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Packers vs. 49ers: Quick Takes from Green Bay's 23-20 Loss

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Packers vs. 49ers: Quick Takes from Green Bay's 23-20 Loss

The Green Bay Packers (8-8-1) were once again unable to figure out Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers (13-4), who showed no ill effects of a bitterly cold Lambeau Field and eventually outlasted the wounded, undermanned Packers in the NFC Wild Card Round Sunday.

It was over when…

…Kaepernick escaped a zero-blitz on 3rd-and-8 and picked up 11 yards scrambling to his left, which moved the sticks and set up the 49ers with a first down at the Green Bay 28-yard line with less than 120 seconds left in the contest. Blitzing cornerback Jarrett Bush lost contain to the outside, and a clearly hobbled Andy Mulumba was unable to catch Kaepernick around the corner.

Game Balls

  • Tramon Williams: This game could have gotten out of hand early if not for Williams, whose interception in the first half sparked the Packers to life. Already up 6-0, the 49ers were driving for more points when the veteran corner made a savvy decision. Williams wisely read the play combination of a go-route on the outside and a corner underneath, and he vacated his zone coverage to undercut Kaepernick's throw. The Packers took the lead on the ensuing drive. Williams finished with three passes defensed (including one in the end zone that could have been picked) and one interception.
  • Eddie Lacy: The boxscore will say Lacy rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries, with a long of just eight yards. But the rookie's impact was so much more than just numbers. More than 75 percent of his rushing yards came after contact. He powered a third-quarter scoring drive. And his ability to pound the front seven of the 49ers eventually quieted a pass rush that was disrupting Aaron Rodgers for most of the game. In a game as rough and tough as this one, Lacy's 81 yards should speak volumes.
  • Jordy Nelson: For the second straight week, Nelson led the Packers in targets (eight) by a wide margin. He is clearly Rodgers' No. 1 option with Randall Cobb still on the mend. Nelson responded with seven catches and a second-quarter score. His season ended with 17 catches in the last two games.

Key Stats

The 49ers ran more plays (63-61), totaled more first downs (22-18) and yards (381-281) and averaged more yards per play (6.0-4.6). San Francisco finished with more passing yards (214-157) and rushing yards (167-124)...The Packers were just 3-of-11 on third down, while the 49ers were 6-for-12, including 3-for-3 on the final drive...Kaepernick finished with 227 yards passing and 98 rushing, good for 325 total. His 98 rushing yards were the second most in his career, behind only the 181 he posted in last January's Divisional Round...The Packers totaled 110 rushing yards from their running backs, while the 49ers got just 70...Michael Crabtree caught a game-high eight passes on 13 for 125 yards. Jordy Nelson led the Packers with 7/8/62...Aaron Rodgers finished with 177 yards passing, the lowest postseason total of his career...Kaepernick had a final QBR of 88.8, his third-straight over 88.0 against the Packers...Green Bay forced the game's only turnover, a Tramon Williams interception. There were three fumbles but zero lost, despite temperatures that were below zero...The 49ers had four sacks, the Packers had three...Randall Cobb was tasked with returning kicks but made little impact, returning four for just 87 yards (21.8-yard average). He was targeted just twice on offense, catching two passes for 51 yards...James Jones caught just two of his five targets...The 49ers didn't punt until early in the second half...The Packers had four three-and-outs, including three to start the game. The 49ers punted three straight possessions to start the second half...The game had five lead changes.

Other Notes

– The Packers needed to play a complete game to win, but Sunday was anything but. The offense gained six yards on its first nine plays and Rodgers didn't complete a first quarter pass. Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde and Williams missed interception opportunities. James Jones had two chances for big plays and failed to come up with the football.  And injuries to Sam Shields, Mike Neal and David Bakhtiari only compounded the mistakes. An undermanned team can't afford to miss that many opportunities and still expect to beat a 12-win 49ers team that made the Super Bowl the year prior.

– The gap between these two teams is clearly stated along the line of scrimmage. The 49ers have talent oozing out of their defensive front seven, which allowed them to blitz Rodgers on less than 10 percent of his drop backs Sunday. The pressure was still tangible despite facing mostly four-man rushes, and Rodgers finished with just 177 passing yards on 32 passing plays. Meanwhile, the Packers needed to manufacture their own pressure, and Kaepernick was still comfortable for most of the contest. Closing the gap with San Francisco requires getting better on both lines.

– Dom Capers still can't figure out Kaepernick. Counting Sunday, the 49ers quarterback now has a grand total of 1,203 yards and eight touchdowns over the last three wins against the Packers. That's an average of over 400 yards of total offense and nearly 20 points a contest. Kaepernick wasn't as consistently dominant Sunday, but he still finished with 98 yards rushing and a fourth quarter touchdown to Vernon Davis. Every time the 49ers needed a big play or an answer, Kaepernick delivered. He owns Capers and the Packers.

– That said, the Packers defense played as well as anyone could have expected, especially after losing Shields and Neal and featuring a hobbled Mulumba. The 49ers running backs ran for just 70 yards on 24 carries, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis combined to catch just five passes and San Francisco went just 1-for-4 scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Holding a versatile, healthy offense to just 23 points was a feat in itself.

– Is the magic running out? Green Bay dropped to just 1-3 in the postseason since winning Super Bowl XLV, and the only win came with Joe Webb—who is now a receiver—quarterbacking the opposition. Two of the losses have come at Lambeau Field, where the Packers are now 3-5 in the last eight home playoff games. Maybe that's just the luck of the draw in the postseason now. But you'd certainly expect a team with a quarterback like Rodgers to be better over a three-year stretch in the playoffs, especially at home.

– The Packers' rollercoaster season ends at 8-8-1. It was a wild, entertaining four months that once again saw injuries and a talented 49ers club derail an entire year's worth of work. This is still a flawed football team that will enter the offseason with many of the same questions that were there last spring. Green Bay picks 21st in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Point Packer's picture

Our 3-5 record at home in the last eight playoff games is simply pathetic. PATHETIC. Dog shit.

Tony's picture

Yup. The "mystique" is all but gone in the playoffs. Need to re-assert that in a big way. I think Lacy helps.

Derek in CO's picture

Esp. Playing a team from California in very cold weather, a team that hasn't even played a cold weather game under Harbaugh (espn). Lambeau advantage is no more

Jameson's picture

Our home record this year was 4-4.

Some much for home field advantage.

I also read yesterday that the Giants have more wins at Lambeau in the post season than the Packers do in the last 5 years. That's pretty embarrassing.

Charlie Kelly's picture

Well, they're a outdoor team that's built for a dome.

Mojo's picture

I know a lot of people are dejected with the loss and the talent level on this team, but I honestly don't know how good or bad this team really is. Just way too many injuries this year to make an accurate assessment. Really, almost an absurd amount player games lost(even before the season started). And not just scrubs, but front-line talent. Even in this game two more starters on D went down early, including their best cover corner. And yet they gave a largely healthy SF all they could handle.

Without adding a single player, the offense should be one of the leagues best next year when the injured guys come back.

One aspect of the offense that needs adjustment is the use of a shorter passing game of check-downs, short-crossing routes and screens. As great as ARod is, he holds the ball too long too often. I get it - he makes big plays from time to time by extending a play, but I think this offense would be even more consistently explosive if the other teams D had to cover the short areas of field more often.

I often see receivers open on the short routes that are ignored and then Aaron takes a sack. Seems to me, some of the other great QB's take the short-stuff all game long - then take their shots downfield. Rodgers was doing better getting the ball out, but lately reverted to old form. Other teams have to see this and probably tell their rushers to go full-tilt putting even more pressure on the o-line.

This team is going to look quite different next year with all the FA's they might lose. Might not be a bad thing. But once again they need another pass-rusher. unfortunately, they need speed in the middle of the D too. You only have so many quality draft picks. Ted better be good next year in the draft, or add something in FA, else we'll be discussing another early playoff exit next year.

Dennis eckersley's picture

I agree wholeheartedly.....except for your sentiment that the injury situation will be any different next year. At what point does it stop being "bad luck"? At what point are we just a delicate team? I don't know what/who is responsible, but 2010, 2012, and 2013 were almost too devastating to be random.

Derek in CO's picture

We are less talented than SF on defense, that's obvious

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree with you.

But think of this. As injured as our team was, we came up 3 points short of advancing in the playoffs.
That was without our best defensive player, and losing probably our 2nd biggest playmaker on defense (Shields).

I agree with you as well that we have no idea how good or bad this team really is with all of the injured players. We were without a lot of Starters this whole year. Rodgers, Bulaga, Cobb, Harris, Finley, Mathews, Hayward all missed the majority of the season. Then other players, Perry, Neal, James Jones, Franklin, Wallace, Burnett, Brad Jones along with others have missed time this season...
It would be nice to go through a season without the injuries.

I bleed Green More's picture

That in itself is amazing, only 3 pts and we hung in there as ugly as it was. I do not know if having guys back and not injured would have made it better but I would think it would have.

4thand1's picture

Nice Zach. SF's Front 7 on D and o-line are as healthy as a team can have. Take away 4 or 5 of their starters and see what the results will be. The Packers played with back ups and took em to the wire. The slow start by the offense was bad. No explanation for it.

crackerpacker's picture

I expect this to happen without injuries when they pay there qb 20 million a year and there window slams shut

Jay's picture

As a 49er fan watching from the comfort of my home in the Bay Area I just wanted to say that the Packers have the best and most loyal fans in the NFL hands down. It was packed in that freezing stadium and no one left early and they still brought the noise. Outstanding!

jeremy's picture

Thanks, I was there. It was an impressive sight. By my count we caused Kaepernick to burn at four time outs because he couldn't get the play call out. Thankfully for everyone the wind didn't really kick up and make it even colder.

Evan's picture

That timeout to start the 2nd half, I believe, was because he didn't have his playcard wristband on.

Hank Scorpio's picture

When I see the Packers defense overachieve and the Packers offense underachieve yesterday, I tend to think the conditions were a big part of both.

When it come down to crunch time, the Packer offense came to life and scored half their points in the 4th. And the Packer defense reverted to its sieve imitation and gave up the same number to preserve the defeat.

Fiscr's picture

Next year we'll bring more starters too

RC Packer Fan's picture

Did anyone else like what they saw from Datone Jones when he played OLB? After Mulumba and Neal got hurt, they put Jones in at OLB. He set the edge a couple of running plays really well and on a pass play he almost got to Kaepernick.

I question now if Jones might be better at OLB then DL? He is athletic enough, and fast enough. I liked what I saw from him when he went in at OLB.

Evan's picture

Not a chance - Jones in coverage?

Hank Scorpio's picture

I know the defense didn't suffer any when Jones was forced to play "OLB" because they ran out of regular OLBs. I believe it was a 3 and out on the one series he played there.

But like Evan, I don't want to see Jones in coverage. I think the same goes for Mike Neal and Nick Perry.

4 man DL is the answer. Jones, Neal, Perry and Daniels make up the pass rushing part of the DL rotation. Boyd, Pickett, Raji, and Wilson make up the run stuffing part of it. Mix and match as desired. Add in Worthy as necessary.

Morgan Mundane's picture

I think he is a bum. If we would have picked him in the 3rd round I would still say that. Hey the guy as of week 12 had 8 tackles total.
He came in out of shape, played out of shape and spent a lot of time on the bench. First rounds draft picks don't sit on the bench unless injured. He wasn't injured, he was gased.

Dave's picture

Seattle and San Francisco are loaded with big-name and highly paid talent right now, but wait until they have to pay their quarterbacks like every other good team. Then they won't have the money for all the high-end talent.

The TKstinator's picture

+1

Derek in CO's picture

and they can share?

Jameson's picture

Yeah and?

The NFL is a win now league. They are poised to win now and are doing so. Now granted the only game that means anything to win is the Super Bowl. Something neither team has done lately, but it's hard to deny that these teams aren't deeply talented.

As they pay these guys big money to play now they can draft talent to sit, watch, learn and be ready to play when the cash cows have to leave. Suddenly the drop off isn't quite so noticeable. And let's be real Wilson and Kaepernick are good QBs you'd like to have but are they franchise QBs? QBs you NEED to have or else you cannot win? No. They can be replaced with a drafted QB to take over for a lot less money than either would demand.

We're wasting precious years with Rodgers as our QB. He's 30. Clock is ticking. Each year we sit around getting dismissed in the post season because of some serious holes in our team with Rodgers as our QB is a year wasted. I realize we had to pay to keep him, but man it would be nice to have some talent around him on both sides of the ball to help us get at least another Super Bowl. Otherwise what's the point of having him? To win 9 or 10 regular season games?

Evan's picture

Kap can renegotiate this off-season and is a free agent after next year. Wilson can renegotiate after next season and is a free agent after 2015 (the Seahawks have a lot of young defensive talent coming up soon too - but that's a different discussion).

You really think there is the slightest chance the 49ers/Seahawks just let their QBs leave and replace them with a rookie? I sure don't.

Jameson's picture

Well I don't think it's as easy as that no. I'm sure they will try and keep both QBs. I'm just saying I don't think either one of them are absolutely must have break the bank kind of QBs. Then again the Ravens paid Joe Flacco and the Bears paid Jay Cutler so clearly I know nothing.

I'm just saying the 49ers and Seahawks are built deep. They can continue to draft and develop while the big playmakers play now. When they retire or leave via FA they'll have a new group ready to go.

Both teams seem built to be successful for the short term future (next 2 to 3 years) and that's all you can ask for really in the NFL. Based on the lack of talent in lots of positions on the Packers, I'm not sure we can say the same. Winning 9 or 10 regular season games is not why we have a 122 million dollar QB.

Al Fresco's picture

They will have no problem. You trade away a couple of good guys and get future high draft picks, spread the QB money out over a lot of years, restruture some contracts and your good to go for several years.

Ted however, gave 66% of the salary to two people. Will not restructure any contracts and has no one of value to trade except the two guys he gave 66% of the salary too.

Thus, expect a lot of late round and undrafteds again and zero free agent help.

Morgan Mundane's picture

This discussion is ridicoulous. Neither of these guys are going anywhere but yes, some of the other talent will have to either restructure or be traded for draft picks. There is only so much money and the Packers are in the worst shape of any team for two big reasons:
You got two guys taking up 66% of the salary. and second Ted has an absolute pay as you go philosophy -may not even be his, may be forced to do this, that guarnatee's a lot more 5th round or later players (cheap) and no free agents.

Morgan Mundane's picture

I disagree. I do not think it had anything to do with the packers figuring out the niners, I think it had everything to do with the nines knowing exactly what they were going to do -our weaknesses and exploit them.

Put it this way, when its 4 down and 6 and your at the 45 yard line and go for it. that is really making a statement that says ' we absolutely know for sure we can pass for this yardage and get it and have no fear of turning the ball over if we don't'.

That moment in time said to me the 9ers fully expected to win and exploit our defensive weaknesses.

Jameson's picture

Via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-

Evan Dietrich-Smith and James Jones going to test free agency.

Don c's picture

Have to wonder about strength and conditioning coach when year after year the pack has a lot and I mean a lot of injuries

showpan's picture

I saw a lot of mistakes from players like Bush who was out of position and let Kap have the outside run on that last drive. Capers actually called some good defensive plays, it was costly mistakes by players that made the difference. Hopefully we don't end up with as many injuries next year....that alone will be huge, along with an early round safety and some more help on the line. A backup QB would also help...lol

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