GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 9: Joe Staley #74 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The 49ers won 30-22. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
One of the biggest/only question marks coming into this season was the state of the offensive line. The San Francisco 49ers entered training camp without an actual right guard on the roster and no backup at center. Their solution was to switch swing tackle Alex Boone over to right guard, sign a few hundred pounds of gelatinous (but effective) goo in Leonard Davis and hope that they don't get any injuries.
The Green Bay Packers are a team that boasts a deceptively strong pass rush, thanks to versatile players in the secondary and that one linebacker ... Chuck? Carl? Clay! That's it! Clay Matthews is the little scamp's name. He's ... pretty good at football, you know?
Joe Staley was given the task of trying to prevent Matthews from bringing Smith down. He ... wasn't very successful. In fact, the times when Matthews didn't get Smith, he was often in the picture and led Smith into another player for the sack. Staley called it his worst game ever, and while I don't think that's the case, it was still pretty brutal.
After the jump, I'll have a breakdown of the five sacks allowed by the 49ers. Just going to get through it pretty quickly, so if there's player name wrong here or there, it's more a typo and slip of the mind than anything. Let's see what went wrong, shall we?First Possession, 3rd and 2, 13:46 of the first quarter: Smith lines up in the shotgun with Frank Gore to his right and a slew of receivers on the field. Four targets are standing straight, including tight end Vernon Davis. Clay Matthews is very clearly showing blitz on this play. Matthews comes over the line and looks like he's going wide. Joe Staley rotates his hips and that gives Matthews the edge he needs, slamming into Staley and pushing him backwards until they both come toppling down near Smith. Matthews has an arm around Smith's leg and it's a sack to stall the drive. On the play, everyone else blocked well, though Anthony Davis was getting pushed back enough to make Smith panic, which may have drove him closer to the blitzing Matthews.
Sixth Posession, 1st and 10, 13:25 of the third quarter SF leads 16-7: 49ers lineup with two out wide and Vernon Davis to the right of the formation. Bruce Miller starts on the right side, goes in motion to the left, and then again, goes back to the right side to check the coverage. Smith is under center with Frank Gore in the backfield. Miller starts offset to Smith on his right, behind Alex Boone. Green Bay is showing man coverage on the corners and Matthews looks ready to run. Smith takes the snap, looks to his right where the pressure is coming from and sees that Anthony Davis has his man and that Bruce Miller is lined up perfectly to get his block on cornerback Charles Woodson. For some reason,
Miller totally ignores the blitzing corner (upon further reflection, there's a chance the 49ers instructed Miller to pay primary attention to the center of the line due to the relative instability and he just got ahead of himself) and Smith has already turned to his left, where he sees Staley struggling with Matthews. Staley begins to seal it off well so Smith steps up, but he's brought down by Woodson. It was not a very sneaky corner blitz, but it still worked.
Seventh Possession: 1st and 10, 3:28 of the third quarter, SF leads 23-7: Two wide receivers with Vernon Davis in blocking formation on the left side. Delanie Walker starts out as the fullback, then motions to line up outside on the right side of the formation, with Gore in the backfield behind Smith, who is under center. Woodson moves to cover Walker and Matthews is showing that he's likely to drop back given his weight displacement near the snap. The ball is snapped and both Davis and Walker are going for it.
Matthews is rushing, and Woodson is ignoring Walker, passing him off to the safety and linebackers to go for another blitz. Gore starts out going right, but makes his way up the middle, totally missing his assignment on chipping Woodson, which lets him get to Smith. Davis actually recovers well and pushes Woodson a good amount, but Matthews overpowers Joe Staley and tosses him aside. Matthews gets a hand on Smith, and as he is trying to get away, Woodson gets a piece of the sack.
Eighth Possession: 2nd and 7, 13:22 of the fourth quarter, SF leads 23-7: Miller and Gore are in the backfield, right Miller offset to the right. Vernon Davis on the right side in blocking formation, two receivers out left and Smith under center. Green Bay is showing a base cover defense, with three defensive backs standing at the same levels with one linebacker, and Matthews, of course, showing blitz. Smith calls for a motion and Miller sets up to the left of him. The ball is snapped and Miller goes out for a pass. Gore comes in to chip a blitzing defensive back to Smith's right, and Staley has his hands full with Matthews.
Staley barely manages to seal the edge and Matthews goes to the ground, which is eventually called as a hold. It could have went either way, but it was probably more holding than not holding. Smith, at this point, has rolled out to the left and is going to try and make a play on the feet, so Mike Iupati, Alex Boone and Jonathan Goodwin all disengage and Smith is brought down in the fray, but if not for the holding, Smith would have only officially lost "inches" on the play.
Eleventh Possession: 2nd and 10, 4:01 of the fourth quarter, SF leads 30-22: The 49ers just spent their final timeout after letting the clock (intentionally) run down. The Packers just scored and the 49ers really need to extend this drive. Smith lines up in the shotgun with an empty backfield, five players marked as targets out of blocking formation. Packers drop one defensive back, but mostly look as though they have all game, with Matthews ready to rush. Green Bay switches to some serious press converage as the ball is snapped. Matthews comes out along the left side and slams into Staley, this time letting up just before hitting him. He showed the same move on the first sack of the game, but this time he followed through with the move to the outside and Staley fell down, not able to keep up. Matthews gets the sack without much issue here.