Each team that is now participating in the playoffs heads into the NFL‘s second season with a number of strengths which has led them there. At the same time, each of the teams in the playoffs have a glaring weakness or weaknesses which can be exploited by the opposition. The San Francisco 49ers are no different in this respect as while they are a very well rounded team, they have a weakness which the Green Bay Packers will certainly attack in their Wild Card game on Sunday.
On paper, the 49ers’ pass defense is one of the league’s best during the 2013 regular season. In fact, the 49ers finished seventh in the league in passing yards allowed as they only allowed an average of 221 yards per game while intercepting opposing quarterbacks a total of 18 times during the season. In addition, the number of 2o and 40 yard plus pass plays given up by the 49ers has been respectable as they have only given up 43 20-yard plus pass completions and nine 40-yard plus pass completions.
While the numbers speak well of the 49ers’ pass defense, their performance in the last two games and stretches in the team’s final two regular season games have given some cause for concern and make a number of people wonder if the ghosts of their play to end the 2012 season are back. Against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16, the 49ers’ pass defense was burned on a regular basis in what ended up being a close game in the fourth quarter. Matt Ryan would end up throwing for 348 yards with most of those coming in that fourth quarter.
Against the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season finale, the 49ers’ pass defense got torched by Carson Palmer after a strong start for 402 yards in a losing effort with four Cardinals players having more than 70 receiving yards in the game. Another area of concern was that the 49ers pass defense gave up several 20-yard plus receptions with a couple of 40-yard plus gains. Going up against a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers, the play of the pass defense poses some concern for the 49ers as they get ready for Sunday’s game.
In their Week 1 matchup, Rodgers threw for 333 yards against the 49ers defense in a losing effort, and with the return of Randall Cobb he will largely have his full complement of backs and receivers to throw to as he tries to exploit the 49ers’ pass defense. This means that the 49ers’ secondary will have to make sure and be on top of their assignments and coverages — something that at times they have blown by letting opposing receivers beat them downfield. In addition, the 49ers’ pass defense would be helped out by getting consistent pressure on Rodgers in order to help the pass defense.
The likes of Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown will have their hands full with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson on Sunday. While the play of the 49ers’ pass defense has been better than what was expected coming into the season, the reality is that the last two games of the regular season have not inspired much confidence.