ReFo: 49ers @ Packers, Wild Card Round

| January 6, 2014

2013-REFO-WC-SF@GBAfter the beating the Green Bay Packers’ defense has taken from the San Francisco 49ers in their last three meetings this was a step in the right direction, but not quite a big enough one to ensure their playoff survival. They had one opportunity to turn the game in their favor late on when Micah Hyde got his hands to an ill-advised and poorly executed throw by Colin Kaepernick but he just couldn’t bring the pass in above his head. Instead, the 49ers ground out the final five minutes of the game to kick a game-winner and continue their quest for Super Bowl redemption.

This was not a game which you could easily draw a narrative from like one team dominating the other or one team capitulating under the pressure of expectation as the Bengals and Andy Dalton did earlier in the day. Much like the other NFC wild card game, this was a good game of football — remarkably short on handling errors when you consider the frigid conditions — that was decided by fine margins with the road team coming out on top with a physical final drive.

As the Packers head into offseason mode ,the 49ers will turn their attention toward the Carolina Panthers seeking to avenge a home defeat suffered earlier in the season. Their defense looks in strong if not spectacular form while the ground game got the job done through physicality and persistence more than tremendous precision and execution. The important thing is that they advanced and will hope to execute in slightly less polar conditions next weekend.

San Francisco – Three Performances of Note

Gore and Kaepernick Get it Done on the Ground

This was by no means a classic performance from the San Francisco 49ers and their offensive line (much like the Eagles’ 24 hours earlier) as they did not hit the sort of form that we know them to be capable of. However, the men carrying the rock were still able to do a good enough job to pull the 49ers over the line to another playoff victory. Colin Kaepernick was at his best when scrambling. The option runs that devastated the Packers last year were held out of the arsenal this time around, collecting 85 yards on four scrambles to take advantage of the Packers in the open field.

At tailback, Frank Gore’s 66 yards on 20 carries may not look terribly impressive but his work rate and vision in maximizing every single carry led to some crucial conversions and ensured that Green Bay’s disruptions did not lead to big losses or a completely stagnant ground game. Helped most by Will Tukuafu who impressed with some punishing lead blocking (+2.0 run block) until the final play of the game, Gore ensured that the 49ers’ offense kept ticking and didn’t freeze over on the tundra.

Brooks Follows his Pattern

In our end of season NFC Stock Report we highlighted Ahmad Brooks’ late season decline which mirrored a similar decline in his last two seasons as a starter as well. Just like clockwork, Brooks has rebounded from that form to start the playoffs with a strong performance for the second year straight as a pass rusher. After going without a sack since the 49ers’ Week 12 visit to Washington, Brooks recorded two yesterday evening (including a forced fumble) and snagged another five hurries to record a season high with seven pressures. Last season Brooks notched eight pressures in the playoff victory over the Packers (1 Ht, 7 Hu) meaning that, though Don Barclay held Brooks in check back in Week 1, the 49ers’ edge rusher has convincingly got the upper hand in this matchup when it matters most. Brooks struggled to back up strong opening playoff performances in each of the last two seasons; can he buck that trend and press on against the Panthers next weekend?

McDonald Stout Up Front

Though he hasn’t re-discovered his 2011 form in the two years since, Ray McDonald has remained a stout presence in the San Francisco defense and turned in a strong game in Green Bay to open the playoffs yesterday. Snagging a sack (helping Aldon Smith finish the play on Aaron Rodgers) early on, McDonald would also log a pair of hurries against Evan Dietrich-Smith on bull rushes through the rest of the game and it was that strength that marked out his run defense as well.

Though he only notched one stop, McDonald consistently had the upper hand on T.J. Lang in the ground game, surrendering no movement or driving the Packers’ right guard into the point of attack to disrupt and re-direct Eddie Lacy. The 49ers’ other defenders weren’t always in the right spots to finish off the plays close to the line of scrimmage, but McDonald was a persistent nuisance and he’ll look to carry over this physical brand of play into the 49ers’ game with the Panthers next weekend.

Green Bay – Three Performances of Note

Tremendous Finish for Tramon

One of the Packers’ most consistent defenders this season has been Tramon Williams and he did as much as he could to help Green Bay advance this weekend. Targeted nine times he surrendered only two catches (one) for 19 yards, getting his hands to as many passes as the receivers he was covering did (one interception, two pass defenses). His interception early in the second quarter handed his offense possession which they converted into their first touchdown after a lengthy drive. Williams baited Kaepernick into the throw breaking off of the deep route by Anquan Boldin to jump on the corner route to Vernon Davis, taking advantage of a pass lofted rather than driven. Williams took away possession just as the 49ers were driving into scoring territory to establish what would have been a two-score lead. Instead, Williams set up the offense to take the lead after the 49ers had controlled the early going without getting the ball across the goal line to capitalize.

Bested on the Edge

The Packers have made strides on the offensive line this season and in particular at offensive tackle, but it is still a spot that they can be got at and both David Bakhtiari (-4.1) and Don Barclay (-4.7) had rough outings last night against the 49ers’ edge rush duo. On the left side, Bakhtiari let up four pressures including two sacks but struggled more in terms of discipline (one false start, one illegal use of the hands penalty) and run blocking with the pressure he surrendered tending to be slow developing. Up against the Smiths (Aldon and Justin), Bakhtiari failed to consistently get the upper hand and the number of carries that actually got to his outside (two) is lower than the number that were aimed there and re-directed elsewhere. On the other side, Barclay renewed his battle with Ahmad Brooks and came out second-best in both phases of the game, very rarely getting the better of the matchup on a given play.

Solid Showings

The defensive line has not been a strength for the Packers this season but up against a physical and relentless offensive line yesterday they put in one of their better displays as a group this season to slow the 49ers’ ground game. Notching his third-highest snap count (47) of the season, Ryan Pickett (+2.6 run defense) tied a season-high with three defensive stops and was able to outwork Jonathan Goodwin over the nose while still being effective against Anthony Davis when he lined up to the outside. Joining him in this solid display were Mike Daniels (+1.0 run defense) and Josh Boyd (+1.5 run defense) who only just topped Pickett’s snap count in combination. Daniels also chipped in with three stops which included a sack of Kaepernick as he tried to escape on another scramble early in the third quarter. One exception to this strong showing was B.J. Raji who was largely invisible for the first three quarters of the game only notching his first stop of the game on the 49ers’ final run as they setup their game-winning field goal.

Game Notes

- 17.9% of Ryan Pickett’s snaps this season have come in the two games against the 49ers, two of only four times he has topped 40 snaps in a game.

- Rookie outside linebacker Corey Lemonier notched 15 snaps in his playoff debut, his most since Week 8 when he played 49 snaps against the Jaguars at Wembley.

- Not suffering a repeat of his disappointing season opening display against the 49ers, Josh Sitton (+4.3) earned his 10th straight positive overall grade and finishes the season grading positively in pass protection in every single game.

PFF Game Ball

In a game short of standout performers Ahmad Brooks was the most consistent disruptive force and will look to repeat this form against the Panthers next weekend as the 49ers seek out a third straight NFC Championship game appearance.

 

  • Das Dweeb

    I’m very concerned with what looks like a playoffs-wide dictate for refs to keep their flags in their pockets. Both teams were guilty of some flagrant penalties, especially in pass defense – much more so GB than SF, as House looks like he holds on virtually every snap – and that was consistent with the lack of enforcement in, say, the Chiefs-Colts game. The “This is the playoffs, let them play” argument is foolish. If something is a foul during the regular season, it should still be one in the postseason. Why should the rules suddenly change in a single-elimination tournament? It makes no sense.

    I’d imagine the two teams happiest about this extreme laissez-faire attitude have to be the Seahawks and Colts, whose secondaries are the handsiest in the league. Without consistent illegal contact downfield, those two defenses would be in trouble. The NFL seems to be paving the way for them to meet in the Super Bowl by forcibly forgetting what the rules for legal pass defense are.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1441642492 JoeCB91

      The NFL would be better if the Illegal Contact rule was gone anyway

    • sickofwhining

      oh shut up and just let the DBs play.

      • johndurbinn

        Looks like we got a Seahawks fan here

      • Pedro

        You know that makes zero sense, right? If linemen false start should we “just let them play”? Not calling ticky-tack fouls is one thing but just suspending the rules on blatant, play-affecting PI (by either team) is clearly another. That’s at least as bad as when the refs give ‘pocket passer’ QBs the white-glove treatment.

    • maschmitt1

      The rule book on P.I. says “significant”, what GB and Seattle do to WR’s is “significant”. The GB O-line was holding Aldon Smith most of the day, with only one call that wasn;t needed. The play where Rodgers got away from a fifth sack to complete a key pass, was a horrific hold that went uncalled by the refs, but noticed by all the TV commentators.
      I believe the refs knew that if they didn;t make calls they would get out of the cold sooner, much to the benefit of GB.
      I hope the league does something to stop the assulat on WR from Seattle DB’s.

      • mutzki

        49er fan huh? Hey, your team won.

        There is so much holding going on all around the league and on every couple of snaps in the trenches you’ll detect a hold.

        What about that hands-to-the-face call? Horrible call. Refs are only people and they do a heck of a job. Anyone remember the replacement refs? People that spend so much time on yelling at the officials and going on and on about how the refs should do a better job have way too much time on their hands.

        • tcirish53@gmail.com

          OK, impartial (Steelers fan) comment. I agree totally with Mutzki that the allowance of holding and general favoritism to the offense has gone way too far. Of course, the league sees the game totally as a business and lotsa offense is (in their minds) what fans want. Holding could literally be called 2 out of every 3 plays in almost any game any Sunday. Ridiculous – they have completely bastardized the game with this (and numerous other) changes. I would be willing to bet there have been more rules changes in the last 10 to 15 years than in the entire history of the NFL up to that point.

      • mutzki

        The rules are so overly protective of offensive players it’s ridiculous. On that interception return by tramon williams where he lowered his head into Kaepernick everyone was complaining about the new rule of lowering your helmet, that, by my information, wasn’t called once this year.
        One time a DB does it and suddenly it needs to be called? It is ridiculous what passes as PI currently. One little grab of the jersey and everyone is calling for defensive holding. You see balls fly 5yards over the receivers head and because there was some sort of contact the laundry comes out. No questions asked. Ball uncatchable? Yes but they don’t care.
        Receivers already have a nice choreography going whenever they don’t catch a ball. Arms spread wide, palms up, shaking their heads in disbelief while sitting on their knees. It is ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as fans wanting every tiny bit of contact down the field or in the trenches that is possibly outside the rulebook called for their own team (which does it as well),

  • Arthur Jackson

    House got away with one for sure, but most were right at the edge of the rules by him as were many by the niners. Other than the illegal hands to face that should never have been called on Bakhtiari it was one of the better officiated games I’ve seen this year. I was just happy to see Triplette reffing the game in Cincy so I knew he wouldn’t be in GB.

  • Kevin

    Holding is one thing but when the CB’s are grabbing onto the WR’s hands it has to be called. I like how the only flag thrown on the secondary was maybe the weakest
    offense of all. Granted it was only called holding but if they’re going to throw that then others had to be called also.

  • Jason Williams

    I don’t have a problem with DB’s grabbing WR’s as long as the WR isn’t being hindered on movement. I think most of the time the DB’s grab the WR just as a safety measure to make sure they don’t disappear on them, sort of like how you see parents leash their kids at Disney ;)