The Green Bay Packers completed their 2015 Revenge Tour, started two weeks ago against Seattle, by besting the San Fransisco 49ers 17-3. The team played tight, and Aaron Rodgers was not as crisp as he had been the first three weeks of the season, but with the help of one of the teams’ strongest defensive efforts in recent memory, they come away with a road win.
The Good: Defense Dominates
One week after sacking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith seven times, the Packers were able to reach San Fransisco’s play caller, Colin Kaepernick, for six more sacks. All came from the suddenly formidable host of outside linebackers (and half a middle linebacker) on the team, as Mike Neal collected two, and Julius Peppers, Jayrone Elliot, Nick Perry, and Clay Matthews one each. Kaepernick was largely bottled up all game, and though his 10 carries for 57 yards may seem a poor effort by any other defense, in Green Bay it was a welcome change from past floggings.
The Packers’ secondary also had a strong performance, albeit one aided by Kaepernick’s frankly embarrassing inaccuracy. Cornerback Sam Shields baited Kaepernick into a long throw towards the plodding Anquan Boldin, only to easily catch up to the route and nab his second interception in as many weeks. Rookie cornerback Damarious Randall was beat for one long play up the sideline (a nice route and catch by 49er receiver Torrey Smith), but otherwise held his own and defended another pass.
And for the third straight week and all games other than the opener against the Bears, the defensive line played a solid game as well. They numbers are not as flashy as a week ago, but Carlos Hyde was effectively bottled up until the 49ers had to turn to the passing game. Moreover, the interior did a nice job on most plays of not overrunning Kaepernick and letting him beat the defense on the ground. When he did get through, strong safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (7 tackles) was often nearby to end the play before it could get out of control.
The Bad: Barclay
Don Barclay has had a rough time since taking over for right tackle Bryan Bulaga against the Seahawks, in no small part because he has faced extremely strong competition in weeks 2 and 3 of the season. Yesterday, however, he was up against lesser talent, including second-year linebacker Aaron Lynch. Yet Barclay was once again consistently beaten, causing Rodgers to be sacked by my count on three occasions. He gave up a number of additional hits and hurries. Rather than showing improvement, Barclay seems to be going backwards. This is affecting the entire offense, as Green Bay had most of its second-half success after bringing John Kuhn onto the field for an unusual amount of snaps, and often lining up tight end Richard Rodgers in the backfield as well. If that sort of help is necessary to keep Rodgers upright, then the Packers will have to continue to use those packages inventively. But the offense will only thrum at its best if Barclay can hold his own at least a little more. Bulaga can’t return soon enough.
The Ugly: Colin Kaepernick
Normally this space would be reserved for commentary on Green Bay, but Kaepernick’s performance on Sunday was too awful to pass up. As noted above, his throws were erratic for much of the game. Moreover, the fifth-year player still seemed to have extremely poor fundamentals, often planting his front foot noticeably before moving his elbow forward, or simply not moving his feet to position his body for a throw at all. It is one thing for a gifted athlete to contort his body to position himself for seemingly awkward throws that are accurate, as Rodgers often does. It is entirely another to contort your body to attempt a throw simply because you do not want to reset your feet.
Kaepernick reportedly completed only three passes beyond five yards all day. He has had a horrible season thus far, with two touchdown passes against five interceptions, and a quarterback rating of just 67.7. That continued Sunday, a game in which he was truly worse than his line of 13 completions on 25 attempts, 160 yards, and one interception. It was nice to see the Packers finally have success against him in line with the rest of the league.