49ers defense still has question marks

Make no mistake about it, the San Francisco 49ers’ week 1 victory over the Green Bay Packers was a big one. The game was a heavyweight fight between two NFC power houses and put the Niners in a good position to go into Seattle and try to do something no other team was able to do last season, beat the Seahawks at home. While winning cures a lot of ailments, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the 49er defense looked more like the shaky unit we saw at the end of last season and in the playoffs rather then the strong one that only gave up 14.1 points per game during the first 13 contests of 2012.

The main reason for the defensive struggles last season was the lack of a pass rush. With Aldon Smith and Justin Smith healthy to start 2013, the 49ers hoped the plan to get pressure with their front four would again be a winning formula. Aldon Smith answered the bell with a 1.5 sack performance but the rest of the unit struggled to get to the quarterback with any consistency. The results were 333 yards and three touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers.

While the 49ers can win high scoring games, they have to get pressure from other places other than Aldon Smith if they want to get back to the Super Bowl. Granted, it was just one game but the Packers were without starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga and their offensive line looked to be an issue heading into the game. Because of that, it was a bit alarming to see Rodgers have the time on many of his drop backs.

The lack of pressure also shined a light on the weak spot of the 49ers’ defense which is their shaky secondary. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson were targeted 22 times and caught 14 passes for 238 yards and each scored a touchdown. The defender who seemed to have the most trouble was Nnamdi Asomugha who had a tough time keeping up with Nelson.

Asomugha’s biggest mistake came near the end of the second quarter when Green Bay faced a 3rd and 15 from the Niners’ 39 yard line. The Packers all but conceded a field goal attempt by throwing underneath to Nelson but Asomugha whiffed on the tackle and Nelson raced down the sideline to get the first down. The Packers scored four plays later when Perrish Cox missed a tackle on Jermichael Finley who’s touchdown tied the game. 

It was assumed that the 49ers might struggle in the slot with an aging Carlos Rogers (and they did at times in week 1) but the corners on the outside need to be sound. It will be interesting to see what defense shows up in week 2 and moving forward this season. There is a lot of talent on the unit and they can easily bounce back. For now though, there should be a little concern in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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