Green Bay Packers: Anquan Boldin

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers were on the field for 2,216 plays combined on offense and defense this season and several hundred more on special teams.

For the next 10 weekdays, we will examine 10 plays, subjectively chosen, as the ones that most shaped the Packers’ season that ended with Sunday’s 23-20 NFC wild-card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.

Here’s No. 10:

Date: Jan. 6, 2014

Location: Lambeau Field

Game: Packers vs. 49ers, NFC wild-card playoff game

Hyde
The play: Cornerback Micah Hyde's near interception of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the fourth quarter.

Why it mattered: With the game tied at 20-20, the 49ers took over with 5:06 remaining. On second-and-10 from their own 31-yard line, 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin ran a short out route toward his own sideline. Hyde broke on the ball and undercut the route. He jumped for a ball that was thrown high, but it went through his hands and was incomplete. Hyde might have returned it for a touchdown. At the very least, he would have given the Packers the ball deep in 49ers’ territory. Six plays later, Kaepernick scrambled for 11 yards on third-and-8 from the Packers’ 38-yard line to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Quotable: “It was a catch I should have made,” Hyde said. “I make those catches all of the time in practice. It was just a difficult catch I should have made.”


The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers have met so often of late that they’re becoming like division rivals.

Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field will be the fourth meeting between the two teams in the past 17 months. They played in Week 1 of the 2012 season and again in the divisional round of the playoffs that season. They opened the 2013 season against each other again.

The 49ers won all three games.

ESPN.com 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky discuss what, if anything, might be different this time around.

Demovsky: Bill, the Packers have seen quarterback Colin Kaepernick beat them with his feet like he did in last year’s playoff game, when he rushed for 181 yards, and also beat them with his arm, like he did in the season opener this year when he threw for 412 yards. What has he been doing better lately, running or throwing, and how do you think coach Jim Harbaugh will try to attack the Packers’ defense this time around?

Williamson: Rob, he’s been a pass-first quarterback all season as he showed in Week 1. That was his best game of the season. But Kaepernick has been playing at a high level in the past five games with Michael Crabtree back on the field. Kaepernick’s Total QBR during the past three weeks is the highest in the NFL. Rob, I’m intrigued to see what the offensive attack is going to be. We all remember the cat-and-mouse game in Week 1 about the read-option attack that never materialized. I could see the 49ers hitting the Packers with it early to get them off-balance and try to go back and forth throughout the game.

Rob, what do you think the Packers are expecting from Kaepernick this week?

Demovsky: I’m not sure they know what to expect. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers pointed out that last year, the 49ers had the bye week in the first round of the playoffs and therefore had plenty of time to tinker with their game plan and install new looks like the read-option. They don’t have that luxury this time around. That said, maybe Harbaugh didn't use much read-option during the season because he wanted to keep his quarterback from getting hit. Now that it’s win-or-go-home time, maybe he’d be more willing to risk it. Either way, the Packers know they have to limit the big plays -- whether on the ground or through the air -- that have killed them in the previous meetings.

In the opener this year, receiver Anquan Boldin dominated the Packers. Now that Crabtree has returned, what dimension has he added to the offense?

Williamson: It’s changed everything. This is a much better, varied, dangerous offense. Crabtree is not 100 percent, but he is still able to help. It makes Boldin even more dangerous. He was double- and triple-teamed because the 49ers didn't have many weapons. With a trio of Crabtree, Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, Kaepernick has some firepower.

Rob, do you think the Packers are giving Boldin extra thought this week because of the damage he caused in Week 1?

Demovsky: I’m sure they are, but they've changed the way they cover since that game. They’re more willing to match up Sam Shields on the opponent’s best receiver now, whereas early in the year they simply played Shields on one side of the field and Tramon Williams on the other. They’re also cognizant of what the return of Crabtree means for the passing game. Also, the Packers didn't have safety Morgan Burnett in the Week 1 game and although Burnett has had an inconsistent year, they’re hoping his presence on the back end helps slow down the 49ers' passing game.

From here, the 49ers look as though they have one of the NFL’s best group of linebackers with Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks. What makes those guys so effective and how can the Packers attack the heart of the 49ers' defense?

Williamson: And don’t forget Aldon Smith. The young star has been playing at a high level for the past month-plus. He came back in November after missing five games while receiving treatment for substance abuse. But you are right; Bowman, Willis and Brooks all made the Pro Bowl. They are dominant. Bowman has been playing out of his mind and he is a legitimate NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Rob, do you think containing the linebackers is the key for offensive success from Aaron Rodgers’ unit?

Demovsky: That’s certainly going to be one of the keys, because they could impact both the passing game when their ability to pass rush and the running game because of how they can clog up the middle, where Eddie Lacy likes to churn out yards. The Packers’ second-level blocking is going to be more critical in this game than perhaps at any time all season. If they let those linebackers get loose, it could spell trouble.

Starter Pack: Winter is here

January, 2, 2014
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A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made it known before that he’s a fan of the HBO show "Game of Thrones," so it should not have been surprising to hear him use the show's famous line “Winter is coming” on Wednesday.

In reality, however, winter has been here for a while, and it will still be here on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers come to Lambeau Field to play the Packers in an NFC wild-card game.

While Rodgers was speaking inside the confines of the stadium, the temperature outside was in the single digits. It’s expected to be at least as cold, if not colder, during Sunday’s game. According to The Weather Channel, the high in Green Bay on Sunday will be 4 degrees with a low of minus-15.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he planned to take his team outside to practice on Thursday and Friday. Typically in cold weather, the team does individual drills inside the Don Hutson Center and then goes outside for team (11-on-11) work.

“It’s here,” Rodgers said of winter. “It’s here in Green Bay. It’s definitely going to have an effect on the game.”

The question is, will it bother the team from California more?

“You know, not everybody in this locker room is from the great state of Wisconsin,” said Rodgers, a northern California native. “We do practice in it, live in it. I think we’re going to be better adapting to it initially but once the game starts, it’s about who can execute in the cold weather. It does some different things to the football.”

The weather probably impacts quarterbacks and receivers the most.

“A lot of it is just, your hands are cold, the ball is hard, it stings a little bit,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “But there’s little adjustment. I don’t think they’ll have a problem. We’re used to it, we’ll practice outside these next couple days and we have for the last few weeks. So it’s something that I think is a little to our advantage because we’ve been here, but it’s just like anything, it’s not going to win the game for us.”

49ers receiver Anquan Boldin, who played his first seven seasons in the warmth of Arizona before three years in Baltimore, said he doesn’t think about the weather.

“I think if you prepare the right way, you don’t have to go out and think about it,” Boldin said. “Just go play football.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
Elsewhere:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that Rodgers thinks his old college coach, Jeff Tedford, will be a great hire as Tampa Bay’s new offensive coordinator under new coach Lovie Smith.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz broke down the impact that Cobb’s return has on the offense. Columnist Mike Vandermause wrote that it’s hard to believe the Packers haven’t sold out Lambeau Field, but he explained why that could be.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Silverstein noted that running back Eddie Lacy wasn't using a walking boot like he had been in previous weeks, which likely means his sprained right ankle is feeling significantly better.

Quick Take: 49ers at Packers

December, 29, 2013
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Three things to know about the Green Bay Packers’ matchup against the San Francisco 49ers next weekend in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field:

1. Fourth time the charm? This will be the fourth meeting between these teams since the start of the 2012 season, and the first three did not go the Packers’ way. From the season opener in 2012 at Lambeau Field to last year’s NFC divisional playoff loss at Candlestick Park to this year’s season opener back in San Francisco, the Packers have come up short each and every time.

2. Up to Capers: This is a chance for redemption for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. In the 45-31 playoff loss to the 49ers last season, his defense was embarrassed. It was completely fooled by the 49ers’ read-option plays and gave up 579 yards, including 181 yards rushing by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Part of Capers’ defensive plan will have to center around receiver Anquan Boldin. In Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, Boldin had nine catches for 149 yards against his former team. It was reminiscent of what he did to the Packers in Week 1, when he caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers' 34-28 win. Capers’ defense has struggled in the past three meetings with the 49ers, so it will be up to him to devise a different game plan.

3. The Rodgers factor: As long as the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, they have a chance. That was proven once again on Sunday when he returned after missing seven starts because of a broken collarbone to lead the Packers to their NFC North-clinching win over the Chicago Bears. If Rodgers looked rusty in the first half, he quickly regained his old form in the second half.
On the day former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith got the job, he said that one of his priorities was to beat the Green Bay Packers.

First-year Bears coach Marc Trestman made no such promises about this rivalry, but it goes without saying that he's eager to end Chicago's six-game losing streak to the Packers.

The last time Chicago beat Green Bay was on Sept. 27, 2010, on "Monday Night Football." The teams meet again in prime time Monday night at Lambeau Field.

ESPN.com's Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Bears reporter Michael C. Wright break down the matchup.

Rob Demovsky: We all know how much Smith wanted to beat the Packers. He stated as much the day he got the head coaching job. What has Trestman's approach to this rivalry been like?

Wright: Rob, my man, you know that rivalries have to cut both ways in terms of wins and losses for it to be truly considered a rivalry. Counting the postseason, the Bears have lost six in a row and nine of the last 11. So, if anything, this is more Green Bay dominance than a rivalry. But the interesting thing about Trestman is he's a guy who likes to compartmentalize everything. He looks at today rather than the past or the future. So while it sounds cliché, Trestman is looking at the Packers as just another opponent on the schedule. That's just the way Trestman likes to operate, and I think for him it sort of makes things easier.

I keep looking at Green Bay's sack numbers, and I'm a little surprised the club is still in the top 10 in sacks with Clay Matthews out the last three games and other key members of the defense missing time. What is Dom Capers doing over there schematically to keep up the production?

Demovsky: I figured when Matthews broke his thumb, Capers would have to blitz like crazy. Now, he's picked his spots, but he hasn't gone blitz-happy like I thought he might. However, he has been sending different pass-rushers to keep offenses off guard. One game, against the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker A.J. Hawk came a bunch and sacked Joe Flacco three times. Also, they've finally found a defensive lineman with some rush ability in second-year pro Mike Daniels. Three of his team-leading four sacks have come in the past two games.

As long as we're on the topic of quarterbacks, in 2011, backup Josh McCown played a halfway decent game against the Packers on Christmas at Lambeau Field, but he threw a couple of interceptions. What do you expect from him this time around as he starts in place of the injured Jay Cutler?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers have limited Brandon Marshall to 8 catches for 80 yards in their past two meetings.
Wright: Believe it or not, I expect little to no drop-off from McCown in this game. The biggest difference between now and then is that in 2011, McCown joined the team in November, fresh from a stint as a high school football coach in North Carolina, and four weeks later became the starter. So he basically came in cold and still played relatively well. This time around, McCown has become immersed in the offense from the ground level, when Trestman first came on board, and even had some input as the team constructed the scheme. In fact, during the offseason, McCown was holding film sessions with all the club's new additions to teach everyone the new offense. So he's got complete mastery of the offense just like Cutler, which is why McCown came in against the Redskins and the offense didn't miss a beat. Obviously, McCown doesn't possess Cutler's arm strength. But he'll make up for that deficiency with anticipation. I'm quite sure the Bears won't scale down the offense to accommodate McCown at all, because they don't need to. So I expect McCown to play well. I'm just not sure Chicago's offense can keep up with Green Bay's in what I expect to be a high-scoring game.

Speaking of high scoring, the Packers put up 44 points on the Minnesota Vikings. How is Green Bay handling the preparation process for the Bears?

Demovsky: Well, they certainly don't have as much time as the Bears do, considering the Bears are coming off their bye week. But the Packers have gotten themselves into a rhythm. They've won four in a row after their 1-2 start and look like a different team than they did the first three weeks of the season. Mike McCarthy probably doesn't get enough credit nationally, but show me another coach who has stared injuries in the face and hasn't blinked. What other team could lose playmakers like Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Matthews and still keep winning? That's a testament to the program he has established here. You can argue with some of his in-game coaching decisions, but you can do that with every coach. What you can't question, though, is the team's preparation.

The Bears, obviously, have had their share of injuries, too, losing Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs. What's a bigger loss -- Cutler to the offense or Briggs to the defense?

Wright: Well, Cutler's replacement is a veteran in McCown who has plenty of experience and a ton of weapons surrounding him on offense, while rookie Khaseem Greene will likely fill in for Briggs on a bad defense that will also feature rookie Jon Bostic in the middle. From my vantage point, losing Briggs is much more significant. The Bears have already proved to be horrible against the run (ranked 25th), and that issue certainly won't improve with two rookies at linebacker and a defensive line decimated by injury. It's also worth noting that Briggs made all the defensive calls and served as somewhat of a coach on the field for Bostic. Given that Green Bay seems to be running the ball so well, the current situation with Chicago's front seven could be devastating.

Now that the Packers are running the ball so well, how has that changed the way the offense is called? It seems Green Bay runs well regardless of which running back they line up in the backfield.

Demovsky: It's remarkable -- and even a bit stunning -- to see Aaron Rodgers check out of a pass play and in to a run play at the line of scrimmage. That kind of thing hasn't happened around here in a long, long time -- probably not since Ahman Green was piling up 1,000-yard seasons nearly a decade ago. Teams no longer can sit back in a Cover-2 look and dare the Packers to run. Because guess what? The Packers can finally do it. It also has given the receivers more one-on-one opportunities, so it's helped the passing game, too. Right now, this offense almost looks unstoppable.

If the Packers keep playing like this, they might be tough to catch in the NFC North. What are the Bears' prospects for staying in the NFC North race until Cutler and Briggs return?

Wright: To me, this game is the measuring stick for making that determination. But I'm not really confident about Chicago's chances, and that has more to do with the team's struggling defense than Cutler's absence. There have been conflicting statements made about Cutler's recovery time frame. Some teammates think he'll be ready to return by the time the Bears face Detroit on Nov. 4, while Trestman said the plan is to stick to the minimum four-week time frame prescribed by the doctors. Either way, if the Bears lose to the Lions you can kiss their prospects for the playoffs goodbye. The Bears might be able to afford a loss to the Packers because they'll face them again on Dec. 29. But a sweep by the Lions kills Chicago's chances to me because just from what we've seen so far, it appears one of the wild cards will come out of the NFC North with the other coming from the NFC West. Obviously it's too early to predict that, but that's the way things seem to be shaking out.

Without two of his top receivers and tight end Finley, Rogers still hit 83 percent of his passes against the Vikings. Is that success a product of the system, a bad Minnesota defense, or is Rodgers just that good at this point?

Demovsky: The more I see other quarterbacks play, the more I'm convinced it's Rodgers. For example, seldom-used receiver Jarrett Boykin makes his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, and he ends up with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. How many catches do you think he would have had if he were playing for the Browns that day? Their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, completed only 17-of-42 passes. That's not to minimize what Boykin did or what players like Jordy Nelson do week in and week out, but Rodgers is special, and special players elevate the play of those around them. Look at what Greg Jennings has done since he left for the Vikings. Now tell me the quarterback doesn't make the receiver, not vice versa.

Speaking of receivers, other than Anquan Boldin, who lit up the Packers in the opener at San Francisco, they've done a solid job shutting down other team's No. 1 receivers -- most recently Jennings and Cincinnati's A.J. Green. How do you think the Bears will try to get Brandon Marshall involved against what has been a pretty good Packers secondary?

Wright: This question brings me back to the 2012 massacre at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13. The Packers bracketed Marshall with two-man coverage, and the Bears struggled tremendously. Shoot, cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many of Cutler's passes as Marshall, who finished the game with two grabs for 24 yards. Obviously, this offensive coaching staff is a lot different than last year's group. So the Bears will go into this game with a lot more answers for that coverage. I definitely see McCown leaning on Marshall and trying to get him involved as early as possible, but the only way he'll be able to do that is for the Bears to establish the rushing attack with Matt Forte so the quarterback can operate off play action. When the Bears go to Marshall early, expect to see a lot of short passes that will enable the receiver to gain some yardage after the catch.

Over the years, Green Bay has been pretty successful at limiting the impact of return man Devin Hester. So I was a little shocked to see the Packers give up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson. As you probably know, Hester is coming off a pretty strong return game against the Redskins. Do you think the Packers fix the problems they encountered last week, and minimize Hester's impact?

Demovsky: Part of the Packers' problem on special teams has been that all the injuries have created a trickle-down effect. Here's what I mean: On the kickoff coverage until they gave up the 109-yard return to Patterson, they lined up six rookies, two of whom weren't even on the opening day roster. The Packers always have feared Hester, as they should, and in various games in recent years have shown they'd almost rather kick the ball out of bounds than give him any return opportunities. He's one of those special players who make rivalry games so entertaining.

Double Coverage: Redskins at Packers

September, 13, 2013
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Eddie Lacy and Robert Griffin IIIAP Photo, Getty ImagesEddie Lacy, left, and Robert Griffin III are among the keys to Sunday's Packers-Redskins matchup.
The Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins, NFC division winners last season and playoff hopefuls this season, both lost in Week 1.

That means, barring a tie, when they meet Sunday at Lambeau Field, one of these teams will be in an 0-2 hole to start this season.

“It’s not about, does it make or break your season,” Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said this week.

ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim break down the key elements to this matchup.

Demovsky: John, let’s get right to perhaps the most closely watched knee rehabilitation in recent NFL history. You’ve watched Griffin’s every move in his comeback from the knee injury. You have chronicled practically every step he has made since, and by now, you’ve dissected the film of Monday night’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. What limitations, if any, did he play with?

Keim: Griffin did not look the same and showed the effects of not playing in a game in the preseason -- and of recovering from major knee surgery in January. Was his knee 100 percent? Everyone says it is, including the doctors. But his game was not 100 percent, as should be expected. Jon Gruden pointed it out a few times on Monday night, showing how Griffin wasn’t always transferring his weight onto his front leg when he threw. In some cases, the line was getting shoved back and provided him no chance to step into a throw. But it was evident early, even when he had that room. It seemed like his reactions in the pocket, especially early, were not where he would want them to be. He also made the worst passing decision of his career, throwing an interception into triple coverage to a receiver who never even appeared open. He finished strong, though most of the passes he completed during this stretch were short throws. Still, he showed a better rhythm. It’s going to take him a few games.

The Packers just played a mobile quarterback; how did they take away Colin Kaepernick's legs -- and how did it leave them vulnerable to the pass?

Demovsky: The Packers did a good job limiting Kaepernick’s running opportunities by playing a lot of zone coverage. That kept the defenders’ eyes on the quarterback, and they rarely had their backs turned to him. However, that meant they couldn’t play as much press coverage as they normally would, and the result was that they gave up massive amounts of yardage to receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught 13 passes for 208 yards, and allowed Kaepernick to throw for 412 yards. Now, it should be noted that the Packers were missing two key players in the secondary, safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward, who both missed the game because of hamstring injuries.

How much, if anything, do you think Redskins can learn from watching the way Kaepernick and the 49ers attacked the Packers?

Keim: I’m sure there is a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they anticipate different looks in the secondary because of who might be back for Green Bay and because Griffin needs to prove himself as a dynamic threat again. Until he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams play him more aggressively, or at least without as much fear. I’m not sure how long that will last; until he makes them pay, I suppose. But I also think what Washington needs to do more than learning from Green Bay's game is learn from its own. The Redskins killed themselves with penalties and poor decision-making. That meant their bread-and-butter run game could never get going, and their offense sputtered until it was 33-7.

Are Burnett and Hayward expected to play Sunday? If so, how big a difference will that make for the Packers?

Demovsky: Hayward won’t play. He already has been ruled out and is likely to miss at least another game or two. This is the second time he pulled the same hamstring. The first time, he missed a month. He reinjured it Aug. 23, and if it’s as severe, he could be out for a while. Last season, his six interceptions were huge for the defense. Burnett’s injury didn’t seem as bad, and it was somewhat surprising that he missed the 49ers’ game. The Packers hope he can play, because their safety play with M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian was subpar at San Francisco.

Speaking of the secondary, the Redskins were 30th in the NFL last season in passing yards allowed. Are there any signs that will improve this season? I would think Aaron Rodgers would be licking his chops to play against this defense.

Keim: It’s debatable how much they’ve improved. Long term? I think they’ll be helped because two rookies -- starting free safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerback David Amerson -- are playing key roles. Rambo’s big issue is tackling, mostly in the open field. His coverage has mostly been fine, but I don’t think he’s been challenged in a way that Rodgers could on Sunday. I like Amerson’s future, if he remains disciplined with his technique. He’s a better tackler than anticipated. But Washington has issues at strong safety because of Brandon Meriweather's constant injury issues (missed Monday with a groin injury). The Redskins used a cornerback who had never played safety before in his place (E.J. Biggers), and he struggled. Their corners, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, do some good things but are not top-line starters. What this group needs more than anything is a better pass rush.

Speaking of the rush, how is the Green Bay offensive line holding up without Bryan Bulaga, and where is it susceptible?

Demovsky: Perhaps surprisingly, Green Bay's young tackles, rookie David Bakhtiari on the left side and second-year man Don Barclay on the right, held up well against the 49ers. Aldon Smith beat Bakhtiari a couple of times for sacks, but Smith does that to a lot of tackles. It’s why he had 19.5 sacks last season. But other than those two plays, Bakhtiari’s first start went fine. Barclay is much improved over last season, when he filled in for Bulaga the final six games. As a unit, the run blocking needs to get much better. Eddie Lacy didn’t have much running room, and when he did, there were penalties -- three of them on left guard Josh Sitton, who is normally pretty clean -- that wiped away the Packers' longest rushes of the game.

Looking at the big picture, one of these teams is going to be 0-2 after this game (barring a tie). If that’s the Redskins, how devastating would that be for them? I know they finished strong last season, but I’m sure they don’t want to put themselves in a hole again.

Keim: It’s a hole they could dig out of with games against the Detroit Lions at home and on the road against the Oakland Raiders in the following two weeks before their bye. But I don’t think any team wants to start off 0-2, especially one that has designs on accomplishing grand things in the postseason, which, if healthy, the Redskins should have. I also think it would depend on how they look against Green Bay. If they play well and lose a close game, it still suggests they’re on a certain path (no moral victories, but more about being headed in the right direction). If it’s an ugly game like it was for nearly three quarters Monday? Then it suggests other issues. That would be difficult for them to swallow. But the one thing I’ve seen with this group, last season and in the previous few, is that they are resilient. Their mindset is a good one for a 16-game season.

I would think if there’s any formula for stopping the Green Bay offense, everyone would use it. But is there a theme to when teams are able to slow this attack?

Demovsky: For about the past year and a half, teams have played the Packers predominantly one way -- keep both safeties back and dare them to run the ball. That’s why they drafted Lacy in the second round. The hope is that teams will start respecting the Packers’ running game and bring a safety in the box to stop it. That would give Rodgers more open space to throw in the secondary. Lacy did not get off to a strong start against the 49ers, but he did have one impressive series late in the game in which he gained 26 yards on five carries. Problem was, he couldn’t get much else done the rest of the game.

Starter Pack: Problems at safety

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday that the biggest problem with losing safety Morgan Burnett to a hamstring injury was that it happened so late in the preparation for Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

Burnett, who first pulled his hamstring on Aug. 23, had returned to practice last week only to come up lame Friday morning.

“The toughest thing with Morgan was we didn’t realize we weren’t going to have him until Friday because we practiced Wednesday and Thursday thinking we would have him,” Capers said. “But we expect the other guys to go in there and be able to go in and perform. They certainly played a lot of plays.”

A story by Weston Hodkiewicz in the Green Bay Press-Gazette detailed the play of fill-in safeties M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian and what role they played in allowing receiver Anquan Boldin to catch 13 passes for 208 yards to lead the 49ers to a 34-28 win.

The story included this breakdown, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

According to Pro Football Focus, McMillian missed four tackles and allowed six catches on six targets for 57 yards with a touchdown allowed. Jennings fared slightly better with only three for 39 yards, but neither could fill Burnett’s stewardship in the secondary.

Elsewhere:

The trouble with youth

September, 9, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One of the potential problems with having a perpetually young team is that Week 1 games can be something of an adventure.

In Sunday’s 34-28 season-opening loss at San Francisco, that was the case at several positions for the Green Bay Packers, who came out of training camp with the fifth-youngest roster in the NFL, per colleague Mike Sando.

Whether it was rookie running back Eddie Lacy or inexperienced players in the secondary -- rookie cornerback Micah Hyde and second-year safety Jerron McMillian played extensively -- the mistakes were costly.

Hyde
Hyde
McMillian
McMillian
Lacy got off to a slow start, lost a fumble and finished with just 41 yards on 14 attempts.

“Eddie needs to detail his work,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Whether it’s the runs, protection, our young guys were, it was their first game, and he was one of them.

“But the details, that’s the difference between winning and losing in this league.”

When asked what, exactly, that meant, offensive coordinator Tom Clements said: “That entails knowing what your job responsibilities are and making sure you execute them to the best of your ability.”

That was the one of the focuses of McCarthy’s speech to the team during Monday’s team meeting.

“Effort wise, I don’t think it’s a question,” veteran cornerback Jarrett Bush said. “Just being held accountable is some of the issue. That’s part of my job, Tramon (Williams’ job), Sam Shields’ (job), some of the guys in the secondary, just getting the younger guys (to understand) this is the Packers way, this is what the coaches want.”

In other odds and ends:
  • McCarthy gave positive reviews to his starting tackles, rookie David Bakhtiari and second-year pro Don Barclay. Said McCarthy: “I thought Don and David, they played well. Tough environment, good football team, so it was a great test. We have a lot of respect for their whole defensive line, the way they’re coached, the outside linebackers are both premier players, so it was a great test for those guys.”
  • Jeremy Ross didn’t do enough in the kick return game to convince the Packers to go with him full time. Ross averaged just 13.3 yards on three kickoff returns and had a 9-yard punt return plus a fair catch. Randall Cobb, the primary returner the last two seasons, was used in spot duty and had a 16-yard punt return. “I thought our production in the return game was nowhere [close] to where it needed to be in the kickoff return game,” special teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “We had opportunities, and we didn’t get it done. Our blocking was poor. We gave our offense two series starting inside the 10-yard line. That’s totally unacceptable. Our punt return, we had an explosive return with Randall and Jeremy had a solid return and could’ve broken it even longer.”
  • Even when the Packers committed extra defenders to covering Anquan Boldin, who caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown, the 49ers receiver still made plays. Said defensive coordinator Dom Capers: “As a matter of fact, two of his catches -- the touchdown pass we had a double on him and he just beat the double, and the very first third down of the second half, we had them to third-and-9 and had a double call on him, and that’s when I think it was a 22-yarder on a 7-yard route. So it wasn’t like we didn’t have things up and ready.”
  • McCarthy had no new injury information on safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward, both of whom missed the game because of hamstring injuries. The only injury that was announced from the game was linebacker Nick Perry (stinger).

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 34, Packers 28

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
7:50
PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rapid reaction from the Packers’ 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Candlestick Park:

What it means: The read-option offense didn’t beat the Green Bay Packers. Anquan Boldin did. In his first game with the 49ers, the former Baltimore Ravens receiver exposed another problem with the Packers’ defense. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s new favorite target caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns.

Stock Watch: Considering the 49ers ranked fourth last season in rushing defense, it may not be fair to judge whether the Packers’ running game has improved. But the numbers weren’t pretty. They rushed for just 63 yards on 19 attempts. Combine that with the fact that starting running back Eddie Lacy, in his first NFL start, lost a fumble in the second quarter. Lacy finally got going in the fourth quarter. Lacy capped a go-ahead drive that gave the Packers a 28-24 lead with 8:20 remaining with a 2-yard touchdown leap over the pile. He carried five times for 26 yards on the drive. The problem was Lacy carried nine other times for just 15 yards.

Trouble up the middle: Without safety Morgan Burnett and slot cornerback Casey Hayward, both sidelined with hamstring injuries, the Packers had all kinds of trouble defending the middle of the field. The safeties were responsible for the 49ers’ first two touchdowns, a 20-yard pass from Kaepernick to tight end Vernon Davis against M.D. Jennings in the first quarter and a 10-yard pass from Kaepernick to Boldin in the second quarter.

Sitton struggles: Josh Sitton, in his first game since moving from right guard to left guard, struggled. He was penalized three times -- once for illegal hands to the face and twice for holding -- and didn’t fare well in the running game.

Up-and-down debut: Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari drew a tough assignment in his first start, facing Aldon Smith, who finished second in the NFL last season with 19.5 sacks. Bakhtiari gave up two sacks to Smith but those may have been his only two bad plays.

What’s next: The home opener is Sunday against the Washington Redskins, who will be coming off a short week after playing the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

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