Behind Enemy Lines: Packers Pass Defense

We continue our blowout preview coverage of Sunday's Week 1 showdown as our Packers and 49ers beat writers examine the personnel on the field when San Francisco tests Green Bay through the air.

Craig Massei of and Bill Huber of examine Sunday's season-opening showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

Packers pass defense

Statistically, this was the worst pass defense the NFL has ever seen with 299.8 yards per game allowed through the air. The Packers didn't do anything well. They finished last in the league in sacks on a per-snap basis. The lack of pressure put the secondary in a bind. While they led the league by a mile with 31 interceptions, they also were guilty of gambling too often and missing too many tackles. There's confidence the pass rush has improved, though they'll mostly be counting on rookies Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels to provide a one-two punch with Clay Matthews.

In the secondary, Tramon Williams is mostly healthy after struggling all season with a shoulder injury that took away his ability to jam receivers and tackle consistently. He'll be matched up with the opponent's No. 1 receiver. The No. 2 corner figures to  be a mix-and-match of Jarrett Bush and Sam Shields, with Bush playing the "50/50" downs because he's a physical tackler and Shields playing the passing downs because of his coverage. Charles Woodson, the ageless wonder who tied for the NFL lead with seven picks, is playing safety in the base defense and moving into the slot in nickel and dime. Morgan Burnett, who had five turnover plays last season while playing with a club cast on a broken hand for much of last season, is one of the safeties. The Packers have kept the other nickel/dime safety under wraps.

49ers pass offense

While the Packers were surrendering prolific passing numbers to opponents, the 49ers weren't doing a whole lot better producing them with their weak passing game in 2011, when San Francisco ranked 26th in the NFL in total offense and 29th in passing offense – not the kind of numbers you would usually see in today's NFL from a team that finished 14-4 and went deep in the playoffs. One of San Francisco's excuses was it didn't have enough talent at wide receiver last year to go along with marginal No. 1 wideout Michael Crabtree, but the Niners went to great measures to fix that by adding veterans Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins to the position during the offseason. Moss will start opposite Crabtree and Manningham will fit in as the No. 3 wideout. With them on the field, the 49ers surely will look to air it out more often than they did last year, when 19 quarterbacks threw for more yards than Alex Smith.

Tight end Vernon Davis is a threat deep and underneath, so the 49ers have a whole lot more firepower to challenge the Packers through the air.  Smith is efficient and accurate, but it's unproven if he can get the ball down the field on a regular basis. He was sacked 44 times last season – more than any other quarterback – so the Packers can cause problems if they can apply steady pressure. Right tackle Anthony Davis may be the weak link in pass protection, and he has a new starter next to him at right guard in converted tackle Alex Boone – the only newcomer in San Francisco's entire starting lineup this year.

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