The Green Bay Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 34-28 on Sunday in Week 1 of the NFL regular season. While the Packers have to be pleased with their offense in the loss, there are some questions on the defense that need to be answered.
Actually, there is only one question that needs to be answered on the defensive side of the ball: Should Green Bay be worried about its pass defense?
Well, when you give up over 400 passing yards, three touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 129.4, there is definitely some cause for concern.
However, how much are these concerns fixable before Week 2, and how much is this going to haunt the Packers for the remainder of the season? Let's take an in-depth look at Green Bay's Week 1 performance against Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers to see how big of an issue its pass defense could be this season.
Are Injuries to Blame?
The Packers were without two key contributors on Sunday. Both cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Morgan Burnett were out of the game due to injuries.
Last year, Hayward was one of the most impressive rookies in the entire NFL. Pro Football Focus graded him as the fourth-best cornerback in the league (subscription required). He kept opposing quarterbacks to an incredible 31.1 quarterback rating when they threw in his direction.
As for Burnett, he finished the 2012 season as the 16th-best safety according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Burnett's strength was in pass coverage, where he recorded two interceptions and four passes defended.
With both of these players on the sidelines, the Packers had to rely heavily on rookie cornerback Micah Hyde and second-year safety Jerron McMillian. Neither played well. They were consistently beaten all game long.
When Burnett and Hayward get back on the field, you can be sure that the secondary will improve.
A Poor Receiving Corps in San Francisco
While injuries are somewhat to blame for the poor pass defense from Green Bay, it certainly doesn't paint the whole picture. The fact that the Packers couldn't stop an unimpressive receiving corps is definitely worrisome.
As you can see in the chart below, the 49ers relied heavily on only two receivers to beat Green Bay's secondary:
Still, the Packers were unable to slow down either Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis, even though they knew the ball was going to them almost every time Kaepernick dropped back to pass. No matter where Boldin or Davis lined up, either out wide or in the slot, the Packers didn't have an answer in the secondary.
Is This a Fixable Issue?
The ultimate question is whether the issues that plagued the Packers in Week 1 are fixable or not.
While getting Hayward and Burnett back will certainly help, it might not help enough.
Too often were wide receivers left wide open without a defensive player in sight. In fact, there were only a handful of plays where the secondary looked good. And that includes starters Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and M.D. Jennings.
Simply put, the Packers can't win games while giving up 400 passing yards and failing to force a turnover. As of right now, it seems like that's exactly the type of pass defense the Packers have.