The Green Bay Packers lost 23-20 to the San Francisco 49ers on a last second field goal Sunday afternoon. The 49ers will now advance to play Carolina next weekend. For the Packers, a busy offseason with many questions has begun.
To be completely honest, I am not even surprised the Packers lost the game the way they did. It somewhat sums up the season. I will admit that I was skeptical heading into the game, concerned whether or not the defense would learn from their past three performances against the 49ers. I would like to give everyone a breakdown of how 49ers quarterbacks have performed against the Packers their past four meetings:
–Week 1 2012-30 points, 377 total yards, 186 on the ground, Alex smith 20-26, 125.6 passer rating, 81.5 QBR
–2012 Divisional Playoff-45 points, 579 total yards, 181 Kaepernick rush yards, 92.1 QBR
–Week 1 2013-34 points, 494 total yards, Kaepernick QBR 89.8
–2013 Wild Card Playoff-Kaepernick 7 rush, 98 yards (14 ypc), 88.8 QBR
For those that don’t know, QBR is an expanded representation of how a quarterback performs in a game. For example, QBR takes into account the specific time of the game when a certain play is made, while the standard passer rating does not. A touchdown thrown by a quarterback in the fourth quarter with one minute left, down by three will increase a quarterback’s QBR, not their passer rating.
I am not so sure I agree with the “they have our number” excuse since each game is its own independent event. It may play into the mindset of some players but it really should not. The Packers first faced Colin Kaepernick in 2012 in an NFC Divisional Playoff game. He made his first career start in a blowout against the Chicago Bears in Week 11 of the 2012 regular season. Colin had a few notable performances leading up to the playoffs, especially on the ground. The Niners were running a read-option offense at the time, and teams had very little tape of Kaepernick. The Packers were extremely undisciplined in the playoff loss to the 49ers that year. Giving up 181 yards to a quarterback is simply unacceptable. While I was a little shocked, I realized that the Packers had not really faced a read-option offense, and they had a small sample size of Kaepernick’s tendencies.
The Packers spent the offseason educating themselves on how to defend the read-option offense. I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a complete waste, but with the NFL stating that quarterbacks would be considered runners once outside of the pocket, teams were going to shy away from a heavy read-option offense in order to keep their quarterback healthy. The Washington Redskins made everyone aware that they would not be running as much read-option in fear that Robert Griffin III may not hold up after suffering a torn ACL. I do not have exact numbers, but after watching many of these games, I know that both the Redskins and 49ers did not call nearly as many read-option runs this season. My point here is that Packers fans and NFL analysts said, “The Packers did a great job of shutting down the read-option in Week 1.” Clearly this was a little misleading considering everything I just stated above. The Packers were so concerned with stopping Kaepernick from running; the pass defense forgot to show up.
So after Week 1, the Packers had two tapes of Colin Kaepernick playing against them. In these two games, they made an average quarterback (in my opinion, because of less read-option) look like a superstar. To top it all off you have people like ESPN’s Ron Jaworski saying Colin Kaepernick has a chance to be “Greatest quarterback of all-time.” I could not help but laugh when hearing this but if you watched the first two games he played against the Packers, how could you disagree. However, the Packers have allowed video game numbers to many quarterbacks the past few seasons which is why I still think Ron Jaworski’s statement is unintelligent.
Finally, getting to the game Sunday, I thought the Packers defense played decent for the most part. Injuries suffered by Sam Shields and Mike Neal in the game surely didn’t help, but they definitely did enough to give the Packers a chance to win (excluding the last drive which I will get to in a minute). It did not help that the Green Bay offense had a few short drives to begin the game. The Niners, with good field position early on, were only able to get two field goals because the defense was luckily able to get a few stops. Once the Packers were able to score, the Niners unfortunately had quick responses. In the second half, the Packers were able to get into second and short situations and pound the ball with Lacy and Starks. I was impressed with the way the Packers were able to run the ball late in the game yesterday. However, what turned out to be the Packers’ last drive of the game, they were only able to get three points from a first and goal at the nine. This was a killer because the 49ers would have had to score a touchdown to win the game. Instead the game was tied at 20.
By my count, Green Bay had three incredible chances to get the ball back on the final Niner drive. Micah Hyde dropped an interception in 49er territory that either would have been returned for a touchdown, or set the Packers up to run the clock and attempt a game-winning field goal. The 49ers were able to advance the ball into Packer territory with less than two minutes remaining. It was third and about eight to go, still outside of field goal range when the game essentially ended. The Packers had been somewhat undisciplined (go figure) when attempting to keep Kaepernick in the pocket throughout the game. The pass-rush on this particular play was actually good, except for one part. Jarrett Bush was on the field. He has made important contributions on special teams, and in the secondary during the Dallas game, but besides that he has been extremely mediocre, and a liability. A corner blitz was drawn up, and while at first it seemed like a good play, he made an idiotic decision. With no help on the outside, he jumped a little inside and Kaepernick was able to get outside easily and run for the first down dagger. Bush is a veteran and has had to seen enough tape to understand that he needs to contain, rather than give up the edge. I am certainly no football coach, but I am guessing there was something wrong with Bush’s thought process on that play.
The last play of the game, the 49ers kicked a field goal. What I consider the third and final chance to get the ball back was on the missed block by Davon House. I would attribute this to bad luck, and nothing else, considering he was in the right position for the block and the ball somehow went right through his hands. You can’t really blame House for not getting a hand on the ball but it was obviously unfortunate the game had to end like that.
Many changes will be made this offseason I’m sure, and it will be interesting to see if the Packers make any decisions regarding parts of the coaching staff. It was a disappointing end to a season plagued with injuries and horrific defensive plays. The Packers have been one-and-done four out of the last five years in the playoffs with an extremely talented offense and arguably the best quarterback in the league. As usual, it is the Packers defense that more often than not is letting them down. Will the Packers make the necessary changes to ensure the career of Aaron Rodgers isn’t wasted?