Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Packers run D gashed by 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO — Colin Kaepernick repeatedly raced past the Green Bay defense on option runs. Frank Gore barreled over the Packers on more traditional plays.

A week after holding 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson in check, the Packers were run over by the 49ers and sent home from the playoffs with a 45-31 loss Saturday night.

The Packers went in brimming with confidence after holding Peterson to 99 yards in a 24-10 win last week. That confidence only increased after CB Sam Shields returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive.

That ended up being about the only bright spot of a historically bad night for a Green Bay defense that gave up the most total yards (579) and rushing yards (323) and second-most points in franchise playoff history.

"Our issues were bigger than that with Colin," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "We did not do a very good job of keeping him in the pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket for a number of big conversions there in the first half. We weren't able to get off the field.

"We tried to make some adjustments in our defensive calls, pass rush lanes and so forth, and did not accomplish that."

PASS FIRST: It has been two decades since Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys. The blueprint they used endured for much longer: put a workhorse running back behind a physical offense line, control the ball with the run and wear out the defense, then assemble a defense that won't allow opponents to do the same.

That was how Seattle reached today's game against Atlanta. But Aikman, a Fox analyst, said that approach no longer is the best way to win a championship.

"There's really not those dominant defenses anymore," Aikman said. "You better be able to throw the ball and score points."

If that's true, then the Falcons should have a good chance to win. Their identity is, first and foremost, QB Matt Ryan throwing to a stable of pass catchers that include TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Julio Jones and WR Roddy White behind an offensive excellent in pass protection.

Missing feat: Gonzalez spent 12 seasons with the Chiefs and went 0-3 in playoff games. With the Falcons for four seasons, he is 0-2 in the playoffs.

Now retirement looms. Asked if a loss today would leave a hole in his resume, he responded tersely.

"That's a tough question," he said. "Ask me after the game."

But Gonzalez, 36, has been around long enough to recognize players are judged significantly on their postseason fortunes.

"Obviously, in the playoffs, it steps up more because that is really kind of where your legacy comes in," he said. "What you do in the playoffs is what a majority of people remember."

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