Yet, with the ball control offensive production of 49ers, the Packers had the ball for only 22 minutes. Further, due to their inefficient offensive production and costly turnovers, the Packers eventually fell too far behind to keep up with the rolling 49ers. WR Jones had 4 big catches for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. WR Jennings had 6 catches for 54 yards and 1 touchdown. WR Nelson had 5 catches for 46 yards. TE Finley had 4 catches for 35 yards. WR Robb had only 4 catches for 24 yards. Thus, Cobb, Nelson and Finley combined for 14 receptions for only 105 yards.
Now, the pass protection was generally solid allowing only one sack. So if QB Rodgers had excellent protection and solid running game, what went wrong? First, beyond the great duo of Jones & Jennings, the receivers did not get separation even with man coverage. Second, Rodgers lacked patience and showed bad judgment including the opening bad 3rd down incomplete pass play to FB Kuhn, the big interception overthrowing WR Nelson, and the missed check down to RB Harris. Third, we agree with the simplistic B & C’s in-depth analysis, “Playing It Safe Isn’t Paying Off.” B & C summed it up this way:
Tired of Favre going down swinging while chasing bad pitches, the Packers have gone to the other extreme and become the anti-Favres. It’s a philosophy that won them a Super Bowl two years ago, but has disarmed them in the playoffs the past two seasons. In both losses, to the Giants last year and now the 49ers, the Packers have played poorly on defense. But for a team with a supposedly high-powered passing game, they haven’t competed offensively, either. The Packers can’t get teams out of a two-deep zone with their running game, and they won’t throw into one even in desperate times. Rodgers has the arm to do it….But despite having his full complement of receivers, Rodgers averaged a mere 9.9 yards per completion….The Packers played like they did all year and in the postseason last year. They played the percentages. The end result was the same: No risk, no reward.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B vs B+ vs B+. The Packers had 16 carries for a good 104 rushing yards averaging a solid 6.5 average yards per carry. Speedy RB Harris had nine carries for 47 yards at halftime, but he ran the ball only two times in the second half. Harris finished with 53 yards averaging 4.8 average yards per carry. WR Cobb had two carries for 23 yards with a long of 19. QB Rodgers scrambled 3e times for 28 yards, including 17 yards to convert a third-and-10 situation. The offensive line did a great job with no bad runs and allowed few pressures from the tough 49ers front line.
RUSHING DEFENSE: F vs F vs F. Facing an inept Packers defense, the 49ers rushed for 323 yards averaging 7.5 ypc. Using the read option plays or scrambling out-of-the pocket (amateur college things), QB Kaepernick rushed for a whopping 181 yards and 2 touchdowns. RB Gore rushed for a hefty 119 yards and 1 touchdown averaging 5.2 ypc. The entire Packers defensive simply got outmuscled and outplayed in the game. We provide several perspectives, starting with the PFF analysis:
The sad thing is the Packers actually didn’t defend the read-option badly early. Still, Dom Capers called for man-coverage constantly against a quarterback who was a threat to run, gifting Kaepernick a dozen yards any time he felt like picking them up. As the game wore on the Green Bay option defense collapsed entirely, with assignments being blown and two players crashing on the same part of the option. [LBs] Jones, Moses, and Walden all had negative grades in run defense, and the angles taken in the secondary by Woodson and Burnett in particular didn’t help matters when the run got that far.
Raji closed with a dud. Pickett had the team's only tackle for loss and fared OK at the point. Wilson is a disciplined gap player. He remains stuck in neutral as a pass rusher. Neal also was a major disappointment….Mike Daniels the rookie scrapper who doesn't take anything from anybody. Besides standing toe to toe against RT Anthony Davis, he registered two of the unit's three pressures. Clay Matthews got the W over LT Joe Staley in Game 1, and Staley got the W in the rematch. The 49ers aimed almost all their read-option attack at Walden and Moses. [Hawk] did a decent job slipping blocks and plugging the run. Jones just wasn't good enough for a game of this magnitude. Williams is just so soft now. Woodson doesn't have legs. Morgan Burnett played pretty well.
PASSING DEFENSE: D vs C- vs C. Facing no consistent pass rush, 49ers QB Kaepernick completed 17 clutch passes for 267 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 early interception. In the first quarter, CB Shields' interception and 52 yards touchdown return was great, but he showed no physical play on crossing routes. Further, he got away with blown coverage on long touchdown bombs, like CB Williams, to WR Moss by Kaepernick’s overthrown passes. As SE summarized:
Red-hot receiver Crabtree (game-high 11 targets) torched primarily the coverage tandem of Williams and Shields for nine catches for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. Williams had two holding penalties that kept alive a pair of drives that ended with 49ers touchdowns. Inside linebacker Hawk was exposed yet again as a coverage liability on a 44-yard reception by tight end Davis down the seam in a touchdown drive that put the 49ers ahead 38-24. A takedown by outside linebacker Matthews in the second possession of the game was the defense's lone sack of the elusive Kaepernick.
Football is all about matchups, and something else that can’t be overlooked is the 49ers have the best offensive line the Packers faced all season. Their line handled the Packers’ normally stout defensive line and exposed Jones and Hawk for what they are. They’re serviceable, but not studs like the 49ers’ inside backers.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D+ vs C- vs D. WR Ross choked on a punt return, losing the football, and leading to a 49ers touchdown to turn the momentum of the game. WR/PR Cobb botched a pair of kickoff returns. Punter Masthay had four punts averaging 47 yards (net, gross) and 4.47 seconds hang time with two punts inside the 20. Kicker Crosby hit a 31 yards field goal and averaged 70.6 yards and 3.73 seconds hang time on five kickoffs.
COACHING: F vs D- vs ?. With another déjà vu loss, Head Coach McCarthy got outcoached, outplayed, and outmuscled again in another big divisional playoff loss. McCarthy & DC Capers failed to deliver successful game plans and failed to execute successful game management. Whether it was the conservative, uncreative, and unbalanced offensive game plan or the inept defensive game plan with man coverage and no adjustments against the amateurish college read option 49ers game plan, they failed completely embarrassing the Packers nation on prime time television for the second straight year.
OVERALL: D vs ? vs C-. The Packers got outplayed in every phase of the football game, especially on the defense. Further, without a stellar performance from QB Rodgers and most of his receivers, the Packers did not win the game. Meanwhile, we should remind readers that the Seahawks had no problem beating the “Oh my, that was special?” 49ers (GM Thompson can be laughingly pathetic). .
COMMENTARY: The déjà vu flaws in the Packers continue to be exposed against the elite NFL teams in the playoffs. On the defense, they cannot rush the passer consistently and lack more playmakers. While the defense ranked higher than the dismal defense from last season, it was only marginally improved having ongoing issues about toughness, tackling, and enough impact players. Remember, veterans Jennings, Finley, Driver, Hawk, and Woodson are probably all gone, unless some take a severe pay cuts. Yet, the Packers have promising young talent with RB Harris, WR Cobb, CB Hayward, DL Worthy, and CB Shields becoming impact players on the team. For the Packers to remain contenders facing a very tough 2013 schedule, serious management (administrative and game plan) changes and quality personnel additions must happen in the team.
TACTICAL MOVE 1--DRAFT PREVIEW: The 2013 draft is loaded with quality defensive players, especially outside rushers and interior players. The Packers need to get two or three to boost the front line and pass-rushing line. Also, with the probable losses of WRs Jennings and Driver, the draft has some prime time wide receivers available in the first four rounds.
OTHERWISE, unless these offseason changes happen, fans can look for more of the same and/or gradual decay away from its recent dynasty hopes after a fading Super Bowl win.