Here is a link to my Sunday column previewing the 49ers-Packers game. The full text runs below:
The 49ers are going down. Going down today against the Green Bay Packers.
No polite way, no genteel or gentle way to express this. The 49ers will lose big. The Packers will murder them. The Packers can run up the score on the sad-sack, inept, sorry 49ers, run up the score if they care to. The Packers can make this game as ugly as they want. Nothing the 49ers can do about it except suffer.
That’s the brutal truth. Let the 49ers prove me wrong. Can they?
You probably want some tactical reasons for my prediction, as if tactics are even an issue in this ridiculous mismatch — it’s like a college team (San Francisco) going against a pro team (Green Bay).
OK, here are tactical reasons.
No way the 49ers defense — that bad defense — puts pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Forget about it. The 49ers beat the Packers the past four times they met. Maybe that gives hope to the Niners organization and fans. Don’t even go there. The 49ers team that beat Green Bay is ancient history. It was a Jim Harbaugh team. Harbaugh coaches that bunch up in Ann Arbor these days.
The Harbaugh 49ers put pressure on Rodgers because it had pressure to put on — Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald. All gone. All ghosts. Those guys pressured Rodgers, and the Niners could drop back seven or eight guys in pass coverage. Hard even for Rodgers to throw well into seven-man or eight-man coverage when he’s under pressure. No time. No room.
It’s not like that anymore. Room galore. Because the 49ers apply zero pressure, their defensive coordinator Eric Mangini has been forced to call all sorts of blitzes. I keep reading they are “exotic” blitzes. The Steelers and Cardinals didn’t find them particularly exotic. They found the blitzes ordinary. The 49ers have rushed the passer with five guys, sometimes six guys. Nothing doing.
The blitzes leave huge areas for the downfield defenders to cover. We’re talking lots of acreage. Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer looked like guys whale watching at the beach as they happily scanned the field for wide-open receivers.
Here’s what the Steelers and Cardinals did to protect their quarterbacks. They used “max protection.” What in the world is max protection? Well, max means maximum. And it means the Steelers and Cardinals kept back the running back and tight end to protect the quarterback — to pick up the, umm, exotic blitzes. They sent three wide receivers in pass routes. And three receivers killed the Niners.
You want to know why. Because the 49er can’t cover anyone. It got so bad against Pittsburgh and Arizona, it was like Roethlisberger and Palmer were throwing to no defense. It was like seven-on-sevens on some Wednesday down at the practice facility.
Against Pittsburgh, the 49ers generally used man defense. Against Arizona, the 49ers generally used a zone defense. That’s an oversimplification, but it’s a helpful blueprint. Now what? Where does the Niners defense go next? Maybe NaVorro Bowman and his pals can knife Packers receivers as they run their routes.
The 49ers’ best cornerback, Tramaine Brock, has been getting his head handed to him. Against Green Bay he will cover Randall Cobb. Mismatch. Humiliation.
I’m going to state a rule here. When a team — the 49ers — cannot rush the passer and when it can’t cover anybody downfield, everything is wide open for the opposing offense. The sky’s the limit. It’s whoop-de-doo time.
Prepare yourself for lots of whoop-de-doo.
When the 49ers have the ball on offense — they will have the ball because Green Bay will score fast — well, when the 49ers have the ball, they will move downfield slowly and methodically. A team like the Niners makes mistakes during long drives, has trouble sustaining the drive.
The quarterback gets sacked. The running back doesn’t get yardage on third down. The quarterback throws incompletions. The quarterback throws picks. And when the 49ers get into the red zone — they may actually do that — look for them to kick field goals instead of getting touchdowns.
A massacre is about to happen.
So, we come to more important issues. To the meaning of the game. Expect fans to boo their team at halftime. Ugly scene. If Colin Kaepernick has another stinker first half, expect Jim Tomsula to bench him for the second half.
Expect Tomsula to get booed off the field. Expect Tomsula to lose the locker room after this one — if he hasn’t lost the locker room already. Players are smart. They know when a coach doesn’t have it. The players have to be onto Tomsula. Expect the entire 49ers enterprise to fall apart, as it should.
Sometimes, a team loses a game but it’s not all bad. The team lost but it did things well. Projected hope. Made itself proud. Made fans proud. A team can take something from a brave loss like that. Not this time. The Packers will embarrass the 49ers, embarrass the 49ers in the 49ers’ own place.
You may be hoping for a fairytale ending, for the Niners to rise up and shock the Packers and shock the entire world. I understand your hope. I really do. Fairy tales make life bearable. Fairy tales don’t always come true.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn.pressdemocrat.com.