The Green Bay Packers improved to 4-0 as the defense held the San Francisco 49ers to just 196 yards in a 17-3 victory on the road.
The Packers’ calling card has been its offensive prowess over the last four seasons, but it was largely the defensive effort that allowed Green Bay to remain undefeated in 2015. After being burned by Colin Kaepernick’s arm and legs in the two teams’ last three meetings, the Packers gave up just 160 passing yards and 57 rushing yards to the San Francisco quarterback.
Green Bay sacked Kaepernick six times, including two by linebacker Nick Perry, and a Sam Shields interception in the fourth quarter accounted for the only turnover by either team in the game.
The Packers’ offense started out strong before being rendered ineffective in the first half. Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay on a 12-play, 80 yard drive on the Packers’ first possession, capped off by a touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers.
But after jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead, Green Bay’s next three drives ended in punts. The 49ers kicked a field goal on their final possession of the first half to cut the deficit to four. Mason Crosby missed his first field goal of the season as time expired in the first half to keep the score at 7-3.
Once again, the Packers’ offense came out of the tunnel roaring to begin the second half. After a San Francisco punt on the opening drive of the third quarter, Green Bay marched 61 yards in nine plays for another touchdown. John Kuhn found the end zone for the first time in 2015 on a one-yard run after a 17-yard scramble by Rodgers on the previous play. A field goal by Crosby on Green Bay’s next drive concluded the scoring for the game.
While the Packers’ offense was not as explosive as it was a week ago against Kansas City, it was not necessarily ineffective. The Packers put up 362 yards on offense, had just three three-and-outs on their ten drives, and seven of their drives took at least four minutes off the clock. In a game where the Green Bay defense prevented San Francisco from getting anything going, milking the clock became a major priority.
The Packers outplayed the 49ers in nearly every aspect of the game. Green Bay ran 18 more plays, picked up ten more first downs, and held a 36:34-23:26 advantage in time of possession. The Packers also won the turnover for the fourth straight game, and the efficiency of the Green Bay offense continues to be a major advantage even when they aren’t putting up tons of points.
Green Bay was solid in pass protection for most of the game, but gave up a couple sacks late in the game. The biggest issue remains Don Barclay, playing in place of injured starter Bryan Bulaga, who gave up two of the 49ers’ three sacks in the game.
The running game continued to excel, which helped Green Bay establish such a heavy advantage in time of possession and run the clock in the second half. Eddie Lacy rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries, Rodgers scrambled for 33 yards of his own, and James Starks ran for 28.
James Jones continued his strong start to the season with a team-high 98 receiving yards. Randall Cobb, coming off a three touchdown performance against the Chiefs, had five receptions for 44 yards.
It is promising to see that the Packers’ defense is capable of holding its own this season. The 17 points are the fewest Green Bay has scored since Week 15 of last season, and the fewest in a winning effort since a 10-3 victory over the Bears in the 2010 season.
The season is still young, but the Packers have to be feeling good about where they stand. With a quarter of the season already in the books, Green Bay holds a two game lead in the NFC North, while both scoring the most points and giving up the fewest points in the division. The Packers return to Lambeau Field in Week 5 for a matchup with the St. Louis Rams.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .