It was hard to watch the Green Bay Packers‘ loss this past weekend in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. Behind a very strong performance from Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers demolished the Packers 45-31 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game this coming weekend. A big reason for this is the visual evidence that the Packers’ defense morphed back into what it was last season: one of the worst defenses in pro football.
Nobody on the 49ers defense, from Kaepernick all the way to the men on the offensive line, had any trouble dealing with Clay Matthews and whatever the Packers’ defense threw at them. Dom Capers was powerless up in his booth to find a way to use any advantage the 49ers’ offense may have given them. The result of it all was a thrashing the likes of which the Packers’ defense hasn’t experienced in the post-season in a long time. Even Michael Vick‘s torching of the Packers’ D at Lambeau Field nearly a decade ago had a completely different feel to it than what happened Saturday night in Candlestick Park.
The numbers were phenomenal all the way around in a thoroughly dominating performance from an offense not known for such performances over the last decade. Kaepernick went 17/31 passing for 263 yards and two touchdowns (with an interception) while rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries; Kaepernick set the playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback, ironically breaking the record Vick set against the Packers. Frank Gore ran for a touchdown and 119 yards while also converting a short pass early in the game for 45 yards that set up Kapernick’s first touchdown run. Michael Crabtree was clearly Kaepernick’s favorite target and it didn’t stop him from catching nine passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. For the game, the 49ers rushed for 323 yards as a team and totaled 579 yards of offense, a team playoff record and most given up by the Packers in their playoff history.
Both of Kaepernick’s touchdown runs demonstrated how easy it was for the 49ers’ offense to guide their way through or around the Packers’ defense. The first run was from 20 yards and was a simple matter of the field opening up as Kaepernick dropped back and Kaepernick having the speed to move his way upfield. It was a matter of having the quickness because there wasn’t as much field for the opposing defense to be spread out over and thus the hole that opened up for Kapernick was one that could close just as quickly. But Kaepernick had the speed and scored the touchdown. The second score was the exact opposite: the Packers’ defense bought a fake handoff and condensed near the middle of the field, allowing Kaepernick to get to the outside and eventually run for a 56-yard touchdown. On this run, Kaepernick’s quickness not only allowed him to get outside, but also burst through a seam and away from the remaining Packers defenders who were a threat to bringing him down.
It was the ease of those two runs by Kaepernick, the ease that the 49ers’ running backs had running down the clock near the end of the game, and the ease of every Kaepernick-to-Crabtree completion that created the accurate image of the 49ers’ offense having its way with the Packers’ defense. And that really is the story of this divisional game: one offense dominating and the other not being able to keep up. Even without the Jeremy Ross fumble, it was doubtful that the 49ers were going to be stopped on offense. The Packers put up little fight on defense after Ross’ fumble as everything they tried had no effect and produced no meaningful stops. All the while Gore, Crabtree, and Kaepernick continued to gain yards, score points, and demoralize the Packers’ defense to the point of defeat.