Packers' defense struggles again against 49ers 

September 10, 2013

 
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after he was unable to convert on a third down against the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

GREEN BAY 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.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) is stopped near the end zone by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) after he intercepted a pass during an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The play was called an interception but returned to the spot where he made the catch after a long run.

"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 a 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."

San Francisco 49ers' Kendall Hunter (32) picks up 23-yards on a run in the fourth quarter before being brought down by Green Bay Packers' Sam Shields of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.


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.

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.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs out of bounds as Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews dives for him during the second quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.


Because of short returns, poor blocking or penalties, the Packers started those three drives at their 4 yard line, their 22 and their 9.

"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."


49ers' Harbaugh takes aim at Packers' Matthews

SANTA CLARA, Calif. Jim Harbaugh offered a parting shot at Packers linebacker Clay Matthews: Slapping is not the tough-guy way.

Harbaugh said Monday that Matthews threw one punch and slapped 49ers left tackle Joe Staley when they tussled following Matthews' late hit on quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second quarter of San Francisco's 34-28 season-opening win against Green Bay on Sunday.

"If you're going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap," Harbaugh said. "I think if that young man works very hard on being a tough guy, he'll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap."

Matthews promised leading up to the game that Green Bay would target Kaepernick after he ran for a quarterback-record 181 yards to beat the Packers in the playoffs eight months ago, and Matthews did just that. On the play, he threw his right arm around the lower part of Kaepernick's neck.

"Like I said last week, usually a man will tell you his bad intentions if you just listen. That certainly was a cheap shot, launching, clotheslining to the neck-head area," Harbaugh said. "Bad play."

While Matthews was flagged for a late hit, Staley received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Harbaugh didn't think was right.

Staley immediately came to Kaepernick's defense on the play. The penalties were offset and the 49ers scored on the next play, which officials later said should have been fourth down rather than a repeated third down.

The NFL said Monday that a review showed Staley should not have been penalized.

"After reviewing the play, Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino determined that Joe Staley should not have been penalized," spokesman Randall Liu said in an email. "It should have been first-and-goal for the 49ers from the Green Bay 3-yard line."

"That's what I saw," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh praised referee Bill Leavy and his crew, and said San Francisco would have gone for it on fourth down anyway.

"First of all, it never should have been offsetting penalties, in my opinion," Harbaugh said. "All in all, there's a lot of things going on in that stretch. The other one was the entire Packers bench cleared, practice squad players, coaches. Members of the Green Bay Packers are all out of their bench area down along the goal line. There was no repercussion for that as well."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in Green Bay, Wis., that he's not looking to get into a back and forth with Harbaugh.

"Clay Matthews is not a dirty player, by no means," McCarthy said. "So I addressed Harbaugh's comments in the team meeting, and as always, we'll stay above it."

While Staley said after the game he needs to control his emotions, he insists he will defend his quarterback in a case like that.

Harbaugh said it's rather simple when coaching a situation like that.

"When guys are going at each other after the whistle, and looking to push and shove people, just lock up, protect yourself," he said. "Not going to back down from it, we're not going to get pushed all around after the whistle when it's not being called, when the first offense is not being called.

"You have to have a plan. For us, it's not to go pushing and throwing punches, it's to lock up and protect yourself. And Joe did that about as well as you could do it. If you call somebody for that then you're going to have 30 flags, 30 times. That's happening all the time in our league after the whistle."

Also Sunday, Harbaugh had to change his game-day attire at halftime from Reebok to Nike. He said he could be subject to a fine.

"That was a mistake, grabbed the wrong one," Harbaugh said. "It was an honest mistake, there was no malice intended. It won't happen again."

 

Associated Press