How Can the Green Bay Packers Return to the NFC Elite?

Nick KostoraContributor IIIJanuary 13, 2013

Jan 12, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock (26) runs the ball for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of the NFC divisional round playoff game at Candlestick Park.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers' loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round by a score of 45-31 signalled a clear fall from the NFC's elite.

It would have been one thing if the Packers lost in double overtime as the Denver Broncos had done earlier in the day, but that was not the case.

Green Bay looked thoroughly outmatched against a 49ers team led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In his first playoff start, Kaepernick shone under the spotlight to the tune of 263 yards passing, 181 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

So, how do the Packers rebound from this performance?

How can Green Bay return to elite status within the NFC?

The first and most important order of business has to be finding a defensive philosophy that adjusts to the new breed of dual-threat quarterbacks.

Kaepernick exploited the defense early and often in the divisional round. He constantly manipulated the defensive line and linebackers, extending plays with his feet and perfectly executing the read option.

When Kaepernick decided to scramble along the edge of the pocket, there was rarely a defender waiting for him across the line of scrimmage. San Francisco is going to be a contender for the foreseeable future, and Green Bay must adapt and evolve in order to compete with them.

However, stopping the run is not the only change needed in Wisconsin, as Green Bay must also develop a consistent and potent ground attack of its own.

Yes, this is easier said than done and the Packers have longed for a rushing game for a few years now. The difference now is that it is clear the team can not truly prosper without a balanced offensive attack.

San Francisco dominated the time of possession battle by an astounding total of 38 minutes to 21 minutes. Green Bay could not sustain long drives and that was costly as the defense was consistently thrust back onto the field on short notice, ill-prepared for another go-round with Kaepernick.

Whether DuJuan Harris, Ryan Grant, Alex Green or James Starks is the answer is unknown, but the fact of the matter is that Green Bay can not rely almost solely on quarterback Aaron Rodger's passing ability once the postseason rolls around.

Now, are these corrections guaranteed tickets back to the Super Bowl?

Obviously not, but if the Packers are intent on hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the near future, then it is clear that the status-quo cannot be allowed to continue.

The Packers have a tremendous amount of talent and are not far off from being elite once again, but the 49ers proved that they are not at that level right now.