Packers vs. 49ers: San Francisco's Pass Rush Will Slow Green Bay's Attack

Joseph SchmidtContributor IIIJanuary 12, 2013

Sep 9, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA;  San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (99) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.  The 49ers defeated the Packers 30-22.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers will struggle protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers when they head to Candlestick Park, as the San Francisco 49ers possess one of the most formidable defenses in the NFL.

Aldon and Justin Smith aren’t related by blood, but their considerable ability to pressure and sack quarterbacks is kindred. Joined by NaVorro Bowman, Carlos Rogers and Patrick Willis, the Smiths form a devastating tandem that is rarely stopped.

After the benching of Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, the Packers' offensive line became a younger squad. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are up-and-coming, but replacement center Evan Dietrich-Smith will have his hands full. 

All season, the Packers have struggled to protect Rodgers, allowing 51 sacks for a total of 293 yards lost. The Packers have also failed to have a single 100-yard rusher in any game this season. Though Rodgers can still win games, keying in on him is all it takes to dismantle Green Bay's attack.

Dietrich-Smith has been under center against defenses like Chicago and Minnesota, but he has yet to face a team that pressures quarterbacks like San Francisco does.

But Justin Smith is playing hurt. Listed as "probable," he will play with a partially torn triceps in his left arm. Smith injured himself in Week 15 against New England. Though team officials feared surgery would be required, Smith sat out the last two games of the season. 

The bye week has allowed Smith another week of recovery, but there’s no doubt his effectiveness will be in question throughout the contest. Justin will need help from his teammates, especially Aldon Smith.

When Justin Smith is pressuring the line, Aldon is able to get to the QB and make plays. He’s averaged four tackles a game and notched 19.5 sacks for the season. The second-year linebacker is having a Pro Bowl-caliber year, but he can’t get to the QB as easily if Justin Smith isn’t able to perform at his peak.

Teammate Donte Whitner told the San Francisco Chronicle that he believes Justin Smith will be an effective factor.

"'I think he’ll be 95 percent,' Whitner said, adding that Smith was practicing against 350-pound Leonard Davis."

Practices aside, it’s been a few weeks since Justin Smith has logged minutes. How he does will determine the course of the game. But even if he's a shade off the player he was all season long, this game won’t be much different from the 49ers and Packers' Week 1 encounter.