On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers face the highest-caliber opponent in the Green Bay Packers -- on the road no less. For a dozen or so reasons, this match-up is the game of the week, where great offense will face off against great defense.
Many of the headlines surrounding this game have been dedicated to discussing the 49ers defense vs. the Packers offense, but it will take all three phases for either team to win this one. The Niners in particular will have to play one of their better games offensively, just to keep pace with the Pack.
The 49ers will need to be able to run the ball efficiently, because that will enable them to do so much more.
Control the Tempo
If the 49ers can the run the ball at will on offense, they can set the pace of the ball game. For the Niners, their motto on Sunday should be, "slow and steady wins the race." San Francisco is not trying to get in a shootout with Rodgers and the Pack, because they would be at a serious disadvantage.
The 49ers have a versatile backfield and some of the most creative run-plays in the NFL. They should be finding ways to put their tailbacks in situations to make plays. By controlling the tempo with an effective ground-and-pound, it will help the 49ers win time of possession and wear down the defense.
Set up the Pass
The Packers allowed a good amount of yards in the NFL last year -- near the bottom of the league. San Francisco will have their opportunities to make plays through the air, but would be wise to setup their shots. The first thing the Niners should do is establish the run, and draw more of a crowd near the line of scrimmage. Dom Capers likes to send his defensive backs, so the 49ers should give him a reason to.
Because at the end of the day, if the 49ers can create one-on-one coverages, they have Randy Moss on the outside. The 49ers pass-catchers are scoring threats, as receivers who are particularly good after the catch. To get them in space with less defenders in front of them would be a tremendous opportunity for San Francisco. If they can run effectively, these windows will be open for Alex Smith and the offense.
Limit Aaron Rodgers
And finally, an efficient ground attack will ultimately limit Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers is essential to the success of the Green Bay Packers, so the longer he is off the field, the better. The 49ers can extend drives and draw them out with a strategic approach to moving the ball on the ground. They have the versatility and depth to interchange the backs so everyone is fresh and everyone is getting assignments that favors their unique skill set.