Packers have a painful plan for 49ers, but a solution is in the strategy

Here is my Friday column previewing the 49ers-Packers game.

Jim Harbaugh has to understand Clay Matthews isn’t bluffing.

Matthews wants to take out Colin Kaepernick. Every Packer does. Matthews said so. If the 49ers run the read-option, the Packers will try to hurt Kaepernick.

They’d be nuts not to. It’s legal. It’s smart. Knocking him out is the Packers’ best chance to win, and the read-option play is the best opportunity to knock him out. On a read-option, the offense leaves one pass rusher unblocked. The read-option is supposed to trick the rusher, he doesn’t know if the quarterback or the running back has the ball.

But the Packers’ rushers may not care who has the ball. They may just take out Kaepernick while he’s handing off on the option-read, while he’s still pretending to be a runner. Sure, Frank Gore may take the ball and gain 15 yards. But if Kaepernick goes down, the game would be over. Colt McCoy cannot beat the Packers. Sorry, Colt.

The 49ers should not run any read-option plays against the Packers. There is no reason to expose Kaepernick to unnecessary bodily harm. He can put up 30 points against the Packers’ defense as a traditional drop-back quarterback. The 49ers scored 30 points last year in Green Bay with Alex Smith at quarterback.

If the 49ers fall behind on Sunday, maybe they can use the read-option in the red zone. That’s the only time. They’re subpar in the red zone, so the read-option may be their best option down there. They could use it in the red zone because if the Packers focus on Kaepernick, Gore could burn them for a touchdown up the middle.

But is it worth the risk to run the read-option at all? The Niners have no chance of making the playoffs without Kaepernick.

So, let’s assume the 49ers protect Kaepernick, and he barely uses the read-option, and he doesn’t get knocked out of the game. Can they still possibly lose?

Yes.

When the 49ers lose, they get bullied. Offenses run the ball right into Justin Smith and Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. These runs usually aren’t big-gainers – the 49ers’ front-seven is excellent – but the commitment to a balanced offense is key.

The 49ers’ defense tries to make the opponent one-dimensional – passing only – and last season the Packers’ offense was happy to oblige them, to submit. Green Bay rushed 22 times in two games against San Francisco. Forty-Niners’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called those two performances “basketball on grass.” Not a compliment.

Basketball on grass – or ballet on grass, however you want to call it – is not how you beat the 49ers. Running the ball is what the Vikings did on September 23, 2012 when they unexpectedly beat the 49ers 24-13. Remember, you have to bully the 49ers, be the more physical team. The Packers have to run the ball about 25 times on Sunday or they have no chance.

Let’s assume the Packers commit to their rush attack. If they can average a measly 3 yards per carry – doable – Aaron Rodgers can use the play-action pass. He needs the play-action pass or he’s a sitting duck.

The 49ers also have to be prepared for Rodgers’ quick, three-step-drop passes. Rodgers delivers the ball as fast as any quarterback, maybe faster, and his slot receiver, Randall Cobb, gets open almost instantly. Carlos Rogers will have trouble with him.

I just laid out two scenarios where the Packers can beat the 49ers. Do I think either will happen?

No.

The Packers’ offensive line stinks. Green Bay can’t consistently grind out 4 yards per play like the 49ers’ offense can because the Packers’ can’t keep defenders out of the backfield.

The Packers’ offensive tackles – 21-year-old rookie LT David Bakhtiari and 24-year-old, second-year RT Don Barclay – can’t hold up against the 49ers’ edge rushers, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. It’s a matchup of scrubs versus All-Pros. Rodgers needs the run fake to momentarily distract the pass rush and buy time to get the ball down the field. Even that is unlikely to save him, especially on third-and-long when everyone knows it’s a pass. The 49ers’ pass rush will be all over him. Talk about Kaepernick getting hurt, Rodgers will be ducking and covering.

Checkmate.

The 49ers will win 30-27.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com

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    1. Pigskin Prognosticators Predict:

      Grant: The 49ers will win 30-27.

      Ghost of Mustard : 49-13 Niners… 30-27??? Nope

      MidWestNiner: 17-13 Niners. I am predicting a defensive struggle for both teams with the Niners coming out on top 17-13. Kaep will throw for 236 yards with one touchdown to Patton along with one pick and take two sacks. Gore will run for 83 yards have a touchdown added to his stats. The defense meanwhile will get 4 sacks and two interceptions.

      A$AP Classic has 38-27 Niners. 11 point spread for A$AP Classic.

      phil fan says: I’ll throw down for 38-30 Niners. 8 point spread for me if we’re counting point spread. Step right up and make yer peerless pigskin prognostications people.

    2. Knowing how HB is a few steps ahead of everyone including the host of this blog, I would assume he is playing this “fear” campaign to the 49ers fullest advantage… i.e., “oh no, the read option is now so dangerous we probably aren’t going to run it now that these hits are legal.” DAM-DAM-DAM, 75 yard td run just happened! That’s the entire point of the read option, catch the defense off guard. The more they’re thinking about hitting Kaepernick, the more likely we are to win this game.

      1. Hmmmm….

        The way Grant has it the 49ers should never use the Read Option ever again for fear of getting #7 hurt.

        That type of thinking is for Losers.

  1. I don’t anticipate the 49ers allowing the Packers to intimidate them into not using their read option any more or less than the game plan necessitates. I think the 49ers win by 10 points.

  2. “The 49ers should not run any read-option plays against the Packers. There is no reason to expose Kaepernick to unnecessary bodily harm.”

    That would require the 49ers to almost not run the ball at all out of the shotgun. Here’s what I mean. If you have NFL GameRewind go back and watch the first few running plays of the Super Bowl. On the first running play after handing off the ball Kaepernick jumps back, according to the rules he can’t be hit. On the second running play after handing the ball off he moves toward the end, according to the rules he is now fair game. This happens on the majority of their run plays out of the gun.

    What I am getting at is that it isn’t necessarily just the read option that opens Kaepernick up for hits, rather the QB action on the majority of their run plays out of the gun.

    1. There’s a difference between a designed run out of the shotgun and Kaepernick reading the end on an option.

      1. That’s not necessarily true. Go back to the 56 yard TD run against the Packers last year. That was a read option, but they blocked the end with Miller. There are a number of variations to these plays, and anytime he makes acts like he is a runner after the handoff he is fair game according to the rules.

        The only ways the 49ers can assure Kaepernick doesn’t get hit are by having him step back after handing off from the gun, or only run the ball when he takes the snap from center.

        1. I agree with you. Still, there are times Harbaugh tells Kaepernick to give it and not read it on a pistol or shotgun handoff, and it looks like a read-option. Roman can call those against the Packers as long as Kaepernick steps back after the handoff.

      2. I know, they do that a lot actually, and it almost always involves Kaepernick finishing the play by continuing with a fake down the line. Once he does that he is fair game.

        That’s why I am saying that making the blanket statement that they should not run any read-option plays is nearly impossible for them to do and run their offense unless they either have Kaepernick step back everytime, which can alter the effectiveness of the play, or only run the ball when he is under center.

        Do you find it a bit interesting that none of this complaining is coming out of Seattle or DC where they both run similar style schemes?

        1. I’m saying he definitely needs to step back every time or they need to run the ball when he is under center. It’s the cost of protecting him.

          I do find that interesting. How do you account for it?

      3. Dang it, you added on to your comment while I was typing ; )

        If Kaepernick just steps back he has become Peyton Manning.

        That fake post handoff is meant to keep the backside end from pursuing, thus opening up the cut back lane and also show the coaches when that end is not respecting the keep. For the 49ers offense it is kind of important.

        1. Guilty.

          I agree, it’s important, but it’s also risky. They may choose to risk it in the red zone or against man coverage when they know the Packers are down a man, but I doubt the Packers use much man coverage.

      4. I think Harbaugh knows the advantage they gain by having the fake carried out, and doesn’t want to alter it. In a sense he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

      5. It will be fun to see how it plays out on Sunday. Other than the 49ers game, which week 1 matchup gi you find most interesting? For me it is Carolina-Seattle. Can Seattle go to the Eastern time zone and win? Even with Carolina struggling at that point last season they played them tough.

        1. That’s a very interesting game. I expect the Seahawks to win.

          I’m interested in the Cowboys-Giants game. Can the Cowboys finally beat the Giants in Dallas?

      6. Your guys convo is great, I would like to add one thing, if the play has continued to the point that Kaep clear doesnt have the ball he cannot be hit even if he continues the fake down the line. It would be like a DB going after the QB on a handoff fake bootleg, even though the QB is faking a booleg he clearly doesnt have the ball and cannot be hit. Knowing when the QB clearly doesnt have the ball is gray area Harbaugh was taking about. And Jake to your pint about Harbaugh talking about this when Washington isn’t is contributed to The Eagles haven’t said they are going to hit RG3 like Mathews said he was going to hit Kaep. If you remember Mathews comments were a big story before Jim made his and Jim made his in response to what Mathews said.

      7. The two games for me are the Cardinals-Rams and the Saints-Falcons. What will the revamped Rams offense look like against an ascending Cardinals defense? How will the Saints look with Sean Payton back in the fray?

      8. NEC,

        That could be, but what Matthews said is the same thing that is said at all levels of football when going against a team that runs the option. It is part of the game. It’s just something that you don’t get a lot of in the NFL because the option hasn’t been around much.

        And thanks for adding that clarification. You are absolutely right. I was thinking of it as more of an in the box area type of thing.

      9. Do you find it a bit interesting that none of this complaining is coming out of Seattle or DC where they both run similar style schemes?

        They didn’t have an opponent spout off about going after their QB that’s why. That’s what made this a story and Harbaugh is making a big deal out of it now to try and gain some sort of edge from the officials by pointing out that GB is going to intentionally ignore the RB and hit the QB. The reality is even without the DE or OLB being blocked, they aren’t going to get there in time to hit Kap. The Ravens tried this strategy in the SB and it didn’t work. A number of teams tried it against RGIII and he just put his hands up to show he didn’t have the ball before the tackler got there.

        This is false bravado from defensive players that have no answer for how to stop it. If you can’t stop it you try to intimidate the opposition into not running it. It would be stupid not to run the offense you feel gives you the best chance to win based on tough talk from a guy who had his ass handed to him last year. Looks like it worked against Grant; but not likely to work against the Niner Coaches.

      10. This is a great breakdown of the principles of the read option and why it’s so hard to defend. One more point we haven’t taken into account is how athletic the QB’s are who are running this thing. Quite often they’ll be able to side step the oncoming rusher and keep the ball themselves. It’s never going to be an offensive staple in the NFL but the few times teams run it can result in very big plays if they do it correctly.

        http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9508313/after-offseason-searching-nfl-coaches-know-how-defend-read-option

      11. What Matthews said isn’t false bravado. It’s exactly what you teach defensive players when facing the option.

      12. Grant,

        It would be interesting if you guys could get Carroll’s take on this issue during the media call with him next week, and Shanahan’s later in the year as well.

      13. Jack,

        He’s saying it to get the Niners not to run it. He said as much in the interview. This isn’t old time option football we are talking about where the qb is running down the line with the RB as a pitch option. The ball is out of the qb’s hand quickly or he’s taking off running. The only way Matthews will get a clean open shot is to ignore the RB and hit the QB late while trying to say he thought he still had the ball. This is what is being insinuated in Matthews comments and that’s why Harbaugh is being so vocal and making the link to targeting.

        This is nothing new from defences trying to stop it. RGIII dealt with it last year and the Ravens tried it in the SB. It doesn’t work unless you purposely decide to hit the QB late which is why Harbaugh doesn’t like how the rule is being interpreted.

        The rhetoric has really gotten out of control considering the Niners hardly use it anyway.

      14. “The rhetoric has really gotten out of control considering the Niners hardly use it anyway.”

        That’s not true Rocket. The 49ers have Kaepernick faking the read on almost every running play out of the shotgun.

      15. It’s a very small percentage of the offence jack. Before the playoff game against gb, the Niners had used it sparingly the previous few weeks. Against GB, it was about 20% of the offence. It’s garnered a lot of attention, but its one small part of what they do.

      16. Good point Rocket. The percentage of the read option used by the 49ers should be less than 10 plays a game. Not saying its a gimmick, but traditional offences win out most of the time. Wrinkles here and there are good but in the end, the execution of your system is what holds true. I’m hoping Roman is not using the Read option as a staple in his offence.
        GB should try to eliminate CK with physicality. That’s what gives less talented teams a chance. The 85 Bears come to mind, the 2005 Ravens. It’s football and this element of the game voids the fancy, gimmicky plays that work in college but once NFL coaches get a handle on it, they use what always works, punish the guy who will hurt you the most.
        The Patriots did it all those years to Manning, teams did it to Kurt Warner when he was with the Rams and now everyone does it to Tom Brady, RGIII and every other top offensive guy.

      17. Against Green Bay in the playoff game the 49ers called 35 run plays. Of those run plays 16, or 45% included a read option look.

        I did not go through each pass play to account for the number of times they ran play action off the read.

        One thing I found interesting is that they never ran the read option look when snapping the ball out of the diamond formation.

      18. Against Atlanta the 49ers called 26 run plays. Of those run plays 11, or 42% included a read option look.

        Prior to the final 3 plays while trying to run out the clock it was 23/11 or 47%.

      19. Of the 75 plays they ran against GB, 16 were read option Jack. Roughly 20% of the offence. The read option is a small part of the overall offense and was really only used that much in the game against the Packers.

        They use it as a change up Prime. It’s just another tool in the box to pull out at certain times in the game to take advantage of Kap’s athleticism and that’ why it’s been effective at times. If they used it as a staple of the offense it would lead to stalled drives and even injury, but the little they use it is just enough to create some problems.

      20. My initial comment to you was referencing the run game portion of the offense. In the first 2 playoff games it accounted for approximately 45% of all called running plays

      21. Jack,

        My initial comment to you was referencing the run game portion of the offense. In the first 2 playoff games it accounted for approximately 45% of all called running plays

        No your comment to me was that I was wrong to say they don’t use the read option very much, which was actually wrong on your part. I was talking about the Niner offence Jack; not what percentage of running plays are of the read option variety. In the grand scheme of the offence, the read option is a small percentage of it.

      22. Here is what was said:

        Jack Hammer says:

        September 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm

        “The rhetoric has really gotten out of control considering the Niners hardly use it anyway.”

        That’s not true Rocket. The 49ers have Kaepernick faking the read on almost every running play out of the shotgun.”

        I never said anything about the entire offense Rocket, you did, and I never said you were wrong about that. The stats that I put up were referring to my comment about how big a role the read look plays in their running game, and when they decide to run from the gun those percentages are much higher.

        As I said I only focused on the run game. I am sure I could find some read play action in there too if I looked at the entire game film, which would effect those percentages.

    2. Thanks Jack. @Rocket, I would prefer the Niners use the Read option as little as possible, focus on play action and use CK exclusively in the pocket.
      If he is indeed the real deal and all these other guys at WR, Gore, VD, Q step up, it should be a blow out.
      To me this first game is more about Roman and what type of offense they have developed this offseason for CK. After that, his play calling which has come under scrutiny many times last year. If Roman is a head coaching prospect, he like everyone else will need to step up big this year.

      1. I think the Niners are clearly the better team Prime, but Rodgers is the great equalizer for GB. He is so good he can keep them within striking distance and I’m guessing he will tomorrow, until the 4th quarter when the physical play of the Niners will wear down the Pack.

  3. I am predicting a defensive struggle for both teams with the Niners coming out on top 17-13. Kaep will throw for 236 yards with one touchdown to Patton along with one pick and take two sacks. Gore will run for 83 yards have a touchdown added to his stats. The defense meanwhile will get 4 sacks and two interceptions.
    What happened to listing the matchups that you will be watching Grant?

  4. Grant, you have finally done it! You have convinced me that you know very little about football despite trying valiantly to pose as though you do. Combine this with your “personal agenda” style of writing and I find it embarrassing…for you!

    1. Grant is light years ahead of that slouching lout I saw on the teevee with pops last year. His writing style, comments and a new-found humility points to a decent future in the sports-writing biz. Hell when I was his age I spent 90 percen tof my time either in bed or in a honkytonk or biker bar with a Stratocaster in my hands and a bag of weed in the guitar case. So who am I to criticize? Keep up the good work Grant-san…

  5. I honestly don’t see what the fuss is all about. Kaepernick is very fast. Just have him continue the fake laterally. He can out run any DE and he will have them in front of him. He will be fine.

  6. The CK barely runs the ball with the read-option anyways. CK runs out his fakes and steps back to play patty cake with DE/OLB.

    I’d like to see a package later this year where BJD actually executes a series and runs the read-option.

  7. I think everybody is going a little nuts on this need to protect Kap. Should we protect Gore by not running him and taking a chance on his getting hurt? Is it more likely for QB’s to get injured 1) when they are sacked or 2) when they take off when their receivers are covered? If it’s 1), then having the QB run is not always a bad thing. QB’s get hurt when blindsided in the pocket a lot more than when they’re running. Kap’s a big man. He could get hit any number of times without getting injured. Obviously don’t take too many chances – but run the offense that gives you the best chance to win.

  8. I’m seriously tired of this omgomg how to protect Kap nonsense. QB’s get hit its part of the game. Peyton got slammed a few times last night. He’s had 4 f’n neck surgeries and is ELITE. And guess what, he’s fine! Kap is the strongest QB in the league. Let the man play football for christ sake. He’ll be FINE!

    1. Well pocket qbs like Peyton and Brady only get hit around 5 times a game. So yes they do get hit but not often. The more a player is hit and tackled the more they’re likely to get hurt, regardless of position. Make sense? So if we let kaep keep running all the time he can take up to 15-20 hits a game. Drastically increasing his chances of injury.

      1. Yeah but all the other players get hit on every play pretty much. Kap is a unique weapon and for him to maximize his talent he needs to take the risk of getting hit a few times. He’s big, strong, young, fast and smart. He can handle it.

  9. Grant, will you get it out of your head that Kaepernick will get hit while handing the ball off!!!

    If they could do that, the Packers would completely shut down all facets of the run game and probably sack the QB on every pass play.

    No they plan to hit Kaepernick after he hands the ball off and pretends to roll out with the ball

    all the Niners have to do is line up in the Pistol and run a Power O right off Tackle and flatten the Outside Linebacker. They can run a variation of the option and play action while they keep hitting the OLB/End.

    1. That’s good…maybe Clay will end up wishing he kept his mouth shut. All the linemen out weight him by 50-70 lbs and they can always sent a TE or even a WR to crack him (Boldin, Baldwin, VD, Mcdonald..etc are big dudes that can block) Like D Walker used to do. We can play the hit the guy every play game too.

  10. also, if Mathews is keying on Kaepernick on pretty much all the run plays, then Gores going to run wild. Kaep doesn’t have do much a fake roll out if Mathews is committed with his “ears pinned back” so to speak. All he has to do is hand the ball of to Gore and as Mathews approaches him, put his hands up to show he doesn’t have the ball. QB gets protection again.

    1. Except that the rule hasn’t changed, and remember…no one said anything to Rocky Bernard about that when he crushed Alex Smith’s shoulder…better be prepared….

      1. Good point. It more depends on who the QB is. The refs probably won’t throw a flag if Andrew Luck gets flattened and/or injured but will if Tom Brady feels like he was breathed on too hard.

      2. Right? I mean the only reason the pack got its butt handed to it last year was because they didn’t know they could hit the guy streaking down the field with the ball. Hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see…

    2. what in the world are you talking about? rule change? what does that have anything to do with an off tackle power O run?

      Benard’s hit on Alex Smith was him being unblocked and getting a clean shot on Alex in the pocket. Again…what does that have to do with the read option or an off tackle power run?

  11. I hope we don’t run any read option plays and I honestly don’t think we will, not because we’re scared to risk El Kaepitán but because the coaching staff thinks the pack feels as if they can stop that element of the O and shut us down. watching G-RO and JH these last few years they love to go against the grain and will want to show the pack that we can win without because in the words of JH “we’re the 49ers, we can do what ever we want”…GO NINERS!!!!

    1. if you take what Mathews says at face value, he’s admitting a glaring weakness in their defense. His D Gap will be wide open on every play.

      I don’t think Capers is that stupid.

      I suspect what they may do is blitz more up the middle and maybe have the OLB/End either fake blitz or come on delayed blitzes to disrupt the read part of the option.

  12. Grant I thought you were just having fun, when you said that the Cowboys were going to have the best record in the NFC, as a result of their easiest schedule, and represent the NFC in the SB. But NOW you’re predicting that the Packers are going to really put up 27 against our defense…at home? You’re not funny, you’re just delusional now!

    1. 77, if you’ve been reading the blog over the past couple of years, you know that “predictions” are not exactly Grant’s forte. Based on his track record so far, it’s more likely that the Golden State Warriors will go to the Superbowl than anyone Grant predicts. It’s all just for fun!

  13. I don’t know if this will work against Green Bay, but the Niners should motion the flanker when running the read option. Kaepernick keeps the ball and runs outside. Clay Matthews pursues Kaepernick and boom, the flanker blindsides him with a legal hit. Not sure what the CB covering the flanker would do, but Kaepernick can simply throw the ball away. You run this play about 5 in a row, and then Matthews would think twice about hitting Kaepernick. This is all legal of course.

    Bill Walsh did the same exact thing when Charles Mann said he was going to decapitate Montana. Walsh had Russ Francis motion from the slot going in towards the line and Francis would crackblock Mann half a dozen times in a row. Needless to say Mann had a very quiet game. No sacks. As I recall, only one measly tackle.

    1. great memory! Russ Francis was a beast. A good reminder that in football, the hitting is never just one-way; the offense gets to hit back. Somewhere, Bobb McKittrick is smiling.

    2. May I correct your memory slightly? I’m pretty sure that was Dexter Manly who was the pass rusher. He was very good and a little bit mouthy and Walsh’s innovative scheme took him out of his game. I think Francis only cracked down on him 4-5 times, but he was worried about it the whole game.

      1. Excellent memory. Not sure that it would work against the Packers either, but I sure would not hesitate to give it a go….

  14. Cowboys and Seahawks will open the season 0-2.
    Seattle sucks. 42-13 was an aberration based on the Niners’ intense loss to the Patriots and losing their 2 best defensive players.
    Cowboys suck. Tony Romo.

    1. Not to mention there was a short week between two road games, with the first being across three time zones. Sort of like when the NFL giftwrapped a Thanksgiving Night win for the Ravens in 2011.

  15. All the chatter from the moron pundits about how what Harbaugh is saying is just a diversion, or a tactic to gain an advantage from the refs, or to try to protect Kaep, is hogswallop.

    What Harbaugh is seeking is a balanced playing field, one that honors the innovation that is the read-option. The NFL is basically saying that the QBs on teams that choose to run read-option do not get the same levels of protection as the QBs on teams that don’t. The competition committee is comprised of ALL non-read-option teams, and the Niners have the most dangerous offensive weapon in the game. Harbaugh wants to be able to fully utilize Kaep’s talents, without false incumbrances dictated to him by a crooked governing body. Whatever the NFL decides, Harbaugh will not put Kaep’s short- or long-term health in undue jeopardy, but that doesn’t mean Harbaugh won’t fight for what’s right, which would be to afford all passers the same protections at all times, regardless of offensive scheme.

    1. All Kaepernick needs to do to be protected is drop his hands or backup after giving the hand off.

      Harbaugh wants the rule fixed to help his team, and quite frankly the competition committee is correct in not changing the rule.

      1. Quite frankly Officer Hammer it would look a lot less shady if in fact they had at least one team that had an option read experienced quarterback on the committee.

        Regardless of whether or not you are clearly passing or a ball decepticon from the pocket, there should be no discrimination as to where the strike zone should be….

      2. If you want to create a strike zone for the QB on option plays you will need to create the same thing for a RB.

        They know the risks to the QB when running the option, and by running it they accept those risks. If you don’t want your QB at risk don’t run it. That risk is why you’ve seen so little of it at this level.

      3. Why? Every quarterback has a strike zone until he declares himself a runner…. except the option read quarterback.

        They know the risks, but they still settled the concussion lawsuits. They’ve instituted new safety rules to protect the player. I find it interesting they have no appetite to do the same for the option read quarterback. Risk or not, more teams would incorporate that facet to their offense if there were more Colin Kaepernicks available.

      4. “Every quarterback has a strike zone until he declares himself a runner” which is exactly what the QB is doing by stepping forward after riding the mesh point with the RB.

        All he has to do to be afforded those same protections as other QB’s is either backup, or stand still with his hands down after he gives it to the RB.

      5. While the quarterback is in the pocket, he’s protected by the same rules as last season:

        If the quarterback declares with obvious actions that he’s the runner, he’s not protected.

        If the quarterback is about to hand off to a running back, he’s still the quarterback and thus protected.

        If the quarterback is faking the hand-off, he’s still the quarterback and thus protected.

        Apparently the millisecond after the quarterback fakes the hand-off, he’s no longer the quarterback and thus not protected. WTF?

      6. You said it with your second sentence, “If the quarterback declares with obvious actions that he’s the runner, he’s not protected.”

        By continuing forward with his fake after giving the ball he is declaring himself with obvious actions that he is a runner, thus the defense is allowed to hit him because they cannot be sure he does not have the ball.

      7. But the true hair splitting will start with the following scenario. The quarterback fakes the hand-off, fakes his own run, but then quickly drops back to pass….all in the proximity of the pocket. (Happens all the time in the pistol offense) Did he go from quarterback to running back to quarterback in less than three seconds? Some people actually have an answer: something to do with the quarterback suddenly having the “posture as a runner.” Add another level of complexity: The defenders’ legal “hitting zones” may change depending on whether the quarterback has morphed into a running back.

        I believe the NFL is at a crossroads with this new style quarterback typified by Kaepurnicus, Wilson, RG3, etc. If they start getting injured and knocked out of games with concussions and the like, you can better believe the competition committee regardless of who is on it, will change the rules to protect this quarterback driven league…

      8. Razor, that ability to change quickly from running to passing posture, and thereby changing the law on where they can be hit, is the one that I think is really unfair on defenders. Case in point – when James Harrison levelled Colt McCoy in 2011. McCoy had broken from the pocket, was running as if he intended to go for the first down marker, but then saw Harrison so dumped it off. Harrison levelled him just after the dump off and was called for roughing the passer. Ridiculous.

        As for the matter at hand, I agree with Jack. Once the QB in the read option makes a move that imitates taking off with the ball, defenders should be allowed to see him as a runner and should be allowed to hit him as if he were a runner. Otherwise it is very unfair on the defender.

      9. No I don’t. The QB is afforded all the protection he needs. If he chooses to imitate a runner he can get hit like one, and that is as it should be.

      10. Though I’ll couch that last comment with the following. If defenders are intentionally targeting QBs after the handoff and hitting them late (i.e., not just after the handoff where you can legitimately be fooled) then the rule will change.

        But refs should be smart enough to flag that anyway – defenders don’t stay tricked on fake-handoffs that long, so they shouldn’t on the read-option either.

      11. Interesting you don’t feel they will change their minds when these quarterbacks become the future of the NFL and start to suffer serious injuries to the knees and head….

      12. That’s the 64 dollar question Scooter, how long do you think the NFL is going to let defenses pound on quarterbacks as if they are a running back within the pocket?

      13. I think the real question razor is how long do you think coaches will let their QBs get hit like RBs before limiting that aspect of their game?

      14. I don’t think they can Scooter. That is the hairy monster in the room. The NFL has been proactive with safety and settled their concussion lawsuit. Once these guys start getting abused, the pressure will be too great and they’ll buckle.

      15. It is a bit interesting that the competition committee is made up of folks who don’t have access to an athletic QB. Would Wellington Mara love to shut down RGIII? Would Jeff Fisher love to shut down Kaepernick and Russel Wilson? Thanks to this “clarification” of the rules they now have a better chance of doing so.

        Career .500 coach Fisher needs all the help he can get in the NFC West.

      16. The defender has an opportunity to hit the drop back passing quarterback anywhere in the strike zone approximately 1.5 seconds after releasing the football. Why then is Kaepernick as an option read pocket quarterback not afforded the same? “Clearly” is not defined as such. RG3 was forced to raise his hands like a common criminal every time he handed off the ball to make it clear for the officials.

      17. I really see this as a lot of noise with little substance. A QB can be hit from the blindside in the pocket, running outside the pocket and pretty much anywhere he has the ball. The difference in this type of offense is the QB either hands off or keeps and runs. How bad of hit is Kap going to take if he’s looking directly at the pass rusher who is trying to hit him? If he hands off he can protect himself either by jumping back or sidestepping much like Kap did against the Ravens. Suggs tried to hit him and the most he was able to do was give him a shove. Much ado about nothing quite frankly. It’s a desperate tactic from a Packer defense that is intimidated.

  16. Good read Grant , I agree with score , I wouldn’t not run read option in fear of safety , but the simple fact Green Bay is designating several defender’s to it , be a pocket passer 1st half , then in 3rd quarter after they adjust run read option rest of game , Rogers can’t beat us from the bench! GO Niners

  17. The Ravens played good D against the 9ers, but Suggs’ attempts at intimidation fell flat. If Mathews wants to play tag with Colin he’ll take himself out of team concept and provide opportunities for the offense to exploit. CK has faced this approach before.
    Btw, after the Packers spent the whole off-season studying the ReadOption because they got embarrassed by it, THIS is the best they’ve come up with? “I’m a gonna whack de QB”. Great plan. Don’t you wish you’d thought of that back in January? Smh

    1. Why do you think that “this” is all they came up with or all they learned? Do you seriously think that the only thing they thought of was to hit CK? I guess Clay Matthews is an idiot because he gave away the whole game plan in a one liner to the media. Would you instruct the defense to not hit CK? Would you expect the 49ers to not try to hit Rodgers as often as possible? Obviously, this is just generic talk and not meant to constitute a complete defensive game plan.

  18. I’m pretty sure the 49er coaching staff has a plan to offset the Packers plans. I’m not concerned about Clay Matthews’ ability to get close to Kaepernick – the 49ers have a great offensive line and TEs. Green Bay’s secondary and linebackers are suspect – I think the 49ers will be all over them.

    1. What is suspect is the 49ers’ receiving corps, not GB’s very good secondary or linebackers. This is the year we find out if Kaepernick can play quarterback. He’ll always be athletic as heck, but his receivers are all new/different and likely less talented than last year. His fancy read option stuff will be mitigated to some degree, so I think he’ll be forced to play some more traditional qb. Not saying he can’t, but he didn’t so much last year, and everyone is game planning to slow down his running ability. I think he’ll be forced to throw a bit more, and we’ll see if he can make the right calls/plays. It’s not going to be 2012 all over again or him. There is a book on him, so to speak.

  19. Like the Ravens, second half GB will tire out. 49ers offensive line & defensive line will dominate. First game of the season, both teams will not last the whole game. 49ers back-ups are much better than GB’s. & should pull away.

    1. So the 49ers tired secondary is going to do just fine against Rodgers and his outstanding receivers (Cobb, Jones, Nelson, and Finley) in the fourth quarter, while the Packers may be doing a lot of no huddle? You’re right that neither team will be 100% conditioned yet, but I wouldn’t be so sure it’s a huge advantage only for the 49ers. I just think it’s a bit too early to say which team has an advantage there. Neither has played a real game yet.

    2. Marty, you do realize that the Ravens won that game you’re talking about, don’t you? I’m not sure people are too worried about how tired out you think they were in the second half. Evidently, the 49ers had other problems of their own.

  20. Matthews only hope is Kap staying in the pocket. Last thing Matthew wants is having to chase Kap all over the field. He look silly trying to hit Kap in the playooffs. Peyton took big hits in the pocket after releasing the ball, thursday. All sackers want a QB to stay in the pocket so they can have sitting ducks.

  21. Press democrat,

    Do you actually pay this kid to write such elementary material? What a waste of my time.

    And grant, can I suggest something: once you become a more well-rounded, experienced observer of the game (try taking some cues from Aaron schatz, bill barnwell, Chris brown, etc.), try finding your own voice; your style is awfully similar to your daddy’s. As a consumer (and believe, i dont speak for myself) you don’t want to be like him. Trust me.

    1. Hey Mr. Grantland troll! Your boy Bill Barnwell predicted last season that the Niners would take a major step back and barely sniff the playoffs. Wow, what a football expert….

      U don’t like, then don’t read and don’t come back. Simple.

    2. >>Press democrat, Do you actually pay this kid to write such elementary material? What a waste of my time.

      A big part of his pay is probably based on eyeballs to this site, the metrics based on the volume of commentary to which you just contributed.

      If PD and Grant don’t thank you, I will myself.

      Keep it up Grant.

  22. If the NFL treats the QB like any other runner unless he’s in a passing posture, why do they give the QB the option of ending the play by sliding feet first? Either the NFL is committed to QB safety or it isn’t.

    BTW, what does “passing posture” mean, anyway? Can the QB be simply looking downfield while in the pocket, or does he have to have his arm cocked, or is it open to the interpretation of the refereeing crew?

    I agree with Roman, some tweaking is needed to have a good rule in place.

  23. ” The 49ers scored 30 points last year in Green Bay with Alex Smith at quarterback.”

    I have no recollection of playing in Green Bay last year….Anyway, when the schedule came out Grant, I’m sure you picked us to lose to the Packers. Why are you changing your pick?
    Unless they get another pick 6 and a punt return for a td, I have a hard time seeing this as a close game. Our D is just too good. I see KW and QP having a big impact in our passing game. Possibly VM as well. Too many weapons, not enough defenders!

  24. I have mixed feelings on the Read option, part of me agrees with Grant, the other part is, would like to see Mathews, get burned over and over with the Read option, because all he has so far is his trash mouth.

  25. There are a few interesting match-ups around the league today. I’ll be interested to see if the Panthers can stay with the Seahawks. I’ll also want to see if the Saints can stop Steven Jackson. I’m not curious about the Cowboys; Grant will keep us posted.

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