Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has taken a league-high 54 sacks this season, including the postseason. To state the obvious, that’s a huge problem for Green Bay as they prepare to face one of the toughest front sevens in the league. San Francisco has recorded 38 sacks in the regular season, and, to make the bad news worse, they will be getting back Justin Smith, who has missed the last three weeks with a triceps injury. Though Smith has accounted for just three sacks this season, his presence is instrumental in drawing pressure away from teammates like Aldon Smith, who is second in the league with 19.5 sacks.
The Green Bay offensive line has been a question mark all season long. They’ve suffered the loss of starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, the benching of starting center Jeff Saturday, as well as having to cover for the temporary injury of starting left guard (but sometimes backup right tackle) T.J. Lang. Bulaga’s replacement, Don Barclay, has been excellent on the run, but still needs some help on pass protection. This need for auxiliary protection on the right side means that left tackle Marshall Newhouse must handle each team’s best pass rusher on his own.
The sack statistics are not completely indicative of the offensive line play. Rodgers is a quarterback who likes to hold onto the ball to give his receivers the maximum amount of time to get open. He also prefers to take a sack rather than put up a dangerous throw, which makes his interception rate the best in the league, but also means more sacks.
How the Packers offensive line plays will dictate the game. If Rodgers has enough time to throw, he can do pretty much anything. The Packers have gotten into trouble, however, when Rodgers has been put under too much pressure and is forced to do everything by himself. For his part, Rodgers will have to be quick in his release, as well as willing to throw the ball away rather than taking a sack.
It comes down to the fact that the Packers have the best quarterback in the league. If the line can give him time to do his thing, Green Bay will have the advantage in the match. If the line is not able to hold the protection and give Rodgers time, then the Packers will be in for a long Saturday evening at Candlestick Park.