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Packers Defense Recap: Great Game Against The 49ers Clouded By Four Big Plays

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The Green Bay Packers defense had a weird game against the 49ers. For most of the season, they've been giving up some yards, but few big plays. Against the 49ers, they gave up a few big plays and nothing else. I was shocked watching QB Troy Smith complete a 39 yard pass to WR Michael Crabtree, a 66 yard touchdown to TE Vernon Davis, and two more passes to Davis of 25 and 20 yards. Those plays happened on four separate drives, and the 49ers scored on all four. But beyond those four plays that totaled 150 yards, the 49ers only totaled 119 yards on their other 47 plays (2.53 yards/play). Most of those were incompletions by Smith. All yardage counts, but it explains why after three big plays, the 49ers were forced to settle for field goals, and why they couldn't rally in the second half.

The other story is that LB Clay Matthews "has been slowed" and held without a sack over his last two games. What's happened over those last two games is that he's faced a couple of mammoth right tackles. His shin injury (which has held him out of practice a lot over the last month) has slowed him down just enough that those right tackles are able to get their hands on him, and use their size to keep him contained. The 49ers decided to double him at times, which certainly didn't hurt DE Cullen Jenkins and NT B.J. Raji as they recorded 3 sacks. He'll get better as he gets healthy, and he's still bringing a lot of energy to the game each week.

Also, it was another special teams day to forget. K Mason Crosby missed a 29 yard field goal, and a lousy punt by Tim Masthay and poor coverage gave the 49ers starting field position at the Packers 39 yard line. And that was just in the first quarter. Plus two of their five penalties were on special teams. It only cost them 6 points, but it could have mattered. They continue to give up plays, while never offsetting them with any big plays in their favor.

Four Quarters

I've been very impressed by the Plan C option of S Charlie Peprah at starting safety this season, but this was a game for him to forget. Remember the 39 yard pass to Crabtree? Peprah bit hard on the play action and Crabtree got behind him. The defense only gave up 1 yard thereafter, and the 49ers had to settle for a field goal. 

The second quarter was the other Peprah play to forget: a 25 yard pass to Davis. Smith threw it short, but Peprah never turned around. Then Davis got away from him for another 10 yards. But once again the defense stood up and kept them out of the end zone after the 49ers had a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line. The 49ers went three and out on their next two possessions before Davis rumbled down field for a 66 yard touchdown near the end of the first half. I have no idea why CB Charles Woodson wasn't covering Davis all game long. On the touchdown reception, Davis was covered by LB A.J. Hawk (who he easily got away from), and then an uncharacteristic missed tackle by S Nick Collins gave him a free run to the end zone. 

The 49ers first drive of the third quarter went back to what was working: passes to the tight ends. A 20 yard pass to Davis, and a 15 yard pass to TE Delanie Walker, set up their third field goal. But that was their last gasp. The Packers forced another three and out on the 49ers next possession, and the Packers offense started to eat a lot of clock. 

After another three and out by the 49ers near the start of the fourth quarter, the Packers offense went on an 17 play, 8:35 drive that kept the 49ers offense off the field. The 49ers only had one more chance (unfortunately their final drive was the one that knocked Jenkins out of the game), and it ended with a Collins interception.

Individual Analysis

S Charlie Peprah. Usually I point out someone in the secondary for having a great game, but instead it was his first bad game as a starter. Their is no Plan D, and it's only one game. He's got some film to study, and he's got to bounce back next week.

LB Frank Zombo. With Matthews largely contained, it was Zombo who took advantage of backup LT Barry Sims to force some pressure. It was his second week in a row with a sack, and he does seem to be playing better.

DE Cullen Jenkins. He's already been announced out for next Sunday, which is a shame since he had arguably his best game of the season with 2 sacks and QB hits. Now he can focus on getting himself ready to play the Patriots in two weeks.