What Fangio said and what the 49ers did

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
5:45
PM ET
About this time last week, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was telling us how his defense, about to face the Green Bay Packers, differed from some others.

"They will dictate what kind of game it is from a personnel standpoint," Fangio said of the Packers. "We are prepared to match their personnel with our people and we're a little different than some people in that we will keep our base defense out there against three wide receivers."

Hold on a minute. That last part was 100 percent counter to how the 49ers played the Packers. San Francisco played three snaps of its base 3-4 defense, none of them against the Packers' three-receiver offense. The team used nickel or dime coverages against all 19 plays when the Packers used three wide receivers.

Fangio and the defensive staff even removed Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis from the field for stretches to counter the Packers' pass-oriented offense. The first chart shows Green Bay's stats with Willis on and off the field. Green Bay had some early success against Willis in coverage. Overall, though, the stats aren't particularly telling. It's just odd to see one of the NFL's great every-down linebackers coming off the field for almost any reason.

The chart below shows the Packers' stats against the 49ers' sub, base and short-yardage defenses, according to ESPN Stats & Information. San Francisco spent nearly all the game in its sub packages. Their defensive front was strong enough to deter the Packers from running anyway. Green Bay fell behind, which also could have been a factor.

The plan will be different against Detroit in Week 2. They ran 62 percent of their Week 1 plays against St. Louis with only two wide receivers on the field. Tight ends and running backs filled out the other three spots. The Packers ran more than 80 percent of their plays against the 49ers with three or four wide receivers on the field.

Last season, Willis played a leading role in coverage against Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

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