For the fourth time in the past 20 years the Green Bay Packers have started the season 4-0, but it wasn’t the green and gold’s high profile offense that lead the way to their fourth win.
After week one the defense received plenty of criticism for their play against the Bears, giving up 141 yards on the ground to running back Matt Forte. Things have changed since then.
Over the past three games, against some of the league’s best running backs, the Packers have allowed just 120 yards total. That includes holding San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde to just 20 yards on the ground Sunday.
“Our defense played lights out. I think it was our best performance so far this year. The ability to stop the run was our starting point,” said head coach Mike McCarthy.
The 49ers main weapon was also neutralized by the Packers front seven at Levi’s Stadium. The Green Bay faithful don’t need much of a reminder when it comes to what quarterback Colin Kaepernick can do to a defense, but Sunday was not a repeat performance of his breakout playoff match-up with the Packers back in 2012.
Instead the Packers defense sacked Kaepernick six times, and limited his running threat to just 57 yards.
“Yeah, that’s the saying ‘sacks come in bunches,’ and it’s always nice to see the improvement,” said defensive tackle Mike Daniels.
Sacks have been coming in bunches for the Packers over the last two games. After being shutout of the Bears’ backfield in week one, the Packers have tallied 17 in the last three. That includes getting to Kaepernick six times on Sunday afternoon.
The biggest was the last one for the Packers defense. A sack by Mike Neal on fourth down with the 49ers threatening to make it a one score game late in the fourth quarter.
“God was on my side. The Lord knows I wanted one so bad, but they didn’t, nobody blocked me. You know, with Kaepernick, you can’t hit him high, he’ll be able to shake it off and run with it. So, being able to hit him around his waste and wrap him up, that’s what you’ve got to do on him and a lot of guys did that today,” said Neal.
At the same time the secondary was able to hold the fourth year quarterback to 169 yards passing, and created one turnover with an interception by Sam Shields.
“Speaking for the defense, we did a great job of shutting down the type of offense they like to run, and forced them to be one dimensional, especially when our offense is putting up points. We have a very good pass rush unit, I think you saw the sacks, the quarterback hits, the pressure from not just one guy but several,” said Clay Matthews.
The defense needed to step up on Sunday with the Packers offense held to it’s lowest point total of the season.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with 224 yards passing, and a touchdown to Richard Rodgers on the opening drive. While it may not have been the numbers many fans have grown accustomed to as of late from the reigning league MVP, Rodgers kept the Packers out of trouble on offense and once again finished a game without an interception.
On the ground Eddie Lacy led the way with 91 yards rushing against a stout 49ers offensive line, but it was the veteran that found pay dirt. Fullback John Kuhn scored a one yard touchdown on is first carry of the season.