We haven’t talked about the Divisional round game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. There was quite a bit to take away from that game, both good and bad. Here are five takeaways and what it means for the San Francisco 49ers heading into the NFC Championship.
All season we were hit with these stats telling us that Aaron Rodgers is no longer Aaron Rodgers. To be fair, Rodgers didn’t look like himself this season. Pro Football Reference has a ”bad throw” stat—which is defined as throws that weren’t catchable with normal effort—and Rodgers led the league at 21%. For reference, Jimmy Garoppolo was the fourth-best at 13.7%.
Furthermore, they also have an “on-target throws” stat that tells us a pass that would have hit the intended receiving target. Rodgers was 16th at 74.7%. That was good for 16th, while Jimmy G was once again fourth at 80.7%.
The eye test told you he was just another quarterback this season. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. We saw vintage Rodgers in the divisional round. Buying time in the pocket, dropping perfect placed passes down the field, and bailing his team out on third down when they needed him the most. Rodgers was fantastic, and the 49ers need to be ready for this version. Rodgers was 6-for-6 on throws ten yards or more down the field for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers was money when the Seahawks blitzed him, going 7-for-11 for 124 yards and two scores. He’s just a smart quarterback that avoids the mistake. Instead of putting the ball in harm’s way, he’ll throw it away. The difference in this game was Rodgers on third down. Green Bay was 9-for-14 on third downs. More importantly, 6-for-9 on third downs when they needed to gain more than six yards. Obvious passing downs is what the 49ers defense was built for.
This goes without saying, but the Niners need to pressure Rodgers. Under pressure, Rodgers was 2-for-8 for 36 yards and was sacked once. He threw the ball away on five of those attempts. Like last week, pressuring with four will be the difference for San Francisco.
I spy a weak link
I would say as good as wide receiver Davante Adams looked, right guard, Billy Turner was equally as worse. Seattle was moving their defensive line, slanting, stunting, twisting, and Turner looked like he had never seen this in his life before. In my opinion, the 49er’s defensive line is at their best when they are on the move, or one of their edge rushers rushes from inside. Dee Ford’s sack is a prime example. The Wide-9 creates space where you’re isolated against a guard, and these interior linemen don’t stand a chance.
PFF agreed. They graded Turner as a 42.0 during the game. His pass-blocking grade? 10.7. I’ve never seen a grade that low before. They charged Turner with a sack and four other pressures. Arik Armstead had to be doing his sack dance while watching this game.
Buckle up in the trenches
The biggest difference between Minnesota and Green Bay will be the physicality in the trenches. San Francisco moved the Vikings defensive line like a blocking sled for four quarters. Whenever they wanted to run the ball, the 49ers did. While the Niners have the upper hand along the defensive line, thanks to the Packers guards, they’ll have their hands full on the other side of the ball.
Differentiating how much of this was due to Seattle’s line being terrible is tricky, but the Packers got after Russell Wilson seemingly every pass rush. The Packers had a whopping 30 total pressures against the Seahawks. Ten of those were sacks and quarterback hits, so they were getting after hit. The “Smith brothers had 18 of those. Joe Staley didn’t play in Week 12, but he’s played well in his return. Both Staley and Mike McGlinchey should matchup well as these guys are more power and technique than pure speed and athleticism. Kenny Clark had an active day as well. He finished with four-run stops, in addition to seven total pressures. Wilson led the Seahawks in rushing. If you take away his 22-yard scramble, Seattle averaged 3.8 yards per carry on 23 rushes.
I don’t know, man. It’s the same story every game, and this one was no different. Seattle had a drive where they ran the ball three times in a row. Shockingly, they punted on the next play. That team doesn’t give themselves a chance, and when they realize who their best player is in the third quarter, it’s too little too late. I couldn’t imagine marginalizing my best player as often as the Seahawks do. Seattle ran a reverse into the boundary. Come on. How many times have we seen the 49ers break a long end-around or reverse? Now, how many times was that run to the short side of the field? That offense is...something.
The difference between Seattle’s defense and the Niners is the difference between a well-done, bottom-round cut steak and a filet mignon. One of these is not like the other. San Francisco is stocked with playmakers at every level. Seattle was still able to generate pressure with their movement up front. Jadeveon Clowney was the only pass rusher with more than two pressures. From a pass-rushing standpoint, the 49ers have three better players than Clowney. The 49ers are superior as a unit at linebacker, and the two secondaries aren’t even close.
Wilson didn’t have time to take advantage of the Packers secondary, but when he did, Green Bay paid for it. The speed difference should show up in the middle of the field for San Francisco. Getting Tramon Williams matched up with a speedy target and forcing him to run laterally across the field or deep down the field will be one of the bigger matchup advantages in this game. The weakness is glaring on both sides of the ball. When that’s the case, San Francisco usually puts a magnifying glass on it and milks it for four quarters.