As the Green Bay Packers prepare for the opening game of the 2013 NFL season, the team has to remember what went down when they played their upcoming opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, twice last season.
Last year, the Packers lost to the 49ers 30-22 on opening weekend at Lambeau Field. Then in a NFC Divisional Game in the postseason at Candlestick Park, the Pack gave up 579 total yards in a 45-31 loss.
Obviously, the defense of the Packers has to play much better this time around, as the game is less than a week away on September 8, once again at Candlestick Park.
A team can't allow an average of 37.5 points a game and give up an average of 478 yards a game defensively, and expect to win.
The offense has to get better as well.
Yes, the Packers scored an average of 26.5 points a game last year, but was not clicking on all cylinders. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes in those two games, but also threw two costly interceptions, one in each game.
The combined quarterback rating for Rodgers in those two games was 92.4. That's pretty good for most QBs, but below standards for Rodgers, who has a quarterback rating of 104.9 in the regular season (best in NFL history) and a 103.6 rating in the postseason.
There will be a number of great individual matchups in this contest, and I'm going to look at four of them.
The first one is the big elephant in the room. I'm talking about how quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read-option offense of the Niners will do against the Packers this time around, specifically, left outside linebacker Nick Perry.
Perry did not play in the playoff game versus the Niners last year, as it was Erik Walden, who was continually exposed when the Niners gashed the Packers with that play time after time.
In the first game of the season, Perry did play and had nine total tackles. But that game, the Packers primarily saw former Niners QB Alex Smith, as Kaepernick only had a couple of appearances.
The Packers have used this offseason to study the read-option offense. The coaching staff even went down to Texas A&M to get some tutoring from coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff.
The team also drafted defensive end Datone Jones of UCLA with their first pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Jones played exceptionally well against teams that used the read-option offense last year.
Also, the Packers now have Perry anchoring the left side of the defense, instead of Walden.
The second matchup I'm interested in will have rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari going up against outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Smith led the NFC with 19.5 sacks last year. Bakhtiari will occasionally have to block veteran defense lineman Justin Smith as well, but his big test will be against the other Smith...Aldon.
Overall this training camp, Bakhtiari has done very well in his pass-blocking, both in practice and in preseason games.
He has had a couple of glitches, but has done well for the most part. He'll definitely have a big test against the very quick Smith, who has has an excellent burst around the corner in trying to get to the quarterback.
Bakhtiari needs to get better in run-blocking however, especially at the point of attack. He does well at the second-level, however.
The third matchup I'm looking forward to is between tight end Vernon Davis and slot-cornerback Casey Hayward. Last year in the games against the two games against the Niners, Davis had four catches for 87-yards and a touchdown. That's a 21.75 yards per catch average.
Hayward will be the slot-corner if he is deemed healthy after battling hamstring issues this summer in training camp, otherwise it will be rookie Micah Hyde, who had an exceptional training camp.
The safeties will have to help as well, especially if Davis is running a seam-route. Because of the threat of Davis in the middle of the field, wide receiver Michael Crabtree had 16 catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns versus the Packers last year in two games.
Crabtree is out for this game (Achilles), and is currently on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list for the 49ers. Taking his place will be veteran Anquan Boldin, who came over from the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Boldin is considered one of the most physical receivers in the NFL, and both Tramon Williams and Sam Shields will be tested at cornerback, especially when fighting for the football with Boldin.
There will be other interesting individual matchups in this game for sure, but the four I mentioned will sure be fun to watch.