The 49ers didn't simply run the ball effectively during last season's NFC Championship Game; they ran it down the Green Bay Packers' throats.
Forty-two rushes for 285 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Raheem Mostert accounted for all of the scores and the vast majority of the yardage, as he reeled off long run after long run. San Francisco had so much success on the ground that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only attempted eight passes in the entire game.
The final score of 37-20 didn't adequately reveal the 49ers' dominance. The game was over by halftime, when San Francisco held a 27-0 lead. The Packers' defense had no answer for Kyle Shanahan's play-calling, and Green Bay's defensive coordinator Mike Pettine went into somewhat of a hiding after they had been eliminated.
Pettine made his first public comments since the NFC Championship Game on a conference call with local reporters Friday, and he described the Packers' performance as "beyond disappointing" and "a tough pill to swallow" (H/T Zach Kruse, Packers Wire). It's certainly not a favorite memory of his, but he insists Green Bay will continue to use it as a learning experience.
"No excuses, but we're not going to let it be this dark cloud hanging over us," Pettine said (H/T Rob Demovsky, ESPN), "but we're not going to sweep it under the carpet, either."
Pettine conveyed that he wasn't concerned about the Packers' run defense in general, believing they can stop the run "pretty damn well." That's certainly his right, but the stats don't back it up. Green Bay ranked in the bottom 10 last season in rushing yards allowed per game, rushing yards allowed per attempt and rushing scores allowed. And aside from signing linebacker Christian Kirksey to fill the void created by Blake Martinez' departure in free agency, the Packers really haven't done much to address that deficiency this offseason.
As opposed to a flaw in Green Bay's defensive scheme, Pettine believes the 49ers' rushing success in the NFC Championship Game was more the result of San Francisco's roster construction.
"49ers showed they were a little bit of an exception," he explained. "I don’t see that many teams that are built to do that, from an offensive line and tight end standpoint."
It's true. George Kittle is the best tight end in all of football, and his blocking ability is a major part of that.
The 49ers' offensive line's strength lies in its run-blocking, and when you combine all of that with Shanahan's creativity, it can make even the best defensive minds look silly. San Francisco has since lost Joe Staley to retirement, but Trent Williams might be the NFL's best offensive lineman and there's no reason to expect a major drop-off in the 49ers' rushing attack in 2020.
That would appear to be a major problem for Pettine and the Packers, who are scheduled to return to Levi's Stadium to face the 49ers in Week 9.
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