By Jack Sitt
Packers offensive game plan:
The Packers ran the ball and dumped it off to running backs to beat the Vikings, but this style of play will not work against the 49ers. They have one of the best run-defenses in the league, and they have the middle linebackers to guard the Packers running backs. Look for the Packers to go to more 3 and 4 receiver sets this week against the 49ers.
The Packers passing game is based around short passes to the receivers in a spread offense. They use many 3 and 5 step drops for slants, square outs, swing screens and hooks with an occasional deep pass down the field. Rodgers zips the ball into his receivers in places where the defensive backs cannot defend it.
The 49ers often play 2 safeties back with tight and physical man coverage underneath. This tight coverage puts them in a good position to defend the Packer’s shorter routes. However, if the 49ers defense has one flaw it is that their cornerbacks often turn their backs to the quarterback in their tight coverage. I expect the Packers to exploit this coverage with some back shoulder throws and comeback routes. I additionally expect them to use some fly patterns when they want to exploit this coverage down the field.
Of course, there are no passes that can be thrown down the field if they do not deal with sack master Aldon Smith. He causes nightmares for opposing quarterbacks and the Packers simply to not have the offensive tackles to block Smith one on one. I expect the Packers to give the tackles some help on the outside.
Packers defensive game plan:
The 49ers ran all over the Packers in their first meeting. The Packers missed tackles and could not stop Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Hunter will not play, but Lamichael James has stepped up in his absence. I expect the Packers to often put strong safety Morgan Burnett in the box to help stop the run.
Colin Kaepernick has struggled against the blitz this season. I think back to the game against the Rams where Kaepernick’s offense only put up 13 points because of the heat the Rams defense put on him. I expect the Packers defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, to dial up some blitzes.
The other tactic that the Rams defense employed was not giving up the big play. Kaepernick has excelled creating explosive plays this season as he has thrown for an outstanding 8.32 yards per attempt. So, Capers may want to emulate what the Rams did and prevent the big play.
Rodgers has many options at the receiver position, as this group is getting healthier. I expect Rodgers to play like the stud that he is and connect on a few deep passes. The Packers have had trouble stopping the run, but they certainly did better last week with the return of Charles Woodson. I say Packers advance to the NFC Championship Game and get their rematch against the Seahawks.
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