Offense Gets Stopped in Tracks

The 49ers' hard-hitting, fast-flowing defense didn't yield many extra yards to the Packers' running backs and wide receivers. That stood in stark contrast to last week and most of the season.

The San Francisco 49ers won Sunday's NFC Wild Card game because of a fast-flowing, hard-hitting, sure-tackling defense.

One week after Aaron Rodgers' 25 completions were boosted by 140 yards after the catch, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Rodgers' 17 completions included just 61 yards after the catch, according to Packer Report's count.

"They made some big tackles," Rodgers said. "The throw late to Randall (Cobb), it was a shoe-string tackle that could have been a touchdown to put us up by four. That's what they're known for is being good tacklers."

The play Rodgers was alluding to was perhaps the most important demonstration of the 49ers' tackling prowess. With the Packers trailing 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Rodgers avoided blitzing cornerback Perrish Cox, which allowed Randall Cobb a chance to work himself free. He made a great fingertip catch at about the 15 but couldn't escape rookie safety Eric Reid, who twisted Cobb down at the 9.

Three ineffective plays later, the Packers had to settle for a chip-shot field goal by Mason Crosby that tied the score.

"I've just got to break a tackle. I've got to get in the end zone," Cobb said. "That's on me. If we score right there, I put the defense in a better situation. So, that's on me. I've got to be better."

Time and again, the Packers' receivers caught the ball, only to be dropped immediately. That stood in stark contrast to the regular season, when the Packers ranked fourth in yards after the catch.

Jordy Nelson, who turned a 0-yard pass into a 34-yard gain on a great catch-and-run against the Bears last week, caught seven passes but gained only 17 yards after the catch on Sunday. James Jones, who turned four passes that went a combined minus-2 yards through the air into a total gain of 31 yards last week, managed 4 yards after the catch on Sunday.

It was a similar story on the ground. According to Packer Report's count, the Packers gained 80 yards after contact on 31 running plays against the 49ers. Against the Bears last week, by Packer Report's count, the Packers gained 108 yards after contact on 34 carries. That's 2.58 yards after contact against San Francisco vs. 3.18 yards after contact against Chicago.

Eddie Lacy, with his ankle looking healthier than it did when he limped through last week's game, rushed 21 times for 81 yards. By our count, 61 came after contact.

San Francisco's defense stood in stark contrast to the Packers' defense. Without Clay Matthews, it could be argued that the 49ers had the four best linebackers on the field. They might have had the two tops safeties, as well, with Donte Whitner and Reid, who the 49ers traded up in the first round to grab with the 18th selection.

Without Matthews, the Packers primary front seven on Sunday included B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk and Nick Perry (first round), Mike Daniels (fourth round), Brad Jones (seventh round) and Andy Mulumba (undrafted). The 49ers' primary front seven included Glenn Dorsey, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith (first round), Ray McDonald, Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman (third round) and Justin Smith (fourth round).


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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