The Packers lost a game in which they led in the 4th quarter against the defending NFC Champions and Vegas favorites to win the conference by less than a touchdown, on the road, on Sunday. That is an incontrovertible fact. You can tell me that the sky is falling, you can tell me that the team will never win another Super Bowl until Dom Capers is fired, and you can tell me that the only way the Packers can make it to New Jersey in February is if someone else knocks off the 49ers for them. To that I say erroneous! What if Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward play and Kaepernick isn’t allowed to dominate the middle of the pass D targeting Davis and Boldin? What if Barclay and Bakhtiari get 16 more games of development and comfort before their next meeting? What if Datone Jones gets his feet under himself and becomes a factor, and all of a sudden the defense that was so excellent in containing Kaepernick is also getting a pass rush push? What if the Packers walk through a down NFC North and finish with a better record than the 49ers because they play in a division with another elite team and 2 other scrappy clubs and the playoff game is in Lambeau Field? The bottom line is that with the amount of young talent on this team, it is clear to me that we just saw the worst version of the 2013 Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, and they’re within striking distance of the class of the league.
Quote of the Week:
“We came here to win the game. I don’t know who the hell you think we are. We lost a game we were capable of winning today. We are in the mindset of feeling the pain of losing. This is not what it’s all about. I’m sure they probably have a similar mindset or whatever their mindset is. But we came in here with every intention of winning this game today and we didn’t get it done. We did not do the little things to win today. We’ve got to fix that, correct that and get ready for the Redskins.” – Mike McCarthy
This guy can coach my favorite football team any time he wants.
1. Run defense- after getting embarrassed by the 49ers in the playoff loss a year ago, this unit had improved personnel, an improved game plan and an improved attitude towards stopping Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, and Kendall Hunter. The run D only allowed 90 yards rushing throughout the contest. I had indicated excitement related to the Packers boasting a deep and talented defensive line group allowing them to have more of a rotation and less of a dependence on Raji and Pickett, prolonging “Grease”‘s career and improving the effectiveness of Raji. The Big Boys (Raji, Pickett, and Jolly) came in and battled the run and then were kept fresh when the pass rushers (Daniels, Neal, Jones) rotated in. I really believe that this is going to be a trend going forward and the days of this defense getting crushed by the run are going to be few and far between.
2. Battling adversity- the Packers took punch after punch in the stomach in this game. It started when they knew they would be without their defensive QB Morgan Burnett. They watched as the referees afforded the 49ers an extra down. Eddie Lacy fumbled inside his own 20. Aaron Rodgers threw a strike for a 1st down that hit Jermichael Finley in the hands that was intercepted. The Packers did NOT play error free football here, folks. Most would have assumed that because of a perceived difference in talent between the two clubs, the Packers would need to play perfectly to compete with the 49ers on the road. This was not accurate. The Packers offense provided answers to almost every bit of adversity they faced, and did it against the best defense in the league.
3. Promising young OTs- I understand that they gave up pressure, but news flash kids, everyone gives up pressure against the 49ers defensive front. Bakhtiari and Barclay did not cause an epic disaster for the Packers protection schemes, and oddly enough an epic disaster was in the forecast. I truly believe that as this line plays together, they have a higher upside than the last few configurations that Green Bay has put forward. Against lesser defensive fronts, I think that you really might see something with Eddie Lacy being able to run behind Lang and Barclay. I’ve been saying since day one that if the Packers had selected David Bakhtiari in the second round and decided to start him at offensive tackle no one would have blinked an eye at either the selection or the decision to let him play. That’s where he graded out draft-wise.
1. “Soft underbelly”- the perimiter corners Sam Shields and Tramon Williams actually played pretty well in this game, which is incredible considering how many passing yards the Packers gave up. The flats and the short middle of the Packers defense has seemingly always been a soft spot that TEs, FBs, slot WRs have enjoyed. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis owned the middle of the field. Fear not, though, Packers fans. Casey Hayward is one of, if not the premier nickel corner in football and Morgan Burnett was direly missed. If the Packers can continue to get excellent play from the run D and the perimeter corners, they just might be Hayward and Burnett away from a top 10 NFL defense again.
2. Josh Sitton- Good Lord. The Packers premier offensive lineman did not have a promising opening season game. I understand that he was lined up against Justin Smith, but 3 penalties and a lack of a push in the running game is not acceptable. If you haven’t been able to tell, I am optimistic about this season’s team, I am legitimately concerned that Josh Sitton is not comfortable playing left guard. People might think that guards are completley interchangeable, but it’s just not the case. I’m going to hope that he and EDS, and that he and Bakhtiari can develop chemistry, and that he can get comfortable playing left guard or it’s going to be time to switch he and TJ Lang back to their original spots.
3. The officiating- I do not like blaming losses on the referees. I am not going to blame this game on the referees either, but they did not perform well. In fact, the NFL “downgraded” Bill Leavy and his crew after this performance. The 49ers were afforded an extra down inside the 10 yard line. The crew had a hard time controlling two teams that clearly had a distaste for one another. They also missed an absolutely blatant push off by Anquan Boldin on his final reception to which Tramon Williams took issue. The 49ers were the better team, and right now would win against the Packers more times than they lose, but playing on an even playing field in a road game against an NFC West team would sure be nice.
Bottom Line: Any time our favorite team loses a game there are going to be concerns. In Coach McCarthy’s Monday press conference he used the phrase “clean things up” over and over again. I think that’s exactly what this squad needs. Some work on the little things that they didn’t do right, like holding on to the football, catching the football, and making solid tackles will go a long way to making this team one of the league’s elite. When Hayward and Burnett come back I really think this defense is ready to take another step forward, and it certainly doesn’t look like the offense is showing any signs of slowing down, having put nearly 400 yards and 4 TDs on the league’s premier defense.