49ers Blog and Q&A

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

January 7, 2013
Willis watched in Week 1 game vs. Packers


When the 49ers played the Packers in Week 1, cornerback Perrish Cox ended up playing more snaps than a perfectly healthy Patrick Willis. That is, the team's no. 4 cornerback was on the field more than a six-time Pro Bowler who is the leader of the defense and the face of the franchise.

The Packers used so many four-receiver sets - and also used wideout Randall Cobb in the backfield - that the 49ers were forced to play their dime defense for most of the game. In that situation, Cox joins fellow cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver on the field, and one of the inside linebackers comes off.

To keep things fair, Willis and NaVorro Bowman (merely a one-time Pro Bowler) ended up rotating as far as who left the game. Cox averaged 7.3 defensive snaps in the other 15 games but played 51 against the Packers. Willis was on the field for 46 snaps; Bowman for 56. Both typically play close to 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps; indeed, that's what makes the 49ers' defense so unique.

Will the 49ers play their most critical game of the season Saturday with their star linebacker frequently watching without his helmet on? That depends on the Packers, who have grown more balanced as the season has gone on. If they continue to dedicate a significant - for them, at least - portion of their offense to the run, Willis will be on the field.

It also may depend on the health of the Green Bay receivers. Starter Jordy Nelson was dealing with a knee injury in the run up to Saturday's game and was last seen hobbling off the field after being tackled.

It should be noted that the 49ers' dime defense played well in Week 1. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers gained 324 yards total - mostly in the second half - and had a net of 279 yards through the air. Rodgers finished with two touchdowns but also had an interception, by Bowman.

Week 1 defensive snap count
D Goldson FS 68 100%
R McDonald DT 68 100%
D Whitner SS 68 100%
T Brown CB 67 99%
C Rogers CB 67 99%
A Smith LB 66 97%
J Smith DT 66 97%
C Culliver CB 61 90%
N Bowman LB 56 82%
A Brooks LB 53 78%
P Cox CB 51 75%
P Willis LB 46 68%
I Sopoaga NT 7 10 %
D Dobbs TE 2 3%
C Spillman SS 1 1%
R Jean Francois DT 1 1%

- 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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