We’ll always have that opening defensive series.
Remember? Third and one and the Pack stuffed Tevin Coleman for no gain to force a punt. After that? To quote Perry Mason, the defense rests. What a horrific, embarrassing performance by the Packers’ defense. The blame starts with Mike Pettine and his staff. When Raheem Mostert gains 142 yards before he was even touched, you know the scheme was trash. Pettine refused to load the box and dare Jimmy Garoppolo to pass, instead content to watch Mostert dance into the secondary and then shake and bake his way to a record performance.
The defense had no answers for what Kyle Shanahan was dialing up, appearing to have learned nothing from the first matchup nor last week’s evisceration of the Vikings. Bad angles, missed tackles and a complete befuddlement of what they were facing. It wasn’t a good look for Pettine and his staff and it will be interesting to see the fall out. I expect Pettine to return, but LaFleur was pretty pointed in his post game criticism. Not that it’s LaFleur’s decision–Mike Murphy will make the ultimate call, but there will definitely be some changes on that side of the ball, on the field for sure. As far as the coaching staff goes, we’ll see.
The game pretty much ended with the Pack down 20-0 late in the second quarter, with the offense finally putting a nice drive together. A touchdown there and then you get the ball to start the second half and maybe we have a ballgame. Then Linsley and Rodgers mess up the snap, the Niners recover and score and it’s ‘see ya next season.’
I do have some issues with the offensive game plan as well. This game screamed for a heavy dose of Aaron Jones, both on the ground and through the air. Yes, when you fall behind, it’s tempting to give up on the running game, but Jones needed to be featured more on an offense that lacks a lot of dangerous weapons. That will need to be fixed in the offseason, with talent needed via free agency and the draft at both the wide receiver and tight end position.
The 49ers roster is stronger top to bottom than the Packers; there’s no question about that. But there is no reason for that team to blow the Packers off the field in both meetings. The window on the Aaron Rodgers will remain wide open for a few more years and this organization took a major step forward this season. But this offseason will be equally important. There’s a good chance this team will be stronger on the field but won’t reach 13 wins again, with a tougher schedule on tap.
They need to find a way to add pieces to the defensive line and inside linebacker and speed in the passing game. There will be time to talk about free agency, which players they should try to keep and which they should let walk away.
For now, we can lament a missed opportunity and an inability to compete with San Francisco. We can feel good about the giant step this team took this season, sweeping the division and earning the #2 seed. But ultimately, with a chance to take part in a rematch of the first Super Bowl, the Pack whiffed badly. And it’s gonna sting for a while.