Double teams couldn't stop Boldin's big day

Sep. 9, 2013

The Green Bay Packers didn’t forget about Anquan Boldin during Sunday’s 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers - they just didn't have an answer for him.

During his usual day-after availability with the Green Bay media, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said the defense began doubling the 32-year-old receiver in coverage midway through his gutting of the Packers’ secondary to the tune of 13 catches, 208 yards and a touchdown.

Simply put, the execution was off and the adjustments didn’t work. The rest was elementary as Colin Kaepernick finished with his first 400-yard passing game and the 49ers put away the Packers for the third time in a year.

“We had some double calls in there. As a matter of fact, two of his catches – the touchdown pass, we had a double on him and he just beat the double,” Capers said. “And the very first third down of the second half, we had them to third-and-9 and we had a double call on him and that’s when I think it was a 22-yarder on a 7 route. So, it wasn’t like we didn’t have things up and ready. We just didn’t execute with the kind of efficiency you need to against a veteran receiver that’s been doing that for a long time.”

The Packers were thrown for a curve ball on Friday with Morgan Burnett’s hamstring flare-up, which wound up sidelining him on Sunday. Despite an NFL Network report that suggested he was expected to play, Burnett said after the loss that the hamstring didn’t noticeably improve from Friday into Sunday.

Burnett’s absence was noticeable with Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings left to carry the load at the position. Although Packers coach Mike McCarthy said their communication was OK, the execution was not as the secondary allowed numerous big gains in the middle of the field.

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

Burnett said after the game he wasn’t sure about his status for Washington and the Packers undoubtedly will want to play it safe following the aggravated hamstring injury that will keep Casey Hayward out indefinitely.

McMillian, who was making his first career start, played in all 77 defensive snaps against the 49ers with Jennings playing all but two. If Burnett doesn’t return against Washington, expect to see rookie Chris Banjo incorporated into the plan.

“Obviously, we worked the 3 safety rotation, those guys play in different personnel groups. But we had to kind of change a number of plays,” Capers said. “I don’t think you would have probably seen either Jerron or MD play 75 plays apiece, but we’ll have to make sure we get young Chris Banjo ready to go too. I think he’s capable of doing some things for us. We’re going to be using some different packages, you’d like to kind of, the reps you’d like to balance that out a little bit.”

McMillian and Jennings weren’t the only guilty parties. Before developing a stinger late in the game, outside linebacker Nick Perry failed to jam Boldin and keep him out of the seam on an eventual 43-yard pass that turned the momentum back in the 49ers’ favor after the Packers took a 28-24 lead with less than 8 minutes remaining.

Shields also had his issues with Boldin while Kaepernick completed 13-of-15 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the middle of the field on throws inside 20 yards of the line of scrimmage.

The domino effect of having McMillian start in place of Burnett was that it pushed the second-year safety out of his usual spot as a slot cornerback in the dime defense with veteran cornerback Jarrett Bush moving into that spot.

The switch-up had a role in deciding the game with the 49ers looking at a third-and-4 situation from their own 41 with 3:26 remaining. The Packers managed to seal off Boldin, but Kaepernick had enough time and presence of mind to find tight end Vernon Davis, who came free from Bush and caught the 15-yard pass to seal it.

In the midst of a challenging three-game stretch before the early buy week, the Packers will need to make a quick turnaround as Washington and its own dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III come to town on Sunday.

“I think we just need to tighten down some of those bolts,” Bush said. “Obviously we can’t allow Anquan to have 200 yards receiving. That’s just not acceptable, especially in the Packer defense. We just have to come back to work, come in on Wednesday, get ready for Washington. We’re not happy about it. We just have to move on and learn from it and understand what went wrong, how to play it better next time and move on.”

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