Aaron Rodgers

49ers vs. Packers, and the no-huddle conundrum

The Green Bay Packers frequently went with a no-huddle offense in Week 1, and results were mixed. They scored 28 points, but they only held the ball for 21:25 and their longest drive lasted less than three minutes.

The Packers’ defense is 24th in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed, so it would stand to reason that they’d want to keep that unit off the field at all costs. But the 49ers had their fair share of troubles defending the no-huddle near the end of the season, which led Vic Fangio to place a bigger emphasis on stopping fast-paced offenses over the last couple weeks.

Donte Whitner San Francisco 49ers“It can be tough, it can catch you off guard. I feel like sometimes we’re good against it, sometimes we’re not based on getting communication in,” said Donte Whitner.

“But that’s why we’re working on it so that when it does pop up in a game, we’ll be ready for it. Because if you are ready for it and you show that you’re ready for it, they’ll stop it. But if it looks like you’re not ready for the hurry-up and they have some success doing it, they’ll continue to do it. So we want to nip it in the bud as fast as possible.”

Of course, there’s also the weather. The forecast has Green Bay’s temps somewhere between 5 degrees and Antarctica on Sunday, and people tend to move a little slower when their feet are frozen. And after the Packers played hot potato with the football during their first meeting with San Francisco, they seemed to feel remorse over their hurry-up ways.

From ESPN Wisconsin between Week 1 and Week 2:

The Green Bay Packers’ no-huddle offense is awesome. Except when it isn’t.

And that was the problem last Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers: As good as it got with Aaron Rodgers & Co. – four touchdown drives of 80, 62, 69 and 76 yards – the offense also had a whopping five series go three-and-out. Add two turnovers – an Eddie Lacy fumble in the second quarter on the second snap of that series, and a Rodgers interception off the bobbling hands of tight end Jermichael Finley – and the Packers were a wild ride of success and abject failure against the 49ers.

That’s a trend they can’t afford to continue this Sunday against the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field.

“Those are great drives. But you just can’t have the inconsistency of the three-and-outs,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com earlier this week. “That just kills your momentum and puts your defense right back on the field.”

But there’s still the little issue of the 49ers’ giving up easy yardage and points in no-huddle to Tampa Bay, and the Packers thrived while hurrying things up in Aaron Rodgers’ first game back from injury.

Often using a muddle huddle at Chicago — receivers staying wide between plays as others conversed — Green Bay ran 27 more plays than the Bears. The Packers finished with 25 first downs, 473 total yards and 33 points.

Running the no-huddle, the Packers can keep the 49ers in one personnel grouping. So with the Jordy Nelson/James Jones/Randall Cobb receiving trio back, the Packers may uncover mismatches in the passing game. The 49ers aren’t afraid to stick linebackers on inside receivers.

And if they do decide to use an extra defensive back for a series, running back Eddie Lacy should have opportunities.

So then the question becomes how much the North Pole conditions affect the Green Bay attack.

It sounds disastrous, the 49ers trying to find a balance between stopping Lacy and guarding three wide receivers at the same time. But Whitner has confidence in the 49ers’ ability to handle any offense, no matter how fast they rattle off plays.

“It’s a little overblown. I think any team in the National Football League can have some trouble with the no-huddle if they don’t prepare for it, if they don’t have enough calls, if everybody doesn’t get the signals from the sidelines. That’s why we’ve been working on it so much so that if a team wants to go to no-huddle and hurry up on us, we’ll be ready and we’ll have a number of calls we can make,” Whitner said.

The Packers ran no-huddle over 15% of the time last year, more frequently than all but two teams (the Patriots and Ravens). If the 49ers have their way, Green Bay will only gain yards in their hurry-up mode when they’re behind by more than one score. That’s the position the 49ers were in when Tampa Bay and Atlanta marched down the field quickly, and they know they could’ve done a much better job protecting leads in those games.

“Sometimes you can tend to take your foot off the gas a little bit, especially toward the end of football games or the end of a half and you’re up by two or three scores,” Whitner said.

“That’s just something we have to focus on and not take our foot off the gas, make sure we continue to put the pressure on our offense, make sure we continue to disguise, continue to communicate, and we’ll be okay.”

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