Sundays are once again glorious, Niner fans, with the arrival of week one of the regular season with the 49ers vs. Packers game. Niner Noise teamed up with fellow Fansided.com web site Lombardi Ave and Editor Ray Rivard for a Q&A about the game. Enjoy and go 49ers!
Q. With the way the Packers defense played last season, which position is the biggest question mark heading into Sunday that the 49ers offense could exploit?
A. Yes, the Packers finished dead last in defense last season and their pass defense was gashed each and every game. While the numbers were atrocious, there are many who believe those numbers were inflated because the Packers’ opponents were constantly playing from behind and literally utilized their two-minute offenses to try to get back into games.
While there’s some truth to that, the pathetic defense the Packers put on the field last year was gashed because of what happened (or didn’t happen) up front. The lack of a consistent pass rush really put the team’s defensive backfield in a bad spot.
With that said, I feel the 49ers will look to, first of all, soften the Packers’ front line with the run and then use the pass to hit for big plays. Whether that strategy is successful depends on the play of the defensive line and linebackers in stopping the run early and often. With the addition of rookies Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry to the front seven, the Packers are hoping their defense produces pressure and stops the run. That will be evident early in this game and could be the harbinger of the Packers’ success on defense the entire season.
Q. Last season, the Packers offense led the NFL in points scored with 560, averaging 35 points per game. The 49ers defense last season was ranked second in the NFL in giving up the least number of points, 229, averaging 14.3 points per game. What will the Packers’ offense need to do on Sunday to score against the 49ers’ stout defense?
A. That’s simple – They have to make sure that the offensive line keeps Aaron Rodgers upright and gives him enough time to complete the medium and long passes that have become the staple of the Packers’ offensive attack.
To do that, the Packers will have to utilize tactics they haven’t done in the past. In addition to working the no-huddle, the Packers will also protect Rodgers by running plays that include moving pockets, roll-outs, bootlegs and screen passes.
They won’t want to tie up their tight ends in pass protection, so they will also rely on the running back to pick up blitzing linebackers and defensive backs.
And we can’t forget about the running game. With the addition of Cedric Benson, Packers fans are hoping head coach Mike McCarthy works the rushing attack effectively. That means sticking with it early and being consistent in working it well into the fourth quarter. If the Packers can get 50-75 yards out of Benson, that would be a huge factor.
If they can pull all that together into a single offensive attack, they will have a good shot at slowing the 49ers’ potent defense.
Q. Who do Packers fans fear the most on offense and defense for the 49ers?
A. On defense, I feel it’s the tandem of the 49ers’ Smith boys, Justin and Aldon, who strike the most fear into Packers fans. Thow in Patrick Willis into that mix and you’ve got a trio of defensive stars who make plays and have the ability to disrupt even the best of all offenses.
To stop these guys – see my answer above. However, because of their pure talent, I see them causing the Packers problems throughout the day. If the Packers can contain them, Green Bay will be OK. If they can’t, it will be a long afternoon.
On offense, I think Frank Gore is the scariest of 49ers offensive players. The Packers have not been very good at stopping the run the past couple of years and if there’s anyone who could exploit that weakness, it’s Gore. He’s a star who could be a difference-maker.
Q. Which young player/rookie will have a breakout season for the Packers?
A. I would like to say that first round pick Nick Perry will have the best season of the team’s rookies, but I think that linebacker Dezman Moses (unrestricted free agent), and defensive backs Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian could have excellent campaigns.
That doesn’t mean that I think Perry will be a bust. He will be a good player and could eventually be great, but he’s learning a new position and it’s going to take some time for him to become comfortable with his new role.
When you throw in Sean Richardson, another undrafted free agent, the Packers have a group of young players who could make an impact on the team for years to come.
Q. What is your prediction for the game?
A. This is going to be a dogfight. I believe that given it’s the first game of the season, both teams will spend the first 16 minutes feeling one another out.
By the second half, both offenses should be clicking and I feel a significant number of points will be scored – three TDs in the second half by both teams isn’t out of the question.
I feel this one could come down to turnovers and special teams, but in the end I just have the feeling that the Packers will somehow come away with one more big play to make the difference.
Packers 32 49ers 27
Check out Niner Noise’s answers after the jump.