The Niners and Packers have been inextricably linked from the 2005 draft, when the Niners selected Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers. Since then, the teams have picked back-to-back twice (A.J. Hawk before Vernon Davis in 2006 and B.J. Raji before Michael Crabtree in 2009).
I posed the following five questions to Samuel Lam, a 49ers writer for Examiner.com, Mining the Gold Rush on MVN.com, and Bleacher Report . You can go to Examiner.com to see my answers to his five questions...
1. With the Packers being fourth in the league against the run and tied for third in yards per carry allowed despite having played Adrian Peterson twice, do you think the Niners will have to adjust to not having Frank Gore's usual production or can they find a way to get over 100 total yards out of him anyway?
Either way, the 49ers have been able to win. In the team’s first game, Gore was held in check by the Cardinals, but the 49ers were able to find a way to get into the endzone in the very end. If Gore cannot get to his 100 yards, I think the 49ers still have to establish the run.
One of the things that the 49ers have done since Alex Smith took over center was a change in offensive philosophy. The 49ers are a passing team now and if the 49ers can’t get the ball moving on the ground, Smith will be asked to pass. It may not seem too much of a change for the 49ers, but a passing game that has struggled is a big deal to the 49ers. Getting Gore going will be very important, but the confidence in Smith’s passing attack will just be as important.
2. How much more of a threat is the Niners passing attack with the development of Vernon Davis, arrival of Michael Crabtree, and switch to Alex Smith?
On paper, they should be dangerous. Since Smith took over, the 49ers have used his comfort with Davis as a key component to their attack. Smith is a quarterback that is designed to throw. With the play of Davis and the two starting wide receivers in Crabtree and Josh Morgan, the 49ers should be dangerous. We have yet to see Crabtree and Morgan break out and change games. But if we look at what the 49ers had in the beginning of the year compared to now, their passing attack has definitely improved.
3. Do you think the Niners will struggle at all to adjust to the 3-4 since they have not seen it, and how much will the fact that they have tinkered with implementing it help them?
Being in the 3-4 defense itself will definitely help the 49ers our in their strategy against the Packers. And since the 49ers also got an opportunity to face a 3-4 defense in the preseason against Denver, that can help as well. I don’t think the team will struggle against it. But I would believe that Smith will take extra precaution before the snap to recognize which linebackers might blitz on the play. Given that the 49ers are almost on pace to match last year’s sack total, the 49ers have to be extremely careful.
4. San Francisco is tops in the league in yards per carry allowed and third in rushing yards allowed. However, they are one of only ten teams to have fewer sacks than the Packers.
Do you expect them to blitz a lot to compensate for their lack of pass rush because they are facing a mediocre rushing attack, or rely on their front four given that Green Bay has allowed over a third more sacks than any other team in the league?
I hope the 49ers get blitz-happy. Even though Mike Singletary said that he isn’t too worried that the pass rush isn’t as effective as last year, I’m sure he will use whatever schemes out there to confuse Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers team has done extremely well in applying pressure on quarterbacks this year. However, they haven’t finished the job with sacks.
The 49ers front-seven has the talent to bring pressure. With the Packers struggle to protect Rodgers, the 49ers should send their blitzes and force Rodgers to throw early. It’s a gamble that the team has to take. We haven’t seen enough aggression from the 49ers all year and this looks to be the perfect opportunity for them to send the blitzes.
5. Having played for the Packers chief rival for his entire career, do you feel this game will have any more importance for Mike Singletary than the others on his schedule?
I want to believe that Coach Sing is thinking about it, but I doubt he is. Even against his former team the Bears, he said that they were just another team on the schedule. I think right now, Singletary is just concerned about winning. At 4-5 and a playoff spot right in front, Singletary won’t occupy his mind with any former rival talk. He just needs to win the game.