Once an understudy, the Packers defense shined bright in San Francisco.
The defensive unit vastly out-performed their offense for most of the game, which isn’t a common or easily founded statement. They bullied the 49ers offense and harassed their quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the tune of 6 sacks.
“We’re playing the kind of ball we want to play in most of the phases. When the defense they play like that, we’re going to be tough to beat,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the Packers 17-3 win over San Francisco.
“Offensively we’ve kind of carried it at time the first few weeks but the defense, especially the last two weeks have put pressure on the passer. We’re not getting a ton of turnovers but when the offense is not turning it over it makes us pretty tough to beat,” he continued.
Outside of a pair of opening drive touchdowns in each half Rodgers and the offense sputtered. It’s an infrequent occurrence but was carried by their opposite number.
The defense – who was overwhelmed by Kaepernick’s dual-threat offense to an average of 401 total yards per game in his three previous starts against Green Bay – came alive. Without surrendering a touchdown the unit instead made the athletic quarterback look awkward.
“Forcing them to be one dimensional was our goal today,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde only carried the ball eight times for 20 yards. “In some opportunities we were able to pin our ears back and get after Kaepernick and I thought we did a pretty good job.”
The Packers now rank second in the NFL with 17 sacks – which is also a mark they didn’t reach until Week 8 a season ago.
They designed the pressure in the game plan to be aggressive from the opening kickoff as to not allow the read-option to overtake them. Their assertiveness worked from a variety of way and locations too. Five different players tallied a takedown of Kaepernick.
“After a while when one person gets one, we all on the sideline are like ‘Man I need one,’” Mike Neal said. “So we all go hunting and I think it’s a competition within our linebackers, defensive line and once a person gets one we try to keep them rolling and it’s been working.”
It’s carryover for a pair of performances against the Seahawks and Chiefs. The defense only allowed Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles to gain 90 combined yards on the ground.
While the defense has the NFL’s best security blanket in Rodgers, they’re showing how reliable they can be. If the offense goes stagnant, the defense can make up for it.
“It was a good complimentary game. Aaron and those guys moved the ball and went on some long drives and we had a chance to get some rest,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “When we got out there we did a fairly good job of stopping the run and trying to limit them to a 3-and-out.”