49ers vs. Packers: Takeaways from Green Bay's 23-20 Loss to San Francisco

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2014

49ers vs. Packers: Takeaways from Green Bay's 23-20 Loss to San Francisco

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    The season is officially over for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
    The season is officially over for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Green Bay Packers were so very close to finally beating the San Francisco 49ers. This 23-20 loss for Green Bay was the team's fourth loss over the past two seasons to the 49ers.

    This game was quite a bit different from previous matchups due to the Packers defense. Unfortunately, quarterback Colin Kaepernick proved to be too much to handle again for the Packers in the final minutes of the game.

    Let's take a look at a handful of takeaways from Green Bay's loss at the hands of San Francisco.

     

    *All statistics courtesy of NFL.com.

Aaron Rodgers Continues to Prove He's One of the Best in the Game

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Despite a slow start to this game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was absolutely fantastic against the San Francisco 49ers.

    Sure, his 177 passing yards and one touchdown aren't fantastic stats, but you truly have to look past the statistics to see just how great of a quarterback Rodgers is. For example, how many quarterbacks in the league could have escaped this surefire sack on fourth down?

    Rodgers continuously makes playing the quarterback position look as if it takes no effort at all. It's these type of plays along with his combination of athleticism, arm strength and accuracy that make Rodgers one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

The Packers Misused James Starks Again

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    We've been beating the drum for running back James Starks to get more playing time for the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the Green Bay Packers just haven't been listening.

    Starks only received six touches in this game. However, it was clear from his first touch, which was a 13-yard reception, that he came to play.

    He finished the game with five carries for an impressive 29 yards. Rookie Eddie Lacy, on the other hand, had 21 carries for 81 yards. That's a 3.9 yards-per-carry average for Lacy and a 5.8 yards-per-carry average for Starks.

    Now, we aren't saying that Starks deserves the majority of the carries, but when a guy is running as hard and focused as Starks was, it simply makes sense to give him more touches.

The Offensive Line Needs Work in the Offseason

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    The Green Bay Packers offensive line was just horrid in this game. Sure, the San Francisco 49ers have a potent pass rush, but it was still an embarrassing performance for Green Bay.

    The 49ers only ended the game with four sacks, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers was consistently under pressure. In fact, had Rodgers not made a few miraculous escapes from pressure, San Francisco would have had a much higher sack total.

    The issue with this unit is that it hasn't gotten better as the season has progressed. That might change with offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga returning, but it seems like the Packers might need to do some serious work in the offseason to fix their offensive line woes.

    The reality is that you just can't have an offensive line as bad as the one Green Bay has with a quarterback like Rodgers under center.

This Was the Best Defensive Game of the Season

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    As bad as the Green Bay Packers have been defensively this year, they really played their hearts out on Sunday. The fact that they were able to hold the San Francisco 49ers to just 23 points and 381 net yards of offense was rather impressive.

    For the majority of the game, the Packers defense played up to the level of the 49ers offense. Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers knew that the Packers offense wasted what the defense gave them. Rodgers said the Packers should "win that game" after the defense only allows 23 points according to Drew Olson of ESPN.

    It's definitely not good that it took the Packers 18 weeks to finally play solid defense, but this defensive showing was a good sign for the future of this unit.

Tramon Williams Played Exceptionally Well

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    There was a time when cornerback Tramon Williams was the future of the defense for the Green Bay Packers. Then came injuries, and Williams simply hasn't looked like the same player.

    However, Williams went back in time and played much like the 2010 version of himself. He finished the game with one interception and was all over the field making play after play.

    Where Williams was most impressive was with his run defense. He contained the edge on a number of run plays that caused the San Francisco 49ers to either take a loss or settle for a short gain.

    With Sam Shields injured early in the first quarter, Williams was the best cornerback remaining on the field for the Packers. He certainly played like it. Look for Williams to build off this performance heading into the 2014 season and finally get back to being a top cornerback in the league.

The Safeties Need to Go

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    The safeties of the Green Bay Packers need to go. Every single one of them. Yes, that includes Morgan Burnett.

    There isn't one safety on the roster worth keeping at this point. Of course, it'd be ridiculous for the Packers to get rid of all their safeties, but none of them deserve a job heading into the 2014 season.

    The Packers ultimately need to find replacements at the safety position either through free agency or in the draft. Don't be surprised if they load up on this position throughout the offseason in an attempt to boost the overall production of their defense.

Injuries Ultimately Killed the Packers Season

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    First it was cornerback Sam Shields suffering a knee injury early in the first quarter. That injury was quickly followed by an injury to outside linebacker Mike Neal.

    Offensive tackle David Bakhtiari and outside linebacker Andy Mulumba followed suit later in the game.

    To suffer that many injuries in to key players in one game is simply unbelievable. 

    Unfortunately, injuries were the main story of this season for the Packers. They suffered them early and they suffered them often. They ultimately lost so many players over the course of the season that there was really no way that the Packers should have been competitive this season.

    The fact that they won the NFC North was simply amazing (more on this later). Had Green Bay not suffered injuries in this game, or so many over the course of the season, we'd likely be talking about this team moving on to the second round of the playoffs instead of going home.

Colin Kaepernick Is the Packers' Kryptonite

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    This win now makes four wins in two seasons for the San Francisco 49ers over the Green Bay Packers. It seems like the Packers can beat any team in the NFL with the exception of the team quarterbacked by Colin Kaepernick.

    ESPN's Rob Demovsky had this to say following the loss:

    The Packers still haven't fixed their Colin Kaepernick problem. The 49ers quarterback beat them for a third time in less than a year and the second straight year in the playoffs. He rushed for 98 yards, the second-highest total of his career behind only his 181-yard effort in last year's playoff game against the Packers.

    When the Packers did slow down Kaepernick's legs in their Week 1 matchup, he threw for 412 yards. Simply put, the third-year quarterback has proved that he's the Packers' kryptonite.

    With the 49ers looking like a team that'll be competing for Super Bowls for the foreseeable future, Green Bay needs to figure out how to beat Kaepernick, quickly.

     

This Was a Persevering Team

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Sure, the Green Bay Packers lost this game, but let's remember that this team was considered dead just a few weeks ago. The fact that they even made it to the playoffs shows just how persevering this team was throughout the season.

    For starters, just look at all the key injuries the Packers had to deal with. From offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga to cornerback Casey Hayward, Green Bay played without a number of key players on both sides of the ball for the majority of the season.

    However, the Packers still managed to win when they needed to and win the NFC North. Head coach Mike McCarthy called this a "unique group" according to Drew Olson of ESPN. McCarthy also said, "I don't know if we've had a team work as hard."

    For all of the negativity this Packers team faced throughout the season, one thing you can't say about them is that they didn't persevere in the face of pressure. In fact, they rose above it and played their absolute best when they had to.