Before the Green Bay Packers face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, let’s take a look back at what went wrong in their Week 12 matchup.
Given where this Green Bay Packers team was just one year ago, it’s hard to believe that they finished 13-3 this season and punched their ticket to the NFC Championship game. Where of course, they’ll be taking on the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the San Francisco 49ers.
As I’m sure everyone remembers, this won’t be the first time these two will have met this season, in fact, Green Bay’s last loss was to the 49ers. And it sure was an ugly performance as the Packers were dominated 37 to 8.
While it is certainly unfortunate that it happened, looking back at what went wrong is always a great learning opportunity. And you can bet that Matt LaFleur and Company are doing that this week in preparation.
Clearly when a team loses 37 to 8, a lot goes wrong, but these five reasons, in particular, were major issues that led to the Green Bay Packers being blown out in Week 12. Hopefully, we see these areas addressed this coming Sunday.
Whooped in the trenches
Since the game of football was created all the way through today, most football games are won in the trenches and on both sides of the ball, San Francisco whooped up on Green Bay back in Week 12.
The Niners have one of the fiercest defensive fronts in football and that was on full display against the Packers as Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and fumbled, while Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combined for just 83 yards on 24 carries. We’ve seen how difficult things can be for the offense this season when it all falls on the passing game.
Meanwhile, the 49ers’ offensive line allowed Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jeff Wilson Jr. to total 111 rushing yards at 5. 8 yards per carry. And although Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked three times, it didn’t much effect him as he was incredibly efficient that game.
1 Target for Aaron Jones
This game was only Davante Adams’ third game back from his turf toe injury and it was just before we really saw Allen Lazard breakout and take control of that No. 2 wide receiver position, so the Packers were still experiencing some consistency issues in the passing game.
Adams would total 43 yards on seven receptions and Jamaal Williams was the next most productive with seven receptions on eight targets for 35 yards. But my question is, why did Aaron Jones only have one target while Williams had eight?
Now, this isn’t a slight at Williams, but it’s obvious that Jones is the playmaker of the two – especially in the passing game – and this is just a different offense when it’s ran through him. Jones was Rodgers top receiving target during Adams’ absence but in a crucial game against a very good team, he was forgotten about. That can’t happen again.
Too many big plays
Over the final month or so of the season, the Green Bay Packers were much better at eliminating the big play. However before that point, it was a major issue as they allowed some of the most plays at 20 and 40 yards in the NFL. Which unfortunately, was on full display in San Francisco.
They gave up a 25 yard run to Jeff Wilson Jr. – the Niners 3rd string running back – and in the passing game we saw George Kittle have a 61 yard touchdown reception, Deebo Samuel go for 42, and Raheem Mostert have a catch and run of 22 yards. Green Bay can’t allow things to be this easy for the 49ers’ offense this time around or the results could be similar.
Problems on 3rd down
For much of the season, the Green Bay Packers were around the league average in terms of 3rd down efficiency, ranking in the 15 to 20 range. But just this past Sunday against Seattle as the Packers played incredibly well on 3rd downs, converting 9 of the 14, we saw how crucial that was to their success and winning the game.
On the flip side, during their Week 12 matchup with San Francisco, we saw how total ineptitude on 3rd down can stifle drives and make putting up points very difficult. That game the Packers were just 1-15 on 3rd downs. Yes, one for fifteen. Simply, one of the worst performances you will ever see.
Jimmy Garoppolo was fantastic
Credit where credit is due, Jimmy Garoppolo and this Niner offense was very good and oh so efficient. I mentioned the big plays above and their success in the run game, but overall Garoppolo was very good. In total he would complete 14/20 passes for 253 yards on a whopping 12.7 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 145.8.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this game is that San Francisco put up 37 points, won by 29 and they held the ball for just under 25 minutes. Over 10 minutes less than the Packers! There are going to be a number of factors that go into slowing this 49ers team down, including limiting their effectiveness in the run game and pressuring Garoppolo, but let’s hope we don’t see this kind of efficiency on Sunday.