Pack­ers have flaws to ad­dress as they roll into bye week

Packer Plus - - Front Page - Tom Sil­ver­stein

— The Green Bay Pack­ers are not a good team.

They are a team with some good play­ers and that’s about the best you could say about what sep­a­rates them and the 1-5 San Fran­cisco 49ers, who marched into Lam­beau Field and showed they could coach bet­ter, com­pete harder and play smarter than their com­pe­ti­tion.

The only thing they couldn’t do is put Aaron Rodgers and Da­vante Adams in their hud­dle late in the game.

The 49ers walked out of the sta­dium with their heads down after a crush­ing 33-30 loss only be­cause their start­ing quar­ter­back, Jimmy Garap­polo, is out for the sea­son with a knee in­jury and their best re­ceiver, Mar­quise Good­win, is a speed de­mon but nowhere close to be­ing an elite player.

The Pack­ers were once a peren­nial play­off team and among the cin­ders that still burn hot for them are their quar­ter­back and wide re­ceiver, who to­gether can take over a game with the snap of their fin­gers.

The pair owned the fi­nal 3 min­utes of what looked like an im­pend­ing Pack­ers loss, con­nect­ing four times for 81 yards on two drives that cov­ered 139 yards. The first drive ended in a game-ty­ing 16yard touch­down pass to Adams and the sec­ond ended in kicker Ma­son Crosby’s 27-yard game-win­ning field goal.

Just like that, the Pack­ers were 3-2-1 in­stead of 2-3-1.

“We have a pretty good player at quar­ter­back,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said.

Taken in its en­tirety, how­ever, the Pack­ers’ vic­tory over the 49ers was a show­case of why they are not go­ing any­where this sea­son. They were play­ing a team that wasn’t half bad un­til it lost its quar­ter­back in Week 3 and in­juries started to pile up in other ar­eas.

But last week, the 49ers lost at home to the lowly Ari­zona Car­di­nals and were trav­el­ing cross coun­try to play in 30-de­gree tem­per­a­tures that the Pack­ers had prac­ticed in dur­ing the week. They were fac­ing a team who had held the Detroit Lions to 264 yards last week and the New York Jets to 145 yards the week be­fore.

This game should have been a cake­walk for the Pack­ers, a get-well game head­ing into the bye and the meat of their sched­ule. In­stead, it was a re­lief.

“Hey, I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss,” Bakhtiari said.

The prob­lem is that the Pack­ers were in this game only be­cause the 49ers made a cou­ple of crit­i­cal er­rors in the begin­ning of the game and didn’t have the horse­power to win it at the end. In be­tween, they ex­posed just about ev­ery weak­ness the Pack­ers have shown this sea­son.

Head coach Kyle Shana­han, who as At­lanta’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor had knocked the teeth out of Dom Ca­pers’ de­fense mul­ti­ple times, made cur­rent de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine look help­less.

On the open­ing drive, the 49ers marched 75 yards on seven plays for a touch­down, mix­ing the run and the pass in as­ton­ish­ingly ef­fi­cient fash­ion. After the 49ers fell be­hind, 17-7, due in part to a spe­cial teams turnover, C.J. Beathard hit Good­win on a 67-yard touch­down in which it’s any­body’s guess what de­fense the Pack­ers were play­ing.

It might have been the first time in his­tory an in­side linebacker was matched up against a re­ceiver with 4.27-sec­ond speed in the 40-yard dash.

Even when the 49ers turned the ball over again in the sec­ond quar­ter, it was after a 21-yard com­ple­tion in which a re­ceiver was left wide open. On the very next se­ries, Shana­han got Good­win matched one-on-one against corner­back Tra­mon Wil­liams and the re­sult was a 30-yard touch­down.

No mat­ter what Pet­tine did, Shana­han got the best of him.

The 49ers came out of the gate run­ning stretch plays that the Pack­ers had no clue how to stop. Then they ran in­side when the Pack­ers tried to counter. They fin­ished the day with 174 yards rush­ing on 30 car­ries (5.8-yard avg.).

“Every­thing they were do­ing was work­ing,” Wil­liams said. “Any­time they can run the ball like that, it’s go­ing to be hard to stop any­body. If you look at the stats, it’s about bal­ance. You can live with pass yards be­ing high, but rush yards high like that is kind of tough.

“Ev­ery player who plays in his sys­tem, they love it. They love it. He gets the best out of them and he knows how to scheme things.”

When it comes to bal­ance, coach Mike McCarthy could learn a few things from Shana­han. Once again, his run game never got off the ground even though Aaron Jones av­er­aged 5.1 yards per carry on his eight at­tempts.

Take away Rodgers’ 34 yards rush­ing on three scram­bles and McCarthy called just 18 run­ning plays that net­ted 82 yards. Rodgers needed 46 pass­ing at­tempts to com­plete 25 passes for 425 yards and two touch­downs and for a while it looked like de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robert Saleh had his foot on the neck of McCarthy’s sys­tem.

Saleh was so tuned into what McCarthy was call­ing that he had his back­side de­fen­sive end stop chas­ing down runs to stymie all the boot­leg fakes Rodgers was try­ing to run. It wasn’t un­til the game-win­ning drive that the Pack­ers fi­nally out­wit­ted Saleh by giv­ing the ball to run­ning back Ty Mont­gomery in­stead of hav­ing Rodgers keep the ball on a play-fake. Mont­gomery gained 14 yards on the first play of the drive to get things mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“David Bakhtiari ac­tu­ally sug­gested the first play, so I’ve got to give him credit or else he’ll tell me about it to­mor­row,” Rodgers said. “He sug­gested that play and then Ty ob­vi­ously ran the ball well and got out of bounds.”

It was a tes­ta­ment to the en­tire of­fense that it played as well as it did the fi­nal two drives, but it takes play­ers like Rodgers and Adams to fin­ish them off. Oth­ers on of­fense made some clutch plays along the way and de­serve credit.

But when the Pack­ers get back from the bye, they travel to Los An­ge­les to play the 6-0 Rams, who are av­er­ag­ing a league-lead­ing 464.3 yards per game and a third-best 32.7 points per game. The fol­low­ing week they travel to New Eng­land, to face the 4-2 Pa­tri­ots, who are av­er­ag­ing 381.2 yards and 29.3 points per game.

Will the Pack­ers be able to over­come another stupid penalty from corner­back Tony Brown, who a week after com­mit­ting a taunt­ing penalty that wiped out a third-down stop hit re­turner D.J. Reed out of bounds, giv­ing the 49ers a first down at their own 47 with the game tied and 1:49 re­main­ing?

If the Pack­ers can’t beat a medi­ocre Lions team one week and barely beat a bad 49ers team the next week, in what bizarre world can they com­pete with the Rams and Pa­tri­ots?

DAN POW­ERS / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

49ers re­ceiver Mar­quise Good­win dives into the end zone in front of Pack­ers corner­back Tra­mon Wil­liams.

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