Packers At The Bye: Cornerbacks

Both of the NFC divisional playoff games — 49ers/Packers and Buccaneers/Rams — are sequels to Week 3 games. In the case of the 49ers and the Packers, Green Bay got out to a 17-0 lead before San Francisco woke up and started scoring, and that’s why Kyle Shanahan had to play against type, with 21 rushing attempts and 40 passes. Shanahan never wants to be in a situation where Jimmy Garoppolo is throwing twice as many times as anybody is running, but it almost worked in this case.

The 49ers outscored the Packers 21-13 in the second half, and were it not for a 51-yard Mason Crosby field goal as time expired for a 30-28 Packers win, this would have gone down as one of the best comeback wins of the season. Garoppolo wound up with two second-half touchdown passes after a goose egg and an interception in the first half, and were it not for two deep passes from Rodgers to Davante Adams on Green Bay’s final drive, that might have been enough.

The Packers look now the way they looked in Week 3: Really, really good. They’ve also used the bye they earned as the NFC’s one-seed to get some crucial players back for this one. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was lost for most of the season to a knee injury, had 27 snaps against the Lions in the regular-season finale, and should be up for whatever the 49ers throw at him. Cornerback Jaire Alexander, who had been out since Week 4, and who had a crucial interception in that Week 3 game, has been activated from the COVID list and from injured reserve.

The 49ers have improved in the second half of the season on both sides of the ball — from 10th to fifth in Offensive DVOA, and from 16th to fourth in Defensive DVOA.

If Matt LaFleur is going to unseat old buddy Kyle Shanahan’s squad in the rematch, here are three keys to doing just that.

Run with motion while everybody's watching Aaron Rodgers.

(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

The 49ers had more running plays with pre-snap motion than any other team this season, which should come as no surprise — they run more than most teams, and Kyle Shanahan uses pre-snap motion more often than any other offensive shot-caller. But for all their obvious passing acumen, the Packers are all over this, as well. In the 2021 regular season, Green Bay ran 284 times with motion for 1,264 yards, and 10 touchdowns. And in Week 3 against the 49ers’ aggressive fronts and linebackers, the Packers ran 16 times with motion for 68 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown, as three-yarder by Aaron Jones with 1:02 left in the first half, put the Packers up 17-0 (after the extra point, of course), and it showed how the 49ers’ desire to flow to the ball in a hurry can be used against them.

Watch how the line (especially end Nick Bosa) flowed to the first move inside, and was then incapable of moving back to stop the run. The Packers are great with this kind of counter movement, and you’ll see it again in the divisional rematch. It’ll be a challenge against a 49ers run defense that has jumped from fifth to first in run defense DVOA in the second half of the season, but here’s how you do it.

If the 49ers are playing man, throw it deep.

(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

The 49ers have not played a lot of man coverage this season, and that’s a good thing, because the they don’t do it very well at all. This season, only the Rams and Seahawks had fewer reps in Cover-0, Cover-1, and 2-Man than did the 49ers, and Demeco Ryans’ defense gave up 63 completions on 101 attempts for 961 yards, nine touchdowns, no interceptions, and an opponent QBR of 123.4 — by far, the NFL’s worst (The Jaguars were second-worst at 113.7).

In Week 3, Aaron Rodgers attempted eight passes against San Francisco’s man coverage, completing six for 97 yards. 42 of those yards came on this deep throw to Allen Lazard in which the 49ers were trying to put Cover-1 on the field. Rodgers has blown both man coverage and single-high coverage to bits this season, and when you’re trying to deal with this offense with man out of empty… well, what did Sun Tzu say about every battle being won before it’s ever fought?

Basically, in situations like this, if they’re even, we’re leavin’.

When you have to match one-on-ones through the route, that’s a bad deal for this defense. K’Waun Williams is a good inside corner; he just happened to be the Huckleberry on this play from the outside slot.

The 49ers need to give their cornerbacks more help from their safeties than this kind of late movement to the ball that achieves nothing.

Set the controls for the heart of the sun.

(Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis-USA TODAY NETWORK)

(That’s a Pink Floyd nod to Touchdown Wire colleague Mark Schofield, who seems to like that band for some reason).

So, we know that Kyle Shanahan likes to lead with the run game, and that he also prefers to hide his quarterback whenever possible. Shanahan could do neither of these things to his satisfaction in Week 3, because the Packers got out to that 17-0 lead. If they’re able to do so again, this game could well be over quickly. And the best/most obvious way to make that happen is for Aaron Rodgers to get the ball to Davante Adams.

The best receiver in the game today caught 12 passes on 18 targets for 132 yards and a touchdown in Week 3, and seven of those catches came in the first half on eight targets for 73 yards and this touchdown — a nasty little red zone whip route that is just about impossible to defend.

Nobody on San Francisco’s defense can take Adams one-on-one, and bracketing him doesn’t give you an obvious success rate. Exploiting this matchup will be Job One for Matt LaFleur and his staff.

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Source : https://news.yahoo.com/divisional-playoff-preview-packers-beat-151123064.html

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