Packers defense struggles again against 49ers
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A day later, the Green Bay Packers were trying to figure out how they could have shut down the San Francisco 49ers’ read-option and still allowed 494 yards of total offense in their 34-28 loss.
While it wasn’t the 579 yards they allowed in their playoff loss to the 49ers, it was still a troublesome number because of the way the 49ers did it: By quarterback Colin Kaepernick hurting them through the air.
After rushing for an NFL quarterback record 181 yards and throwing for 263 in the playoff game, Kaepernick had just 22 yards rushing on seven attempts, but completed 27 of 39 passes for a career-best 412 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Obviously there was so much focus on Kaepernick running with the ball and the read-option, and those type of things,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday.
“I thought our guys did an excellent job on that yesterday and in terms of the quarterback scrambles. Now, he didn’t gain significant yardage running with the ball, which we know he’s capable of doing.
“When you’re playing a quarterback that has those kinds of talents and can move around and has a strong arm, you’ve got to be able to do both. We played one phase well, we didn’t play the other phase well enough.”
Veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin was on the receiving end of most of Kaepernick’s completions, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Capers even put two defenders on Boldin and he still made plays, including on his 10-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. He had a 22-yard catch on third down on the 49ers’ touchdown drive to start the third quarter and a 43-yard catch-and-run to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“When you’re playing a team like San Francisco, which is obviously a talented team, it comes down to your execution has to match their execution,” Capers said.
“I thought our guys fought hard, but at critical times in the game — and most of these games come down to that, the third down situations — we just didn’t execute well enough.
“We just have to go to work and make sure if we’re committing (multiple) people on a guy that he doesn’t catch the football. The toughest series was the series after we went up and they hit the back to back big plays. That’s when you want to be at your best, and we weren’t at that time.”
After the Packers took a 28-24 lead with 8:26 left in the game, the defense let the 49ers drive 80 yards in five plays to retake the lead at 31-28.
In addition to Boldin’s 43-yard catch on that drive, running back Kendall Hunter got loose for a 23-yard run, the 49ers’ longest gain on the ground during the game.
Including Kaepernick’s rushes, San Francisco finished with 34 attempts for 90 yards, a 2.6-yard average.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t have things up and ready,” Capers said. “We just didn’t execute with the kind of efficiency you need.”
The defense wasn’t alone though.
Kick returner Jeremy Ross, who fumbled a punt at his 9-yard line that led to a momentum-shifting 49ers touchdown in the playoff game, returned three of seven kickoffs.
Because of short returns, poor blocking or penalties, the Packers started those three drives at their 4-yard line, their 22 and their 9-yard line.
“It wasn’t a great day for us in the kickoff return phase. Decision-making was part of it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought our kickoff return blocking unit did not do a very good job. We will do a better job of that this week.”
And while the Packers’ no-huddle offense scored four touchdowns, the group also had five three-and-out series and turned the ball over twice, leading to a 17-minute deficit in time of possession.
“It was kind of feast or famine,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “We had five three-and-outs and two turnovers and then we had four touchdown drives.
“They’re an outstanding defense. Ideally you’d like to move the ball every time you have it. That’s a little unrealistic, but you definitely want to minimize the number of three-and-outs you have.”