49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 9, 2012
Halftime: No Willis? 49ers throwing defensive wrinkle at Packers


The 49ers have played most of the first half without arguably their best player, linebacker Patrick Willis. In an effort to thwart Green Bay's pass-prolific offense, Vic Fangio and the San Francisco defense have leaned on their dime formation in which a sixth defensive back, Perrish Cox, enters the game and essentially plays inside linebacker.

When Cox comes in, one of the team's two inside linebackers, Willis or NaVorro Bowman comes out. The 49ers apparently are alternating series on which Willis and Bowman leave the game. Willis substituted with Cox and the first and third defensive series; Bowman on the second.

So far Willis has missed 13 defensive snaps while Bowman has missed three. The 49ers rarely were in their base defense in the first half.

Meanwhile on offense, the 49ers continued to use a dizzying array of personnel packages, ranging from formations in which there are no wide receivers (used twice in the formation) with others that have no running backs (also used twice).

Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams officially were the starting receivers. Crabtree has played more snaps, 21, than the other wide receivers. Randy Moss has been in on 11 plays and caught his ninth touchdown at Lambeau Field, a 14 yarder in the second quarter. He is now second - behind Jerry Rice - on the NFL's all-time touchdown receptions list with 154.

Crabtree leads the 49ers in receiving with five catches for 53 yards. Moss is second with three for 45 yards, followed by Mario Manningham with three for 24 yards. That is, despite the ever-changing personnel packages, the 49ers are getting their Big Three involved.

Another 49ers in the record book? David Akers, who tied an NFL long for field goals with a 63 yarder at the end of the half that hit the crossbar before bouncing in. Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam and Sebastian Janikowski also have hit from 63.

The 49ers lead the game, 16-7.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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