Monday night’s victory against the Lions wasn’t quite what the doctor ordered, but the Packers showed signs of life. The offense looked much sharper and on defense, after a shaky start, closed the door on the Lions, pitching a shutout in the second half. The Packers hope to carry their momentum into the demon’s lair, Santa Clara. The 49ers and Santa Clara have been a house of horrors for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. They offer a stern test for both sides of the ball and if Green Bay wants to end their woes in California, these matchups will be key for them to win.
Eric Stokes vs Jimmy Garoppolo
In primetime, no young player’s light burned brighter than Eric Stokes against the Lions. Playing 44 quality snaps, he looked to be the anti-Kevin King. He was confident, aggressive, and sticky in coverage. Admittedly there was some growing pains, highlighted by the mix up in communication on the Lions opening touchdown, but otherwise was solid first outing. He played well enough that the Packers must keep him on the field. Sunday night, the 49ers offense will show a lot of confusing looks, so Stokes will need to trust himself and stay focused. Jimmy Garoppolo will test the rookie early and often to see if Stokes is up to the challenge. If he can, then that’s a huge win for a Packers defense trying to find it’s identity.
Davante Adams vs 49ers corners
Adams burst into the 2021 season on Monday, punctuated by his 50-yard catch in the second half. His presence and energy were sorely needed and will need to continue against a secondary that is missing its best corner. Jason Verrett was placed on injured reserve last week and even before he went down, the 49ers have been getting gashed through the air. This matchup must have both Adams and Aaron Rodgers salivating. Particularly Adam’s ability to get open early will be critical to help tame the 49ers ferocious pass rush. In a game where the Packers offense will need to put up points early and often, their biggest star in Adams will need to provide the spark that makes the offense burn.
Packers Defensive Line vs themselves
Unfortunately, the Packers defensive line are still trying to find themselves. Whether they are working themselves into regular season shape or if they have continued to regress is irrelevant. Three of the worst performing Packers defense all are in the same position group. Too often the combination of Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Kingsley Keke are ending up on the ground or pushed back into the second level of the defense. Their lack of ability to hold their gaps or even stay upright is allowing Packers opponents plenty of time to pass and gargantuan run lanes. A scary proposition with the 49ers on deck. Look no further than the 2019 NFC championship game for a preview of what they will try to do on Sunday night. If the Packers want to come out of California with a win, one of the biggest improvements that will need to happen is stability on the defensive line. Kenny Clark cannot do it all and needs his teammates on the defensive line to start contributing.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.