Packers' defense left looking for answers as 49ers rack up a dozen explosive plays
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After a week off to rest and get healthy and then a back-to-routine practice week to prepare for the San Francisco 49ers, members of the Green Bay Packers’ defense packed up for home Sunday night needing to get back to the film to figure out what happened at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers averaged 7.5 yards per play, 5.1 yards per rush and had 12 explosive plays in beating the Packers 37-8.
Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine considers an explosive run to be 10 yards or more and an explosive pass to be 15 yards or more — and while he admitted those are relatively strict standards, the 49ers hit those marks with five runs and seven passes across seven different possessions.
Not coincidentally, the 49ers scored on six of them.
And it left the Packers wondering why.
“Twelve of 'em?” cornerback Jaire Alexander said. “Damn. I don’t know for real. I can’t give you that (reason). I gotta watch the film.”
Defensive back Chandon Sullivan let out a long exhale when told the 49ers got to a dozen.
“It’s too many,” he said. “It’s definitely frustrating because that’s been one of our points of emphasis is limiting the explosive plays. Anytime you can limit that you have a better probability of winning. So we gotta go back to the film, go back to the basics, because it’s simple stuff, simplify it down so everybody can play fast and we’ll be fine. We’re not panicking or nothing.”
The 49ers got on the board early with a 2-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman after an Aaron Rodgers fumble, but after that the Packers forced a punt and held San Francisco to field goals over the next five possessions.
But something changed in the second quarter, as the 49ers racked up six explosives — the biggest coming with a minute left in the first half when 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit wide receiver Deebo Samuel over the middle for a 42-yard touchdown to make it 20-0.
After a Packers three-and-out and short punt by JK Scott, Garoppolo connected with tight end George Kittle for a 22-yard gain that set up a Chase McLaughlin field goal to extend the advantage to 23-0 at the break.
“They just executed. They executed when they needed to,” Packers cornerback Kevin King said. “They just found the spots. Ran the right plays at the right time — or the wrong time. We’ll dive more into the film and see why things actually happened.”
The backbreaker was a 61-yard catch and run by Kittle in the third quarter after Green Bay finally dented the scoreboard to make it 23-8.
The 49ers ran play-action to the right, getting the defensive line flowing quickly to their left. Tight end Ross Dwelley cut across the other direction as Garoppolo booted out free and clear of any pass rush. Kittle released cleanly off the line of scrimmage and shot upfield and angled toward the Packers sideline. When King turned to presumably funnel Kittle toward the boundary, the tight end broke back to the middle of the field and outraced King and Alexander for a score.
It was the ninth, and most explosive, of all the big plays the 49ers executed.
“It was basically a throwback boot, counter situation where the quarterback rolled out,” said Packers safety Adrian Amos, who along with fellow safety Darnell Savage moved with Dwelley. “It’s a boot, it’s an over (route). Played with a couple guy’s eyes and then should have been a double on that deep route, but we’ve got to go back to the film and see where we can all get better.”
Heading into the game, the Packers had given up 26 rushes of 10 yards or more and 65 passes of 15 yards or more.
“This is a situation that has been going on for weeks,” outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith said. “It’s just something we’ve got to keep practicing and get better at, for sure.”
The Packers said the 49ers just ran their offense, helping Garoppolo stay efficient and sound with his decision making with play-action passes, bootlegs and an abundance of over routes. And the 49ers quarterback capitalized, going 14-for-20 for 253 yards and a 145.8 rating. He averaged 12.7 yards per pass attempt.
“To be honest, I was trying to figure that out on the sidelines,” Alexander said of the 49ers' consistent ability to create the big play. “But I don’t know right now. I don’t. I expected us to come out and dominate but I don’t really know. I don’t really know what it was.”