Game Thoughts Packers/49ers

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  • Brutal loss.
  • While it was certainly cold at the game, it wasn’t THAT cold unless the wind whipped up. When it did, it seemed like it was colder than -9 or whatever they said. I do think the weather affected throwing and especially punting.
  • Guys put in quality effort.
  • Defense played decently though not flawlessly.
  • There were a few huge plays in this game…
  • The clock mismanagement at the end of the first half. Rodgers was too casual and the spent timeout was costly. We score a TD there and the momentum in the game shifts big time.
  • The Capers call in the third quarter to bring Burnett to the line leaving the entire side of the field wide open for Kaepernick’s hugely painful gain. Part of the problem there was that Burnett fouled it up – applied zero pressure. But it was such a poor defensive play call that it took Kaepernick about 1 second to see we’d conceded the entire right side of our defense. I wondered for a moment if it was another miscommunication on defense because absolutely nobody was over there after Burnett got himself blocked. But ultimately I think it was just a really bad defensive play call.
  • Kaepernick’s 3rd down run late in the game was also devastating. We brought Bush up to rush again but I wondered if he was supposed to help contain on the outside. Then he got blocked and Mulumba was just too late.
  • There was a fantastic play call by San Fran on that last drive (I believe on 2nd or 3rd down) at about the 50. They had two RBs in the backfield and both went out for passes. We only had one linebacker available to cover and they threw it to the open one, Gore, for a key first down. That was a fantastic play and the perfect time to use it.
  • I couldn’t figure out why early on McCarthy didn’t have Rodgers rollout or throw screens or try play action – anything to counter their constant upfield pass rush and to draw their LBs forward. We just kept calling plays to their strengths and that was a problem.
  • Rodgers struggles with defenses that drop 2 deep. That’s just what Lovies’ Bears used to do. The 49ers safeties have the easiest jobs in football. Their d line puts great pressure on the QB and their LBs are amazing. But it just seems like Rodgers really doesn’t feel comfortable with that defensive set-up – like it’s just a much tougher nut to crack. This off-season, I hope Rodgers and McCarthy sit down and try to figure out a way to crack that defense. There are counter plays that can be run to make those defenders in that D feel less comfortable – those guys yesterday seemed to be so comfortable out there.
  • Randall Cobb has an amazing football sense out there on the field that most players just don’t have. And you can’t teach it. He just knows that when the play is busted, Rodgers is at his best – so he works super hard to get himself open. He’s done it on 3 plays in the last 2 games and made critical receptions each time (including the game winner in Chicago). He is an amazing talent. (Jordy also has this ability…)
  • Rodgers’ escape play on that sure-sack was one of the great all-time plays. I think there was some offensive holding going on but still, that was an amazing play – again made possible by Cobb’s ability to sense Rodgers is on the run and needing somewhere to throw the ball. Just an unbelievable play.
  • I thought the spot given to the 49ers late in the game that gave them a key first down (at a critical time), was wrong. It looking like Gore was at least 1/2 a yard short.
  • At the end of the game I was calling for the Packers to let the 49ers just score a TD. While that may have seemed like a crazy idea, especially when I called for it with about 1 minute remaining or so – here is what I was thinking. The 49ers were driving effectively (and finding ways to convert on 3rd down) and our defense was proving they were not up to the task. Once the FG would have been within 40 yards (which it was at 1 minute), and we had to spend our 2nd timeout, I got to thinking that they’d probably get a few more yards, eat up the clock and leave a chip shot with hardly any time remaining for a many-year NFL veteran kicker. Phil Dawson will make a 33 yard FG 98% of the time (that’s actually probably supported by stats). So, why not just let them score a TD with 1 minute left? That would give Rodgers 1 minute and 1 timeout to drive down the field. While that may seem improbable, statistically speaking (think New England vs New Orleans earlier this year – Brady did it, and I think Matt Ryan did it last year), there is probably a better chance of Rodgers succeeding in that scenario than there would be of Phil Dawson missing a chip shot.
  • Going into this game I thought the Pack would win. I really did. But one factor I continue to underestimate, because I hate him, is coach Jim Harbaugh. He is a jerk and a tool and all of that but he is also a very, very good coach. He just gets it done. The 49ers had some fantastic play calls at key moments in that game that helped them pull out a victory. (That may have been more his OC than Harbaugh but still.) They completed 50% of their third downs (compared to the Packers 27%) and players made plays (especially Crabtree) at key times. (Though sorry Harbaugh, Michael Crabtree is not the NFL’s “greatest pass catcher”.)
  • Kaepernick struggled this season at times so to watch that kind of effort last night was a bit surprising. He was really good. It’s like he knows when he plays the Packers (primarily because we have no second level of defense, nor third level…and at times no first level!), he can just take off an run at will. Frustrating to watch for sure but the guy is fast and the guy has developed a pretty good sense for when he taking off is the best option.
  • While the Packers defense played a tough game (not flawless but tough), the Packers offense was not so good. McCarthy and Rodgers both engineered an absolutely worthless first quarter. They couldn’t get anything going and I think that slow start ended up emboldening the 49ers – helping them realize right away the game was there for the taking (and that our offense, for some reason, seemed to be intimidated by their defense). Rodgers only threw for 177 yards and 7 of his 17 completions were to Jordy – while no other WR had any more than 2 receptions. That is a very unRodgers-like performance again I believe, because of the 2 deep safety defense the 49ers play. Rodgers loves it when teams blitz etc but San Fran almost never blitzes because they don’t need to. Just like the Bears of old.
  • It was very difficult for me to watch the 49ers D line-up with 3 Pro Bowl LBs, yes 3 PRO BOWL LBS – and to then see the Packers D line-up with 4 highly questionable LBs, only one of whom would have a shot at starting for another team (Hawk…though he wouldn’t see the field on the 49ers defense). If Willis, Bowman and Brooks played for the Packers we’d win the Super Bowl…easily.  I know I’ve harped on this a lot this year, but there is a serious lack of talent on this defense and TT has to do something to fix it. I don’t care if it’s through free agency, the draft and/or a trade or two even – he has to recognize this is a serious problem and address it head on. (Actually I would prefer at this a free agent or a trade – read below for more on that.) As I’ve noted previously, our defense right now consumes about the same amount of cap space as our offense – for roughly the same number of overall players. Stop and think about that for a moment. Realize then just how much more value per player our offense is yielding compared to our defense. The Packer offense (yesterday excepted), is a top flight offense – #3 overall in terms of average yards per game. A really really good overall offense (with Rodgers of course). The defense is bad – ranked #25 overall in yards allowed per game. While I have real questions about the scheme we’ve been using and the in-game defensive play calling with Capers especially this year, I think that’s only part of the problem. There is a serious lack of talent out there – and so many young guys it makes Capers job that much tougher. But the concern I have is that TT sticks to his “draft the best available guy” when we’re in a situation where that is just not a good idea. As Brother Steve said yesterday, that draft philosophy is a good one if a GM is willing to acquire players in another way too (free agency, trades etc) but if not, it can be very limiting and as my dad noted – it can lead to a team with a lack of overall balance of talent.  And right now, because of that draft philosophy, it’s not surprising for example that the Packers have 4 really good WRs and no good LBs or safeties (or D-Linemen really). TT needs to fill these holes before next year – or at least set us on a better path defensively. The Bears with Phil Emery aren’t afraid to just go after guys to fill positions of need – through free agency, the draft, whatever. I hate to say it but I have serious fears about the Bears with Phil Emory and Marc Trestman because I think they are on the right path. And believe me – Phil Emery will address that iffy defense in the offseason. If the Packers don’t address need areas I think the Bears could dominate the NFC North (yes, even with Cutler) for the next few years.
  • But one of the biggest problems I see is a lack of leadership on defense. I know that everyone says Hawk is the leader and calls out the plays etc – but I just don’t buy that. He may actually call out the plays but I just don’t think he leads effectively. I think since Woodson’s departure, there has been a real leadership void (though even when Woodson was here, there was still a veteran leadership void to some extent – that in fact has characterized TT’s time at the helm). While Woodson may not have called the plays he conveyed a strong sense of command for the game and I think other players respected him for that. He took guys under his wing (talk to Tramon) and helped develop them – and teach them about being a professional. Well, when so many guys on the defense are young and inexperienced (and not very good), the lack of a respected veteran leadership presence starts to become more evident. The Packers need to consider making a splash for a veteran free agent who can play and come in and command immediate respect. Read stories about how LB Jon Beason being traded to the NY Giants really helped bring on a resurgence in the Giants’ otherwise iffy D. We need someone like that and we can’t be afraid to go out and get that someone. We are not presently developing anyone worthwhile – especially at LB (Perry is just plain bad, Brad Jones should never have been re-signed – terrible idea, Mulumba is just too raw for now and Lattimore while talented seems bogged down by scheme/instinct confusion).
  • TT and McCarthy need to really think hard this offseason about modifying their approach because the cold, hard truth is that the Packers have been one and done in the playoffs 5 of the 6 times they’ve made it. Yes we won the Super Bowl in 2010 and that was fantastic. But TT/MM’s Super Bowl immunity is wearing off and the fact is their teams historically have demonstrated an undeniable 83% chance of melting down in their first playoff game. Not good.
  • I want to thank all of you readers for all of your comments, your thoughts and your fantastic insights again this year. Just so you know, I read every single comment and the comments certainly affect how I think about the team. So often you mention things in your comments that I haven’t considered. I love that. There is no question in my mind that Packer fans are the best, most knowledgeable fans in the game and doing this blog and interacting with all of you really supports this opinion. Thanks again and have a great off-season. And don’t be afraid to start with suggestions about how to improve this team – as I know I’ll be letting fly with an avalanche of both legit thoughts and outlandish thoughts after I take some time to recover from the devastating loss!
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16 Responses to “Game Thoughts Packers/49ers”

  1. 56coop Says:

    I think you have hit the nail on the head re: Chicago.

  2. Trav Says:

    I heard, but can’t find it, that Bush said he was supposed to blitz but that keeping the edge wasn’t part of his responsibility. Getting to the QB was but you can’t help think that if he is even 2 feet to his right and able to keep the edge, does that stop Kapernick from taking off? Ugh, just so many “what if’s” from this game…..why rush Cobb on 1st and Goal from the 9…if Hyde comes up with that pick, if Lacy could have broken just one of those runs when he got to the second level….

    Will be interesting to see what they do with all these unrestricted free agents (Shields, Jolly, Pickett, Raji, etc.). The only thing that stings more than this loss is having to go back to work after being able to step away for the holiday. Was hoping to be able to listen and read about our upcoming game in Carolina to dull the pain of the office.

    Great job again this year Andy! High quality analysis and a great place for people to share ideas without it being reduced to name calling and the other insanity that you see on other sites.

    • awhayes Says:

      Thanks Trav – as always great thoughts on stuff yourself. Interesting comment by Bush – I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s right on that as Burnett did the exact same thing…just tried to rush without any regard for contain. Ugh. I too was really hoping to have more weeks of the hype and excitement of Packer playoffs but we just fell short. Brutal. Did you end up going to the game?

  3. Rex Says:

    The Packers haven’t been “one and done” in 5 of the 6 years McCarthy has made the playoffs. (Unless I’m reading that comment wrong) 2007: beat Seattle, lost to NYG, 2009: lost to AZ, 2010: Super Bowl champs, 2011: lost to NYG, 2012: beat MN, lost to SF, 2013: lost to SF. That’s only 3 of 6 years being “one and done”. But I agree with your other points. TT needs to use the other, non-draft, ways to get players. Especially on D. It’s like he hit the jackpot when he signed Woodson, and felt like he would never pull the arm on that one-armed bandit ever again. He does seem to be too enamored with finding the proverbial “diamond in the rough”. We need a few playmakers on D. You don’t win championships with guys whose main claim to fame is simply executing their assignment properly. We need playmakers. Game-changers. Aaron Rodgers will not be getting younger. The window only remains open for so long.

    • awhayes Says:

      Rex – nice comment. I think TT is obsessed with diamond in the rough possibilities to the point where it may blind him to more conventional/quality guys. And I agree I think there is needs to be a sense of urgency about this as we won’t have forever with Rodgers. And you’re right, I forgot 2 things in the one and done comment – we did beat MN and in 2012 (I went back just 6 years) we didn’t make the playoffs because we were 6-10. So really in the last 5 years (starting then in 2009), we have been one and done 3 of those years now.

      • Trav Says:

        AWH – I passed up tickets on 3 separate occasions. Was hoping for the Saturday night game for a group of us to go, but wasn’t meant to be.

        Saw your brother Tweeting from the game so I was even more bummed as it would have been good to share a frozen one with you two on the concourse. Sunday was too tough of a fit based on my son having bball games at 3 and 5, then my daughter with a futsal game at 7. Neither league allowed any rescheduling so I got to enjoy the call of Wayne and Larry for part of the 4th quarter, then watch the last 7 minutes with the other futsal parents on a TV by concessions. Shared misery at the end but at least I didn’t have to dwell on it as I got to watch some high quality U15 girls futsal right after. :)

      • awhayes Says:

        Tough to work in stuff like this with kids involved in sports – though it’s interesting that the leagues wouldn’t reschedule as I’m guessing many parents felt the same way. At least you got to see the end though…

  4. docsteve Says:

    Andy,
    I have enjoyed reading your post game thoughts. What I really enjoy is the polite, insightful comments of those that post here. Many folks, with the same goal in mind, seem to be able to discuss various scenarios in an intelligent way without attacking one another when there is a disagreement. Just like being with my friends after the game, having a beer and lamenting the outcome. Seems the web could learn a little bit. Looking forward to next year. Thanks for your work.

    • awhayes Says:

      Thanks docsteve – I appreciate it. I particularly like your “like being with friends after the game having a beer” comment as that captures the spirit of what we wanted this blog to be about. (The blog started out years ago as 5 friends talking/emailing during and after games – while drinking beer!) Take care and always feel free to chime in with any ideas – especially this off-season as we’ll need them!

  5. Frank G Says:

    Good analysis. Poor clock management cost us a chance for a TD before the break. Bizarre play call to run Cobb on 1st and goal, too.

    Matthews’ absence yesterday was sorely felt…we had no LB capable of chasing Kaepernick.

    As you’ve written, TT needs to (and I believe will) sign a vet or 2 to bolster the defense. He hit the jackpot with Woodson and hopefully he’ll roll a 7 again.

    Losing is distasteful, but, as opposed to KC’s loss or GB’s previous 2 exits from the playoffs, this was a good loss. The banged-up Packers proved to themselves that they are not soft. They bludgeoned the 49ers on the ground and held Gore in check for most of the game. With some help on defense and, more importantly, some good health, the Packers will be in contention next year. The very talented Lions scare me more than the Jay Cutler-led Bears.

    We don’t really know the people we see on TV. OJ Simpson, after all, seemed to be an affable, easy-going chap. I’m not sure if you’ve read SI’s story on Jim Harbaugh from a few weeks ago, but “jerk and tool” are unfair words to use to describe a man who spends part of his offseason helping the neglected and desperately poor. Prior to reading this article, I would have taken issue with you for leaving out the adjective “big” before “jerk and tool!” The guy just wants to win. Besides, anyone who gets under Pete Carroll’s skin ain’t such a bad guy!

    I enjoy reading your interesting analyses of the games. Belated Happy New Year to you.

    • awhayes Says:

      Thanks Frank G. And thank you for all of your comments – loved the Garrett calling plays for the Steelers on plane ride back to Dallas comment of a few weeks ago. Still cracks me up.

      Great point about matthews – I agree I think he was missed in this last game quite a bit. He probably would have made a difference w/re to contain on the right side and he definitely would have increased the pressure on Kaepernick – which was definitely a factor I didn’t mention. He had all day back there on a number of those throws.

      I would worry a bit more about the Lions if they hire a good coach – like Whisenhunt. I think he would help Stafford reach his potential.

      Didn’t realize that Harbaugh did that kind of stuff. I should read that article – as that may alter my perception of him (and I guess I’m not too surprised he does some nice things like that as his family has Wisconsin connections – I believe his parents live in Mequon?). Though I have to say, I’m not sure I could come around fully on the guy – at least on his public persona. Just not a fan of how he acts and the things he says.

  6. Dave K Says:

    I can’t bear to discuss the game or the Packer roster/coaches at this point. I would like to take a moment though to thank you Andy for running a great blog. Packergeeks is a frequent stop of mine to read about the Packers and the only place I care to contribute in the comments section. Great little community of passionate and respectful Packer fans we have here. Bravo!

  7. JPE Says:

    Like was mentioned, I don’t think cold was as much of a factor as anticipated.

    I think the past 3 seasons we’ve concluded by saying: “…but we’ll be in contention next year.” Something’s gotta give in the off season…Lacy was a fantastic pick-up this year, Hyde has had a great year and shows real promise, but our D needs some heightened consideration in the draft this year, and we definitely need some veteran presence–on and off the field. Hawk has tried to fill that void but doesn’t seem to quite have it.

    Our sputtering out the past few seasons has occurred simultaneously with some teams of truly-awful past seasons experiencing fantastic resurgences: the Chiefs; the Colts; the Seahawks; the Bengals; the Niners…do we have to have an utterly horrible season to prompt the ‘powers that be’ to consider alternative strategies?

  8. Trav Says:

    AWH – I passed up tickets on 3 separate occasions. Was hoping for the Saturday night game for a group of us to go, but wasn’t meant to be.

    Saw your brother Tweeting from the game so I was even more bummed as it would have been good to share a frozen one with you two on the concourse. Sunday was too tough of a fit based on my son having bball games at 3 and 5, then my daughter with a futsal game at 7. Neither league allowed any rescheduling so I got to enjoy the call of Wayne and Larry for part of the 4th quarter, then watch the last 7 minutes with the other futsal parents on a TV by concessions. Shared misery at the end but at least I didn’t have to dwell on it as I got to watch some high quality U15 girls futsal right after. :)

  9. Passably Affable Says:

    I’d just like to let you know how much I enjoy reading this site. I don’t have any insights to pass along, just that I hope you keep it up for as long as possible.

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