Cory's Corner: Packers-49ers Is About Defense

Cory Jennerjohn examines why defense will be the key to winning Sunday's pivotal NFC clash. 

We have reached 49ers week.

Ever since the Packers started having fun and turned into one of the top four teams in the NFC, this game has been circled by plenty of people.

Win this game and the Packers are within a whisper of the coveted No. 1 seed. Which is crazy, because who would've thought that this team would get this close to hosting a playoff game after the complete derailment of a season last year.

The 49ers are what every struggling team wants to be. At 9-1, it's hard to remember how bad things were in San Francisco. Since losing the NFC Championship Game in 2013 to Seattle and not counting this season, the 49ers are 25-55.

That's amazing to me because I remember all of the 49ers' glory from the 1980s and 1990s. San Francisco has had eight head coaches since its last Super Bowl title in 1994.

Green Bay hasn't bottomed out nearly that far because it has had the luxury of playing with Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. And that's the simplicity of consistency. The Packers made eight straight playoff appearances from 2009-2016; the 49ers are seeking their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Yet, for how far apart both organizations have been, they are now pretty close. And it's not because both teams have offensive whiz kids roaming the sidelines. It's because of amazing defenses.

The 49ers have one of the best front fours in football and are proving it with 39 sacks, which leads the NFC. They are also second in the NFL in points per game at 15.5.

The Packers have the No. 2 and No. 6 players (Jaire Alexander and Kevin King) in passes defended solidifying a strong secondary. Green Bay is also No. 1 in takeaway/giveaway ratio at +9, which leads the NFC.

For all the talk about Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo and Aaron Jones and Tevin Coleman, this game is about defense.

How well can San Francisco's offensive line hold back Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith, who have a combined 18 1/2 sacks? Similarly, can Green Bay's line hold back Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa, who have 15 sacks?

This game will be won with speed and timing. The short, efficient pass to the playmaker in space is what will win this game. Each quarterback won't have a lot of time to survey the field and the secondaries will be clamping down on the deep ball.

Defenses will set the tone in this game and it will be up to each whiz kid to have a countermove on hand. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (40)

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Lare's picture

November 19, 2019 at 06:16 am

"The short, efficient pass to the playmaker in space is what will win this game."

Add in a balanced running game, varied snap counts, control the LOS and don't beat yourself. The Packers can win if they do that.

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ALLGASNOBRAKES's picture

November 19, 2019 at 06:44 am

Bakhtiari has struggled some this year which I think is nothing more than an ailing back. THIS season by Bakhtiari's standards has not even been close to his normal self who stonewalls any OLB or DE lined up against him. Between the importance of this game, AND the extra week's rest hopefully, we see a closer version of DB's play in the previous seasons.

Rodgers IMO HAS to get back to a quicker passing game, taking what the defense gives him. STOP passing up the wide-open receivers underneath and get back to doing what you were doing weeks 5-8 when Adams was out. I think we all thought/hoped this would be exactly what the Packers offense would do once Admas came back but it hasn't been the case. Hopefully, with the extra week MLF, Hackett, and Rodgers have devised a way to do both. Hey I LOVE a deep ball...Just not on EVERY 3rd and 8. Last Sunday against the Cardinals Richard Sherman was getting flagged for PI like crazy. IIRC there were at least 3 PI/holding calls against him. Sherman is still a good CB...BUT he's not the same guy who used scare the hell out of MM. ATTACK him with Adams.

I have a strong feeling Kittle will play Sunday night though I wouldn't be a bit upset if he sits or is only about 75%. Even then Kittle is a tough matchup for GB. SLOW him down, keep the run in check somewhat and I like our Defense against this offense. Garappalo showed the last few weeks he'll do a Cutler and throw the ball to the opposing defense. WHEN that happens the Packers CB's have to CATCH the ball. Win this game and it's all right in front of you GB...GET ER DONE!!

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 19, 2019 at 07:00 am

One thing that stands out to me is looking at the QB's the 49ers have played. 49ers have faced 1 QB close to caliber of Rodgers. That was Russell Wilson. And they lost that game. Outside of that, they have played Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, Case Keenum, Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray twice.

I do believe the 49ers have a very good defense. But they really haven't faced anyone offensively yet. I'm not saying the Packers are a juggernaut offensively right now but Rodgers is Rodgers and we have the weapons. Rodgers will be the best QB they will have faced outside of Wilson which they lost that game. Also the 49ers defense lost Kwon Alexander and there is a report that Dee Ford won't play Sunday night. Their defense won't be as good as what they were earlier in the year especially if they can't play.

The 49ers have a very good front even if Ford can't play. Buckner, Armstead, Bosa, Solomon Thomas (the guy the 49ers got when they traded down 1 spot when the Bears traded up for Trubisky) This game will be up to the Packers OL. If they can give Rodgers time and open some holes for the running game that give the Packers a greater chance to win.

I think the key player for the Packers is Aaron Jones. They need to have him run the ball and have to find ways of using him in the Passing game. To me he is the x factor in this game.

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mnklitzke's picture

November 19, 2019 at 08:45 am

My thoughts exactly. The 9ers have not played anyone outside of Seattle and barely beat the Cards twice.... I think packers will walk away with this one and won't be as close as some think.

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murf7777's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:27 am

RC....at least three of those DL guys you mentioned are all inside guys. Over the past two weeks they have lost two (Blair and Ford) out of three best edge rushers and I believe had to bring someone up to fill the position. They may try to move one of the inside guys to the outside but doubt it will have the same impact. Hopefully we can scheme some plays to work the edge. in addition, it should slow down their pass rush some, albeit I’m sure still above average with the guys you mentioned. I feel good that MLF with a bye week will come up with some great plays to expose that potential weakness.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 20, 2019 at 02:50 am

Arik Armstead is having a career year for sacks with 8. He's been a good player, very solid, injury prone, though. Previously, he had 29 QB hits which he turned into 9 sacks. This year he has 9 QB hits, 8 of which have been sacks. Is that Fackrell-like and not sustainable?

Still, for his career Armstead has 29 QB hits in 56 games, which is meh for a pass rusher. ZaDarius Smith has 72 QB hits in 68 games, better than 1 QB hit/game. Preston S. is also just over 1 QB hit/game. Over his career Armstead hasn't been a really good pass rusher, but over 2018 and 2019 he has improved to 21 QB hits in 26 games.

So I am not sure if the light bulb went on for Armstead or if the quality of the RTs he's faced this year has been sub-par.

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Handsback's picture

November 19, 2019 at 07:50 am

This game goes through the oline for the Packers. Open some space for running plays and protect Rodgers and they have a good chance to win.
I really don't know what to expect from Green Bay's defense. So if they can stop the run (iffy based on previous games) and put the 49ers in 3rd and long situations...the defense should hold enough for the win.
STs outside of the kickers hopefully won't give the game away.
I hope the Packers win 24-17....but probably closer.

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Guam's picture

November 19, 2019 at 07:52 am

I think Lowery, Lancaster and Martinez are going to have a lot to say about our chances to win Sunday. The 49ers like to run the ball and our interior run defense has been suspect. If the above trio has a good game, the Packers will win, if not, lets hope QB1 has a game for ages.

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Hematite's picture

November 19, 2019 at 08:00 am

Really doesn't look good for the Packers on paper.
But I believe the Packers will win this one 34-31.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 19, 2019 at 10:52 am

How does it not look good on paper? I'll take Jones over Coleman, Rodgers over Garoppolo, Adams over any 49er WR. The Smiths have had an incredible year. The Packers are extremely healthy and the 49ers are beat up. The Packers have had stiff competition all year and the 49ers have had a cake walk.

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Hematite's picture

November 19, 2019 at 02:12 pm

Packers total offense: 17th
Packers total defense: 28th

49ers total offense: 5th
49ers total defense: 2nd

Doesn't look good on paper to most people but I still picked the Packers.

?

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mrj007's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:02 pm

Those rankings are about right. And Green Bay doesn’t play well in big games especially on Nationally televised games. They also have a tendency to let their opponent back into the game. plus this is MLF first time to coach after bye week so that is another question . There are plenty reasons pn paper that merit reconsidering a Packers win on Sunday. I am going to pick SF 28 over GB 17.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:34 pm

In total maybe but the Packers are the best in the nfc in tunover differential with +9. They are one of the top teams in both pressures and sacks. Preston Smith is 3rd in sacks in the nfl. That's facing way stiffer competition than the 49ers.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 20, 2019 at 03:26 am

It should be interesting. SF hasn't played any good teams except Seattle. Their stats and grades are but also should be good. We will see as SF plays their next several opponents, many of which have good to very good QBs, whether their CBs are for real. Right now it looks like SF has 3 and maybe 4 CBs who are about as good or better than Jaire. All of them would send King to the bench.

As a note, the refs made no call on the field, but after a challenge for the non-call, the refs reversed themselves and called defensive pass interference on Richard Sherman. [They actually called DPI on Sherman three times. He has six penalties for the season.]

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murf7777's picture

November 20, 2019 at 06:17 am

That’s true in yards, but not by using points as they are much better. Also, DVOA which I believe is a more accurate cuz they use multiple data to assimilate a grade has both rated much higher.

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Houndog's picture

November 19, 2019 at 08:09 am

Speaking of Defense, did anyone else hear how many times the announcers called Mike Pennel's name in the Chief/Chargers game last night? He was definitely involved and a good part in stopping the run game.
Pennel, 28 y/o and a former Packer, was sitting at home watching soap operas when the Chiefs called on Oct. 19th, he played 24 snaps against the Pack just days later.
I won't begin to suggest that Pennel might have been the band aid in fixing our D's poor run stopping ability or middle pass rush, but I will point out the fact that there were people, big bodied people, out there that might have helped and he was there. Does the name Howard Green ring any bells?
Maybe losing all the front office people we lost to the Browns this past off-season has had an effect on how things are (or Are Not) being done in GB at present.
Gutekunst, like TT before him, has done little to nothing to fill holes caused by injuries or otherwise and grab the short term help this team could have used. When is the last time we've read about someone (other than P/S players) coming to GB for a tryout? Like it or not, Rodgers' window is closing and the time to win is now.

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cuervo's picture

November 19, 2019 at 08:19 am

1.The Packers had 3 "big" guys visit and work out during the Bye.
2.Fill holes caused by injuries??? The Packers are the healthiest team in the NFL..next question.
3.Losing all the front office people to the Browns....That seems to be working great for the Browns, huh? Maybe the reverse is true, maybe losing all the deadwood to the Browns has created a better scouting and personnnel dept. here in GB? IMO it certainly has.
4. Rodgers window is closing....we're 8-2 , what more do you expect...the 1972 Dolphins? Seems to me thing are going just fine, could we be better...sure, but evry team in the League can say that.

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Houndog's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:19 am

cuervo,
Please name those three "Big" guys if you would, the GB press (and CHTV) failed to do so.
And, if you think Elliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith were "Deadwood" there might be 30 or more NFL executives that would disagree with you, Gutekunst included.
Hell yes, I'm happy with 8-2, not many of us expected that, but to close my eyes as you've done and accept the 28th ranked defense in the NFL is not part of my DNA.
Rodgers window IS closing, his age is public knowledge. It may not be this year or 5 years from now, but it is closing, and I for one cannot understand why the Packers continue to wait and go piece by piece, year by year.
Just a few days ago I read an article right here that stated his long throws are not as accurate as they once were, and I, like you obviously, hope the receivers have had something to do with that, but I won't bet on it.
Building the future on "a quarterback to be named later" should not be the program when you have a HOF quarterback in the fold.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 20, 2019 at 02:04 am

They have to get a speed guy at flanker that can go inside/out with quick feet. Deebo Samuels looking good for the 49rs. Ted left the cupboard so bare , Gutekunst had to shore up the D first. The deep ball is still there for Rodgers, he just needs a solid blue chip guy to get them. I like the rotation with Adams, Lazard and Kumerow and A. Jones as your de facto #4 WR. Rodgers will have to execute the WCO to perfection to run the table.
Pettine has to get the defense stabilized and increase discipline regarding gap integrity. The run stopping must take the forefront and let your DBs cover man-to-man. Savage should start getting his legs back, we hope.

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 19, 2019 at 08:44 am

While I don't agree with your take, Hounddog, the vision of Mike Pennel watching soap operas made me chuckle. Thanks for that. As far as "big bodied people out there that might have helped" maybe Gute needs to do no more than scan Section 127 at Lambeau on game day and pick the first five space-eaters he sees.

Oh, and I'll see your Howard Green and raise you Carl Barilauskas *and* Rich Moore!

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Houndog's picture

November 19, 2019 at 10:15 am

Hell Yes Leotis, LOL!
I do remember Leotis Harris, and Rich Moore too, but I must admit you got me on Carl Barzilauskas, you forgot the Z, LOL! I needed to reach deep into my memory banks (and Google) to remember him, how about John Jurkovic? Dave Roller?
That said, I also remember "Big" Howie Green having a game changing play in SB XLV and having watched all 5 Championships in the 60's. I remember the Wins in the first two but the last three I know pretty well.

As for my post, I'm not trying to sell Doom and Gloom here, but if anyone really believes the Pack can truly compete for a SB with the 28th ranked defense in the NFL, well, I guess I'll believe it when I see it. I've been wrong before, but it's unlikely we (or anyone else) beat Baltimore by scoring (only) 28 points with this Defense! For years, like so many here, I watched and saw games with my heart, not anymore, I now trust my eyes.

And, to whoever it was that claimed the Packers had Three "Big Bodies" in for tryouts I have a two-part question; 1.) Who were they, and , 2.) why didn't we read about it on CHTV?
I'm a Packer season ticket holder living on the West Coast, I need to count on what I read to get my Info.

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splitpea1's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:14 am

Carl Davis, David Parry, Justin Ellis--it was on a site called nfltraderumors.com. last week. Apparently the Packers didn't sign any of them, so maybe it wasn't worth reporting on this site--I don't know.

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Houndog's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

Thanks Splitpea
I live on the West Coast and read as much as I can each morning starting at 5:00 AM PST, so 7 AM Central.
From the start of the regular season I have not seen a single article about try-out other than P/S guys, and that sucks. Like any other Packer fan I can't get enough.
Thanks again.

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mrj007's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:15 pm

Turnovers really do a lot to hide bad defensive play. The Packers defense is futile UNLESS a turn over. Any team who doesn’t turn over the ball has more than a fighting chance against GB. Chargers didn’t turn over the back and the Packers weren’t even competitive in that game. That is the concern and I agree

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 20, 2019 at 02:08 am

Pettine doesn't play as heavy upfront as Dom did. Montravious has to pick up his game if he wants to see a bigger payday down the road. Lowry is playing too high. More three man fronts would help the run stopping game.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 19, 2019 at 09:28 am

That's a valid opinion but don't agree on Gute vs Browns. Much more focused approach with Gute. Oh the days of Howard Green.! Who would have thought that,but that's exactly the type of player we need right now. That will come hopefully soon.

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Houndog's picture

November 19, 2019 at 10:39 am

Tundra, I agree with you too, and as I wrote to LeotisHarris I'm not selling Doom and Gloom. But our defense has had problems since before the trade deadline, and most of it stems from the middle where guys like Pennel and Zac Brown were recently available, and the Pack did nothing.
I love what Gute's done thus far, and I love the record thus far, not many of us expected this.
However, sitting back and doing nothing reeks of the days of TT, and I've had more than enough of that!

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:27 pm

I just don't see that houndog. Gute is CONSTANTLY turning over the bottom of the roster. Releasing ps players and replacing them. Upgrading the best ps players to the 53 and cutting others.

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J_brooks's picture

November 19, 2019 at 01:49 pm

They say ever dog has its day. Unfortunately today is not yours with these comments Houndog.

In back to back sentences you say that we lost key front office guys from the previous admin that would have brought in players that the guys from the previous admin did not. Riddle me that Batman.

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Lphill's picture

November 19, 2019 at 08:21 am

I don’t think the 49 ers have faced a QB like Rodgers who can read the defense so well and I expect he will get Bosa to jump because this will be new territory for Bossa as well . I think the game is winnable for the Packers if all aspects play errorless football .

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 20, 2019 at 10:24 am

They have, Russell Wilson and they lost to Seattle who has a worse OL than the Packers.

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Since'61's picture

November 19, 2019 at 09:23 am

Like most NFL games this game will be about winning the LOS on both sides of the ball. The Packers need to win their one-on-one matchups. Run the ball and stop the run. Hopefully we can play with a lead and keep our fingers crossed that our STs don't cost us the game.

If we win the toss I would like to see MLF take the ball and hopefully we get a time consuming opening drive and score and take the crowd out of the game, get a lead and then play keep away from SF. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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scullyitsme's picture

November 19, 2019 at 10:38 am

I think it’ll be about turnovers, we win that battle we win. If not we lose. The 9ers D is better than ours up front and their offense is similar to our offense, only they have another year in it. Of course Rodgers could always be Rodgers, put the team on his back and win it, but otherwise the team that wins the turnover battle wins this game.

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murf7777's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:13 am

Sculls, you’re right on the two games they lost they lost the TO battle. Also, if we can establish a running game and Arod can play action to Adams I don’t see SF’s backfield keeping up with him. Big plays will happen. I suspect this to be a offensive game moreso then D. D will create TO’s and watch the two Aaron’s go to a victory. Can’t wait!!!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:22 am

I'm looking forward to what LaFleur cooks up in this bye week. I expect to see some new looks on offense and some manipulations diverging out of those looks.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 19, 2019 at 11:44 am

All five of the Packers’ starting offensive lineman have at least one false start. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has a team-high four false starts and 10 penalties overall. Only Laremy Tunsil (11) has more total accepted penalties this season.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 20, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Baktiari with 10 penalties?. Just goes to show you can never predict the season. Beginning the year I worried about Bulaga holding up, yet he's played every game, even better than I imagined. But never did I think Baktiari would have such a rough start.

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cheesehead1's picture

November 19, 2019 at 01:28 pm

For the final six games I hoping that our D can tighten up. IMO, we’re good but certainly not elite. Go Pack and continue to stay healthy.

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Lofton82's picture

November 20, 2019 at 06:55 am

A lot of people are seeing SF as hot favourites for this. I don't see it that way.
Their fixture list has been kind and they haven't faced anybody like Rodgers this season yet. Wilson is good but not in his class and Wilson got the job done. Get it right and we're strong where they're not. I like many of our matchups

It will be close, we will have to execute properly and cut out a good portion of the penalties - and good lord, no more delays of game - but we can win this one.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 20, 2019 at 10:35 pm

.

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