Packers at 49ers: Gameday Preview - 2021 Week 3

The Packers righted the ship with a promising win over the Lions, but can they keep the momentum going with a trip to the west coast?

The 49ers took a big step backwards last year, but it wasn't just a Super Bowl hangover, they just had a ton of starters get hurt.

The Packers played them in San Francisco last year and had no problems coasting to a 34-3 lead in the 4th quarter before giving up a couple late touchdowns and winning 34-17. Aaron Jones and the running game didn't come up with a lot of production, but Aaron Rodgers threw for over 300 yards (with more than half of them going to Davante Adams) and 4 touchdowns to notch a 147.2 rating.

That game was against a beat-up 49ers squad led by Nick Mullens, though. The team the Packers face tonight is much more reminiscent of the bunch that whipped the Packers in the 2019 NFCCG after spanking them in the regular season.

 

WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL

The 49ers have a balanced offense that is built around a great offensive line - a combination very similar to the one that gave the Packers problems against New Orleans. 

In Week 1, the 49ers ran for 131 on 28 carries (4.7 yards per carry) against the Lions, but lost starting running back Raheem Mostert to injury. Against the Eagles in Week 2, they struggled, gaining 117 yards on 38 carries (3.1 yards per carry).

Their running backs are banged up (with Elijah Mitchell, JaMycal Hasty, and Trey Sermon all dealing with injuries of varying severity while Raheem Mostert is on IR), which could help the Packers, but they'll still need to deal with a premier bunch of blockers to slow the run game.

Jimmy Garoppolo has proved himself to be a solid, efficient quarterback, even if he hasn't broken into superstar status. With dynamic young receivers like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk to go with All-World Tight End George Kittle, the 49ers passing game is suited to isolation crossing combinations and rub routes. 

Based on the miscommunication the Packers have shown all year in the defensive backfield (highlighted last week when Eric Stokes and Kevin King both let a receiver roam free in the end zone on a crossing pattern), the Packers will struggle in this area.

The Packers can counter by playing most of their defenders close to the line like they did against Detroit. This will allow them to stack up against the run and make the 49ers one dimensional, while allowing them to keep the short routes flooded with defenders

Green Bay will probably have a hard time generating any sort of pass rush against San Francisco's line, which is 3rd in the league in pass blocking, allowing pressure on only 11.5% of drop backs, so they may have to get creative in coverage... or just play better.

Rookie quarterback Trey Lance is a fearsome runner and could come in on some short yardage packages or goal line sets, giving the Packers another wrinkle to worry about in game planning.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Much like their offense, the 49ers defense all starts with their line. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and DJ Jones is one of the best four-man fronts in the league.

They blitz and play man with 2 high safeties. If there's a "blueprint" for beating Aaron Rodgers, it's the same for every quarterback in the league: get pressure rushing four so you can cover with seven.

The antidote?

Run the ball.

It doesn't matter how many guys are in coverage when you can run for 4 yards every carry.

it's not very exciting, but establishing the run is still the best way to open up the passing game and get a balanced offense that can beat any defense.

The Packers came our firing against the Saints and their predictability allowed a depleted defense to easily hold them to 3 points. Agains the Lions, they established the run, opened up the passing lanes, and walked up and down the field en route to 5 touchdowns.

If the Packers want a shot in this game, they have to be able to run the ball.

Statistically, the 49ers have one of the worst run defenses in the league, but the numbers are skewed by 80 yards they gave up to Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. They're good, but they aren't dominant (they gave up 116 yards to the Lions on 24 carries).

The Packers will be missing Elgton Jenkins this week, leading to more shuffling on the line. If Billy Turner moves to left tackle and Dennis Kelly steps in at right tackle, the Packers still have a solid run blocking corps. They could play to the strength of their run game and lean on their young, powerful interior with runs off guard, switching up Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to keep them fresh and wear down the 49ers fronts.

If they can tire out San Francisco's front four, they can open up the play action pass and buy themselves time against a pass rush from tired defenders.

The 49ers have a solid secondary, but they're a little banged up (with starting cornerback Jason Verrett on IR) and can't cover all day without a pass rush.

If the Packers stay committed to the run, they should have a chance.

If they try to come out and go pass heavy against an ailing secondary, they will give the 49ers fierce pass rush a chance to get rolling.

 

OTHER NOTES

The 49ers beat the Lions by 8. The Packers beat the Lions by 18. Unfortunately, there is no transitive property in football. The Lions closed the gap against the 49ers with a late rally. The Packers, on the other hand, played the Lions in the rain. There are too many factors in a football game for a simple comparison like that to work. Looking at matchups, it's going to be tough.

George Kittle is going to be a problem, as the Packers don't seem capable of covering elite tight ends (not that any team excels at that, mind you).

Kyle Juszczyk should give Packers fans a glimpse of what they want Josiah Deguara to be.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

My biggest concern is that Aaron Rodgers, extra confident after lighting up the second half and finding a groove last week, tries to win this game by throwing every down. It's just not a good matchup for that as the Packers offensive line is beat up and the 49ers defensive line is a terror.

Given that the defense hasn't looked stellar, I'm not confident that they can slow down San Francisco on the ground or in the air. Eric Stokes may be an ascending player, but the Packers will have to endure some transitional hiccups and rookie growing pains, which they can't really mask while the rest of the defense is mostly ineffective.

Throw in the fact that Packers always seem to play sluggish on the west coast and Kyle Shanahan seems to anticipate every move Matt LaFleur will make, and it doesn't look good for the guys in green.

Packers 23, 49ers 33

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (12)

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stockholder's picture

September 26, 2021 at 07:28 am

What planet are you from? Beating the 49ers isn't a moon shot. Your Article is like a Nasa Rocket blowing up on the Launch pad. This Game Day is the next step; "don't Look Back". Fear Nothing! --- Especially Kittle. Even the best front 4 in the NFL can be beat. It's said No Defense, can beat a good offense now. They'll make a play and we will make two. This Game still will be about Turn-overs. If the Packers are Ready. They won't make any. Thats always the case! So lets just make the adjustments. And do whatever it takes.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 26, 2021 at 09:41 am

I prefer CarrieDentons take... just sayin...

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 26, 2021 at 10:34 am

Maybe review Hank Stram's game plan vs the HOF "purple people eaters". As you said: 'It ain't rocket science'
Desire...Determination...Dedication

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SanLobo's picture

September 26, 2021 at 09:37 am

Based on this article it makes you wonder why we even flew out there. It makes you wonder why Las Vegas is seeing it pretty much an even call. So I guess we will see, but y’know, “that’s why you play the game.”

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PatrickGB's picture

September 26, 2021 at 09:39 am

Joe Barry said in a recent interview that he doesn’t mind giving up five yards a play to the run if the defensive players don’t give up a big completion in the air.So if the Packers are only getting four yards a play on the run I can’t see Rodgers being patient enough to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to stick with that game plan if it’s working. But the sight of a weak secondary might be too much to ignore. Sadly, his offensive line might not give him entire to do so. Then he gets sacked while waiting for the big play to unfold.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 26, 2021 at 10:37 am

Attack the opponent's weakness. Belichick had Brady throw at a 95% clip one game and they dominated the Scoreboard.

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SanLobo's picture

September 26, 2021 at 10:49 am

You take what the defense gives you.

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dobber's picture

September 26, 2021 at 01:26 pm

"Joe Barry said in a recent interview that he doesn’t mind giving up five yards a play to the run if the defensive players don’t give up a big completion in the air."

Do they have Joe Barry tied up in Dom Capers' basement and this is really Mike Pettine wearing a Joe Barry suit?

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 26, 2021 at 03:10 pm

No doubt, a defeatist's attitude.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 26, 2021 at 09:47 am

Like every game, the Packers COULD win this game.

They must be resilient.

I usually call for more toughness against teams like the 9ers, but that plays to their strength and the GBP weakness. Let's face it, the Packers are a finesse-scheme team that relies on a solid plan against their opponents weaknesses and athleticism to pull it off.

The Pack will get punched in the mouth by this 9ers group. They must stay resilient and keep plugging away with their plan and not get caught up in playing the 9ers game. This version of the GBP doesn't win brawls. That doesn't mean that this team cannot be successful and win a lot of games, and yes - even Championships, with their scheme-athleticism focus. It is possible in this "New" NFL.

I will tune in and hope to see a GBP victory, it is possible...

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sohankhan's picture

September 26, 2021 at 10:45 am

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ImaPayne's picture

September 26, 2021 at 07:25 pm

king was a late scratch with an illness? probably got caught smoking stink weed or something. his days have to be coming to an end. jimmy g wont have him to pick on.

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