The guys in the trenches never get much credit, save the cliches we’re used to hearing when analysts are too lazy to actually analyze. Like, “This game will be won or lost in the trenches!” or “The 49ers will have to win the battle in the trenches!” Once the clock hits triple zeroes, the highlights are all Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree — never Alex Boone or Joe Staley.
But in the 49ers’ 23-20 victory over the Packers, perhaps no one played a bigger role than Kaepernick’s protection. Anthony Davis tweeted (and subsequently deleted, as he usually does) that not a single defensive end or outside linebacker that he faced got more than two yards upfield on him, and as it turns out, that’s true. Davis graded out a +2.1 overall on Pro Football Focus, and didn’t give up a single pressure on 38 pass blocking snaps.
The same can be said for nearly everyone on the 49ers offensive line. Kaepernick was sacked three times, but PFF ruled the quarterback responsible for two of them while the third was credited to Mike Iupati. Beyond Iupati’s allowed sack, the offensive line only gave up two hurries. That’s all for the entire game.
This shouldn’t surprise you, but Frank Gore was equally impressive blocking. He only stayed in for blitz protection nine times, but he pitched a shutout in the process and threw some huge downfield blocks.
Here are a couple examples:
On 4th-and-6, Colin Kaepernick dropped back and threw a 31-yard bomb to Michael Crabtree. The play wouldn’t have been possible without a perfect pocket from the offensive line and a beautiful pickup by Gore:
Few plays in this game were more important than Kaepernick’s 42-yard scramble, and a huge downfield block by Gore made it happen:
The 49ers faced a 2nd-and-7 early in the third quarter, and Kaepernick dropped back to hit Michael Crabtree 22 yards downfield. The Packers rushed five, but none of them got close to the quarterback:
Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis for a crucial 28-yard touchdown (that looked a lot like The Catch II) in the fourth quarter, and again, he had a perfect pocket:
The Panthers will represent a different, much tougher defensive opponent this Sunday. Green Bay’s defense was without Clay Matthews last week (for better or for worse), and we saw in Week 10 how formidable Carolina’s front seven is. The 49ers’ pass protection has taken some due criticism this year, but if they’re coming into form the way it appears they did on Sunday, this offense has a good chance of putting up points on the Panthers.