Breaking down the game

Analyzing and categorizing the 49ers' 20-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday:



From the start, the game plan combined with wet and sloppy conditions prevented Jeff Garcia from throwing anything beyond short routes. He played within those confines and didn't try to force the ball down field, and he did make a nice connection with Terrell Owens for the Niners' only touchdown when he went long in the third quarter. Garcia drove the Niners deep in Green Bay territory at the end of the game, and he rushed for 32 yards, but he ultimately couldn't get it done at the doorstep of victory, and his numbers – 19 of 34 for 156 yards passing – were nothing special, particularly for Garcia. Bottom line: Was outplayed in lousy conditions by his more-heralded counterpart.






Garrison Hearst squirted through the Green Bay defense for a few nice runs, and so did Kevan Barlow. Those two players combined for 75 yards rushing on 18 carries, but the Niners ultimately didn't take advantage of a Green Bay rushing defense that was the fourth-worst in the NFL. Bottom line: Adequate production, but didn't get many chances to do more.





A hurting Terrell Owens had his usual big-play touchdown – a tackle-breaking 45-yarder that got the Niners back in the game – but his other seven receptions went for just 30 yards. Eric Johnson had his second consecutive eight-catch game as the Niners went to him with Green Bay zones leaving him open. But the rest of the receiving corps produced just one catch for one yard by Tai Streets. Bottom line: Niners needed more from receivers not named Owens and Johnson on this day.





Matt Willig did an adequate job in place of injured rookie Eric Heitmann at left guard, and it wasn't his fault he was plunked in the back twice by Jeff Garcia passes. The run blocking could never produce consistent holes when the Niners needed to keep the chains moving. The pass blocking had some sporadic moments, but it didn't allow quarterback Jeff Garcia to be sacked and often gave him time to find his way in the wet conditions. But Garcia was pressured into hasty incompletions on San Francisco's final two plays. Center Jeremy Newberry and guard Ron Stone were solid, but this unit never consistently established itself against a Green Bay front four that's suspect against the run. Bottom line: Not bad, but not as good as unit could have been and needed to be.






The Niners didn't get the pressure they needed on Brett Favre, and they never did put the inclement conditions to their advantage in putting heat on the Green Bay quarterback. This unit got a lot of chances as Green Bay hammered inside and along the line with its running game, but most of the time it was linebackers making the tackles. Ahman Green ran right through the tackles for Green Bay's first touchdown. Bottom line: Needed to get more heat on Favre for Niners to be successful.





Members of this unit could be great one play and then sucked out of position on the next. But they were mostly making plays on this day. Derek Smith got sealed outside on Ahman Green's touchdown run, but he otherwise had a fine afternoon with a game-high 13 tackles – some of them halting Green Bay drives – and he also had a nice play in pass coverage. Jeff Ulbrich and Julian Peterson also were all over the field making plays and showing quickness. They had 12 and 9 tackles, respectively. Bottom line: Starting linebackers combined for 34 tackles. By any measure, that's a pretty good day.





Starting at left cornerback in place of the injured Ahmed Plummer, Mike Rumph was slow to react on a slant pattern that Donald Driver turned into a five-yard touchdown pass that was key in the outcome. He needed to be playing better than that near the goal line. Jason Webster made a nice play to knock down a pass at the goal line and make the Packers settle for a field-goal attempt. Safeties Tony Parrish and John Keith made some plays in coverage, but this was an otherwise quiet day by a secondary that kept Green Bay receivers in front of it, but allowed the Packers to complete most of their passes. Bottom line: Good effort without Plummer, but tough day against a great quarterback.





Bill LaFleur displayed his inconsistency by booming a 55-yarder on his first punt, then following that with kicks of 20, 60, and 31 yards. Jeff Chandler, however, had a fine day in wet and windy conditions that would seem to make it difficult for a rookie kicker. He nailed 42- and 47-yard field-goal attempts, and also put several of his kickoffs deep, not something that's his greatest strength. The Niners got virtually nothing out of their return game, but the Packers didn't get much out of theirs, either. Bottom line: A solid day for recently-beleaguered special teams, and Chandler looked very dependable amid terrible kicking conditions.





With a tough Green Bay secondary sitting back with multiple zone coverages, the Niners went to a short passing game that attempted to exploit a soft middle. After lousy start, it began working better as the game progressed, but amid these conditions, it seemed the Niners could have tried to assert themselves more on the ground against a weak rushing defense. It's becoming very predictable that the Niners will run on second down after throwing a first-down incompletion, and that play selection seemed ill-advised on their final series in the game's climactic final moment. The Niners really needed to use the conditions better to their advantage in harassing Brett Favre, too. Bottom line: Oh, well. Now the Niners can start preparing for the playoffs three weeks before they actually begin.





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