The season has officially come to an end for the Green Bay Packers after they fell to the San Fransisco 49ers Sunday night in Santa Clara.
It was a tall task for the Packers to travel back to the west coast to get revenge on the Niners after their regular-season loss, but Green Bay was on a hot streak and the odds of them coming away with the win seemed to grow by the day. After all, the Packers defense played the run fantastically against the Seahawks and their run game looked decent.
Going in, I knew Green Bay would have to play one of their best games offensively in order to shut down the 49ers stout defense. Their defense is well rounded. The front seven does a great job of getting after the quarterback and the secondary seems to lock down receivers play after play, regardless of the coverage. To me, the key was going to be finding a way to slow down the Niners pass rush. Joey Bosa had a field day when the two teams met during the regular season, although right tackle Bryan Bulaga was out that game.
Sadly, the Packers weren’t able to slow down the rush for most of the night. What felt like seemingly endless pressure forced a lot of mistakes by the Packers offense. Rodgers was sacked several times and he often had to get rid of the ball in a hurry. Because of the quick throws, I felt like Rodgers barely had a chance to go through his progression and get a good read on the defense.
I wasn’t overly impressed with some of the play calls early on. The Packers offense had to scrap their offensive script after their first couple of drives and it all seemed downhill from there. Something was just terribly off for the offense. I would have liked to have seen Rodgers get in his 5 step pass game. He always seems to operate much smoother when dropping back and having a chance to read the secondary, as opposed to hitting a quick out or slant route. This all comes back to the protection up front. Because of the quick pass rush, the Packers had to alter their gameplan.
The offense couldn’t quite get things going on the ground, either. The Packers did have a promising drive, but it quickly ended after a botched snap between Linsley and Rodgers. This was the tipping point of the game. A fumbled snap should never, and I repeat never, happen in the NFL. This is something that coaches at the high school level should be worrying about. Even at that level, you don’t see it happen too often.
The game did have its positive plays for the offense. Aaron Jones was able to bust a couple of decent runs on outside running plays.
Here’s a view of Aaron Jones’ running chart throughout the game. As you can see, most of his successful runs (5+ yards) came with him hitting the outside game. I have to give it to the 49ers; they did a solid job of taking away the A and B gaps. The run blocking by both tackles seemed decent for much of the game.
Defensively, the Packers didn’t have an answer for the 49er running game whatsoever. The Niners routinely ran the toss and outside zone, having their way with whatever they chose. I really thought that the Packers would be able to shut this part of the game down. Going in, one of my keys to victory was that the Packers defense had to slow down the perimeter running game and do so early. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to be.
Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and 4 touchdowns when it was all said and done. There seemed to be little pursuit from the Packers interior players, or they were blocked out by the 49ers tackles or guards. The speed of the 49ers was extremely impressive. Sometimes there is just a mismatch that the defense can’t account for. I thought both Za’Darius and Preston Smith did a decent job of stringing out runs but Mostert was able to cut upfield and spring a big run. Just to give you an idea of how good the run game was for the 49ers, they threw the ball a total of 8 times throughout the game.
I want to end my final Quick Hits article of the year with a little perspective. I don’t see this season as a failure, and I’m sure many Packer fans will agree with me. Keep in mind, this is a team with a rookie head coach, young players on both sides of the ball, and a newly implemented system. According to most “experts”, the Packers shouldn’t have even made it this far. But they did. While the wins weren’t necessarily pretty, they found a way to win some exciting game.
The future is bright in Green Bay. Very bright. We very well could see the Packers back in this game next year with very different results. Until then, the organization will keep plugging along and finding ways to make this team even more successful.
On behalf of Packer fans everywhere, I’d like to thank the Packers for another incredible season.
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