Six Words To Spell A Packers Win
If you pull up a dozen or so preview articles about the Green Bay Packers' season-opener in San Francisco, you'll read about the same questions. Will rookie running back Eddie Lacy make the Packers' offense more balanced? Can the Packers' defense stop the 49ers' read-option? While those are fair questions to ask, they skim very shallow along the surface of the real issues that will determine those outcomes: the Green Bay offensive and defensive lines.
If Lacy is to have a big day and the Packers are to have balance on offense, it will be because the Green Bay offensive line has moved the San Francisco defenders on a consistent basis. If the 49ers' read-option attack is contained and San Francisco is forced to play a more pro-style offense, it will be because the Green Bay defensive line has made the option ineffective. The concepts are simple, but the execution difficult especially when considering the San Francisco personnel.
The keys to running on the San Francisco defense will be in the scheme, the seal and the sight.
The 49ers run a high-pressure, fly-to-the-ball defense. Sit back, read and react is not what the Packers will see. The best way to counter that defensive style in a running game is, well, with counters. Let the San Francisco defense move as it's accustomed to doing but direct them away from the point of attack. Running that scheme requires a high degree of athleticism from the likes of Don Barclay and Gregg Van Roten. That's where the seal comes in. When the San Francisco defense moves away from the point of attack, nudged to do so by the Green Bay offensive line, the blocks must be engaged and sustained. Once again, this is easier said than done. The last essential element is completely on Lacy. He must be able to read where the offensive line is directing the San Francisco defense so that when the seals are made, he hits the open field instead of the wall of 49ers defenders.
The three buzz words for the Green Bay defensive line will be home, head and heat.
The Green Bay defensive line must stay at home when the 49ers run the read-option, meaning if they attack the quarterback or the running back too hastily, the other one is going to have the ball running downfield or San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick will launch a pass downfield. Datone Jones and Ryan Pickett must maintain their ground and force Kaepernick to hesitate. Secondly, the Green Bay defensive linemen must keep their heads on a swivel. The motion of the 49ers' running backs is meant to go unnoticed as Kaepernick handles the ball. The Packers must be aware of where Frank Gore and company are at. Lastly, if the Packers can force Kaepernick to hesitate, the Packers must then bring the heat. Nothing will stop the 49ers from running the read-options as quickly as Kaepernick getting hit and negative-yardage plays.
If the Packers can consistently execute scheme, seal and sight on offense then home, head and heat on defense they will give Aaron Rodgers and his receivers a chance to win Sunday's game in San Francisco. If the 49ers defend their home field, it will be because the Packers failed to execute these concepts. Sunday will show the world how familiar the Packers are with those six words.