Sunday, December 5, 2010

Packers' Grades vs. the 49ers

If you only looked at the Packers in the first quarter, you might not have expected the convincing 34-16 final score.  It wasn’t a dominating performance as much as a series of big plays that gradually demoralized the 49ers as the game went on.  As has been the case this year, the Packers had to fall behind 6-0 before they got their brown helmets on straight.  Green Bay had another game without a turnover, and more importantly, Aaron Rodgers was not the leading rusher for the team: with 73 yards, it is clear the James Starks era has begun.

Starks, who hadn’t played in a game since the Bush administration, came off the PUP list and carried the ball 18 times, the most carries by a Packer running back since Week 1. The offensive line seemed to respond to the change, as the Packers utilized more backfield blockers to help Starks out and generate positive yardage.  With a 4.1 yards-per-carry average on the day, it looks like the bulk of carries will be going to Starks.  Brandon Jackson returned to his usual role as a productive third-down target out of the backfield (4 rec./63 yards), while John Kuhn excelled as short-yardage back: five of his six rushes were either first downs or a touchdown.

With Frank Gore out for the season, the stout Packers’ defense limited 49ers’ running backs Brian Westbook and Anthony Dixon to 64 yards on 18 carries, bottling up the inside runs and forcing them outside to find any yardage.  It was inspiring seeing BJ Raji firing up the crowd.  You can tell their confidence is building. As teams are focusing more on Clay Matthews as a pass rusher, he is falling back into coverage and run support, leading the team in tackles today.

It was another sparkling stat line for Aaron Rodgers.  Jumpstarting the sluggish start was the use of the spread no-huddle offense, which seemed to take the 49er defense completely out of rhythm.  False-start penalties led to a beautiful 57-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. All those who were penciling Brett Swain in for Donald Driver after last week only need see Driver’s amazing 61-yard touchdown, in which he broke no less than four tackles on the way to the end zone.  Pass protection was inconsistent again, as Rodgers took four sacks.

With Matthews falling back into coverage, other players got into the pass rushing mix, with three of four sacks coming from the defensive line.  Frank Zombo continues to impress, getting another sack and putting pressure in the backfield.  The tackling still had some issues, and TE Vernon Davis seemed to make enough big plays to keep the 49ers close in the first half.  In the end, young QB Troy Smith couldn’t handle the pressure and completed only ten passes on the day on 25 attempts.

It was another forgettable day for the Packers’ special teams, with kicker Mason Crosby thumping a chip-shot 29-yard field goal attempt off the left upright (but did go on to make two other attempts).  The Packers appeared afraid of kick returner Ted Ginn, Jr., and pooched kickoffs away from him, giving the 49ers good field position all day. After last week, you wonder if the Packers doubt their return teams’ ability.  Tim Masthay’s punts looked weak all day, and Ginn made him pay with some good returns.


Mark said...

I think you meant John Kuhn, not James.

C.D. Angeli said...