The San Francisco 49ers (1-2) and Green Bay Packers (3-0) are two teams going in opposite directions as they prepare to square off in Week 4. While the Niners have been outscored 90-25 over the past two games, the Pack seem to be hitting on all cylinders.
Lucky for the 49ers, they get the Packers on the road during a short week for them after playing on Monday night. Can they capitalize and get a season changing win? The way things are going by the bay, that could be a tall order.
The Niners owned the Packers during the Jim Harbaugh era, beating them four times in four tries including twice in the playoffs. In the most recent regular season matchup in Week 1 of 2013, QB Colin Kaepernick had arguably his best game as a pro, torching the Green Bay defense in a 34-28 win. As the LB Clay Matthews and company geared up to stop Kaepernick on the ground, the Niners flipped the script and threw for 412 yards.
WR Anquan Boldin was a beast, hauling in 13 passes for 208 yards and a score in his debut in red and gold. TE Vernon Davis added 98 yards and scored twice. As for the Packers, QB Aaron Rodgers did his thing, throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to outpace the 49ers’ explosive attack.
The two teams would meet again in the playoffs that year, with the 49ers once again coming out on top 23-20 as K Phil Dawson nailed a 33 yard field goal with no time left. Wow, seems like an eternity ago now.
Players to Watch
The spotlight will be shining bright on Kaepernick, who is coming off a terrible performance. In the 47-7 thrashing at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, Kaepernick threw for a mere 67 yards, was picked off four times and became the first quarterback since 1925 to throw back-to-back pick sixes on his first two attempts. Pretty bad.
The truth is, Kaepernick continues to struggle to be a consistent NFL quarterback, and whispers are starting to get louder about him not being the guy. He needs a big time performance against a big time team and he’ll have the stage to do it on Sunday with possibly the NFL’s best signal caller opposing him.
Speaking of Rodgers, how is a pass defense that has given up 646 yards combined to QB Ben Roethisberger and QB Carson Palmer going to stop him? Rodgers has been brilliant again in 2015, and that’s without his best receiver, WR Jordy Nelson. How good has he been? Well, through three games he’s completed 67-of-91 throws, and has 10 touchdown passes with no interceptions. The 49ers will have to hope they can generate some pressure or it could be another long day.
Game Changing Factor
Do you remember last week when I mentioned that the 49ers couldn’t break 20 points to save their lives? Well, they’ve now been held to 20 points or less in 11 of their last 13 games, and 18 or less in nine of those. As for the Packers, you’d have to go back quite a ways to find 11 regular games that they scored 20 or less. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to the final game of 2010. Point is, Green Bay will score points, and San Francisco will have to buck the trend and start getting into the endzone to have a chance here.
Stats to Know
The 49ers’ offensive line in bad right now. While T Joe Staley and G Alex Boone have been okay (+4.4 and +2.7 respectively per Pro Football focus), the rest of the unit has been abysmal. C Marcus Martin (-12.0), G Jordan Devey (-5.8) and T Erik Pears (-7.6) are making life very difficult for the rest of the offense, and will have their hands full with Packers’ defense that is tied for second in the NFL with 11 sacks. Even running the ball has been difficult with this unit, as 49er running backs have 44 carries for 117 yards (2.65 yards per attempt) over the past two weeks.
If the 49ers want to win this game, they have to play ball control offense and keep Rodgers and the rest of the Packers’ offense off the field. To do that, they’ll need the line to step up as well as their quarterback. Kaepernick must play an efficient, mistake free game. He also has to show that he can hit a big play here and there (outside of garbage time) which might help give the team some life. It’s tall order right now though, and, even on a short week, I think the Packers win this game easily.