The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers squared off in Week 1, but plenty has changed in the 17 weeks since then. I thought we'd take a look at both sides of the ball with a little help from our friends at Acme Packing Company. Jason Hirschhorn took some time to answer five questions about their offense, and five questions about their defense. I've broken them up with the offensive questions here, and the defensive questions coming later today. Additionally, feel free to check back on the previous questions I asked Jason back before Week 1.
Niners Nation: Rodgers made his return last week, and it seemed like there was a bit of rust. What are your thoughts on that performance, and what do Packers fans expect this Sunday?
APC: As you would expect from any player fresh off a half season absence, there were some mistakes by Aaron Rodgers. The two interceptions stand out the most, but there were several medium route overthrows and underthrows that delayed drives. However, most of these were limited to the first half, and Rodgers looked strong to finish out the game. That's probably closer to the player the 49ers will see Sunday.
NN Eddie Lacy was contained in Week 1, but has had some big games since then. How do you assess where the rookie is at right now? Any word on his ankle?
APC: Eddie Lacy was still an unknown commodity when the 49ers last saw him. It wasn't until Rodgers went down that Lacy truly hit his stride. His running style isn't all too dissimilar from that of Marshawn Lynch who San Francisco is pretty familiar with. He can burst out of the hole and plow through several defenders for the extra few yards. What makes him special is his immaculate footwork, rare for a tailback his size. Even when he isn't moving forward, Lacy can quickly reposition himself to exploit a defender's position. It's safe to say he's the best running back the Packers have had since Ahman Green's peak a decade ago.
As for his ankle, it's reportedly a little healthier than a week ago. Since the initial injury, Green Bay has run Lacy more to his left to prevent him from pushing off on the bad ankle. They may vary up the runs more this week, but expect the ground game to lean to the left on most plays.
NN: Randall Cobb only had two catches, but they both went for touchdowns. How close is Cobb to 100%, and how will the Packers look to use him on Sunday?
APC: As is customary in Green Bay, the team revealed very little information in the weeks leading up to Randall Cobb's return. While some beat writers observed him running routes in pregame warm ups week 16, the team downplayed the chances of Cobb returning before the playoffs. So naturally it was a welcome surprise that Cobb did indeed suit up this past weekend.
Judging from how he looked against the Bears, it would appear that Cobb is around 100%. His snap count would suggest otherwise though, so it's difficult to say for certain. The only thing I'm comfortable saying is that Cobb will receive more snaps than he did last week.
NN: Football Outsiders ranks the Packers OL 5th in adjusted line yards, but 26th in adjusted sack rate. What are the issues with regard to pass protection?
APC: The Packers hit a rough patch in the middle third of the year when injuries and a downturn in performance really hit the unit. The offensive line is healthy now, but right tackle Don Barclay continues to struggle against even average pass rushers. What's particularly problematic about this situation is that the Packers are already compensating for a rookie left tackle, which has led to inconsistent play.
NN: How do you see the Packers attacking the 49ers on Sunday? How much focus do you expect on the run game vs. the pass game?
APC: suspect we'll see an offensive approach similar to Bears game; Lacy and the ground game will be leaned on early while Rodgers gets into a groove heading into the second half. Now, the San Francisco possesses a significantly better defense than Chicago, but that approach would appear to maximize the Packers' assets on offense.