You know a part me feels this is a waste to have this game as the first one of the year. This could be one of the better games of the season for the Packers, and probably one of the tougher ones. It could of been one of those games that was circled on the calendar for months, and one with few questions surrounding it. Alas, we get it week one and then it's in the rear view mirror probably till playoff time.
There is an old saying in the NFL, "Defense wins championships." People are going to try and tell you that over and over. This is a lie, don't believe it. A good defense opens the door to a championship but isn't really necessary. Similarly you are going to hear that you have to run the football especially late in the game and when the weather gets cold. This is another lie. The reality of the NFL is that it's a quarterback driven league. You have to have at least a franchise level QB, if not an elite QB. You have to have adequate to great weapons for that QB to get the ball to on a consistent basis. You have to be able to rush the passer. You have to be able to disrupt the opposing teams receivers and/or get interceptions. If a team can perform three out of four of these things you will win consistently. If a team can do all four they will dominate. Anyone trying to tell you different is trying to fool you or convince himself that his team has a chance when that team is missing some key ingredients listed above.
This week is a great match up with what is expected to be a great offense going against what is expected to be a great defense. When this happens and there appears to be an even match up I just go back to these four basic ways to win in the NFL and see how each team can stack up in this area.
The Green Bay Packers has the league's best QB. They have the best receiving corp, and probably the best collection of skill players in the league. They have at least one premeire pass rusher and a promising rookie pass rusher on the other side. They have a deep and talented secondary (more on that in a bit).
San Francisco 49ers have an adequate QB, although we can debate if he really is a franchise QB. They upgraded their receiving talent, but there is still some question as to how good the receivers actually can be this season. They can certainly rush the passer with the best of them. They have a first class secondary.
What does all this mean? Well let's take a look at some specific keys after the jump.
Key To Victory #1 - Control The Tempo Of The Game On Offense
The Packers offense is unique. It's a pass first offense that can eat the clock and establish long drives just as easily as it can just throw the deep ball for a quick strike. The Packers can play fast in the no huddle and play slow with multiple substitutions, alignments, and styles. This is often used to create mismatches, but it can also be used to just run down and tire a defense. Throw in the fact that Aaron Rodgers is now at a level in the offense where he can call plays as well as some of the coaching staff (as evidenced in week 16 last season) and it's very possible the Packers offense dictates the flow and tempo of the game.....no matter how well the Niners run the ball. In order to succeed against such a talented defense this will need to happen.
Key To Victory #2 - The Defense Must Get Penetration
The 49er offensive line is a funny thing. They can run block and stone guys with the best of them. They are physical and nasty. Yet, the Ravens ate that line alive on Thanksgiving last year. They are susceptible to an aggressive pass rush, and when that happens the offense crumbles. The Packers spent a lot of resources in the offseason upgrading the pass rush by bringing in guys like Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Phillip Merling, Mike Daniels, and Dezman Moses. If even one or two of these guys can bring their A game and free up the already viable pass rushing threats of Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji then the Packers will have something going on this side of the ball. Attacking any quarterback is essential in the NFL. Attacking a quarterback who has an inconsistent past like Alex Smith is even more important.
Key To Victory #3 - Hold The Middle Of The Field On Defense
This is a tall order given the talent at TE and RB for the 49ers, and I'm not going to lie, this is where Desmond Bishop would help tremendously. Despite all that though, the line must hold up and D.J. Smith and A.J. Hawk have to show why the Packers put so much faith in them. The good news is that Hawk (probably the weaker link of the two) knows he has to step it up this season. On the back end, the real question is if it's Jerron McMillian or M.D. Jennings starting in the SS nickel spot. Whoever does start needs to hold down the big play at least a little more than Charlie Peprah was able to last year.
Key To Victory #4 - Hold On To The Football
The Packers didn't have a problem with turnovers last season. They did have a problem with turnovers in the playoff loss to the Giants. They did have a bit of a problem with turnovers in the preseason. This has to stop. The Niners have an opportunistic defense, one that is comparable to our own. One turnover will likely turn the tide of the game, so it's going to have to be our defense that forces it...not theirs.
Key To Victory #5 - Tackle
It sounds simple, but it's something that the Packers struggled with last year. They were better in the preseason, but guys tend to fight to stay on their feet more in the regular season. The good news is that tackling is an attitude more than a skill. If there is one thing that I have noticed about the Packers this offseason and preseason is that they have an attitude and hunger that they didn't have last year. If this attitude persists and plays out on Sunday then the defense should be able to get guys to the ground. This goes double on special teams.
This game won't come down to who has the most yards on the ground. It won't come down to a big splashy run by Frank Gore. It won't come down what made a successful football team from decades ago. What it will come down to is the ability for each quarterback to move the ball effectively and consistently through out the game. It will come down to who makes the first mistake and who makes the last mistake. When I look at these two QB's and defense I like the Packers odds of that happening in our favor.
Previous game coverage
Know Your Enemy: 5 Questions With Niners Nation | Game Preview | Five Niners to watch on Sunday | Five Packers to watch on Sunday | Series History | Key Matchup - Newhouse vs. A. Smith | Key Matchup - A. Smith vs. Woodson | Key Matchup - Moss vs. Williams | Injury update |Fantasy outlook | Start/Sit advice | Week 1 picks | Biggest absence - Davon House |
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