On Sunday, the Packers committed two key turnovers in the game. First, Lacy coughed up the ball with the Packers backed up against their own end zone. Then, Finley bobbled a catch near midfield that led to an Eric Reid interception. The Niners didn’t score off the second Green Bay turnover, but it did kill a key Packers’ drive near midfield.
The other side to the turnover story is the Packers defense failed to take the ball away on Sunday. In fact, including last year’s playoff loss, the Packers have only forced one turnover in the last three meetings against San Francisco. Compare this to the five turnovers the Packers have given up in these three meetings, and it is apparent the Niners have held the advantage in turnover ratio for some time now.
When the Packers win the turnover battle, they’re hard to beat, and fortunately for Green Bay, their offense led by Aaron Rodgers rarely turns the ball over.
However, the Packers ability to force turnovers on defense has been trending downward the past few seasons.
In 2012, the Packers defense forced 23 turnovers (18 INTs and 5 FR). This was down from 38 in 2011 (31 INTs and 7 FR) and the 32 in 2010 (24 INTs and 8 FR).
Since losing Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins and playmaking cornerback Charles Woodson, the Packers have lacked consistent playmakers on defense outside of Clay Matthews. Second-year corner Casey Hayward flashed some playmaking ability last season with six interceptions and starting safety Morgan Burnett has the potential to make an impact on the field, but both of these players missed the season opener with hamstring injuries.
Against the 49ers, it was evident the Green Bay defense needed more playmakers to emerge on the field. Matthews was the only Packer that provided consistent pressure on Kaepernick, and the Packers failed to force a turnover or make a game-changing play.
Granted, the Packers have a lot of young talent on defense and should be an improved group this year from previous seasons, but they need another impact player to emerge on defense.
It seemed the Packers struggled to get pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush.
With Burnett and Hayward out for the foreseeable future, who will step up in the Packers’ secondary and make some plays?
Rookie Micah Hyde seemed overwhelmed in his first NFL action. Safeties Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings played timid and gave up way too many big passing plays over the middle of the field. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams are good cover corners, but their number of interceptions have decreased as of late.
So, who will emerge as a playmaker on the Packers’ defense this season?
Let’s hope somebody rises to the occasion sooner rather than later.