One of the big question marks I had about the San Francisco 49ers headed into their NFC Wild Card Game against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday was the play of their secondary and in particular how well they would be able to cover and prevent the Packers from completing that big play downfield. Given they were going against a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers and the fact in the 49ers’ final two regular season games this was a bit of an issue, it went without saying the 49ers needed to step up.
Things would get more interesting for the 49ers as their No. 1 cornerback Carlos Rogers was ruled out on game-day with a hamstring injury while nickel cornerback Eric Wright had tweaked his hamstring earlier in the week during practice. This meant that Perrish Cox, a player who had recently been signed yet was returning for his second stint with the team for 2013 season, was going to get expanded playing time during the game last Sunday.
Despite any concerns me or any other 49ers fan might have had with regards to the performance of the secondary headed into the game against the Packers, it is fair to say that they more than held their own against Rodgers and his legion of receivers in a 23-20 49ers win. Taking a look at the final stat line for Aaron Rodgers, it is clear that he had a pedestrian performance at best against the 49ers as he went 17-for-26 passing for 177 yards and one touchdown.
Not only did the 49ers as a team keep Rodgers in check, but the 49ers’ secondary did a fine job of making sure that the Packers receivers did not get off and have a big game either as an individual or as a collective. Randall Cobb and James Jones were held to two receptions apiece while Jordy Nelson while having had seven receptions did not have that big gainer that went for 20 or 30 plus yards. While the 49ers gave up two 20-yard plus receptions, both came on broken plays and on deep pass attempts. They held their own and prevented any of those designed deep bombs from being completed.
Against the Carolina Panthers in their NFC Divisional Playoff game this upcoming Sunday, it will be imperative that the 49ers’ secondary once again come up as clutch against a group of receivers who like those on the Packers can hit home runs each time they make a catch. If the 49ers’ secondary can once again rise to the challenge to keep the likes of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen in check, the defense’s job of stopping the Panthers’ offense will be that much easier.