"Kabeer is as solid as there is on that team."
Green Bay at San Francisco is another good matchup with playoff implications. Both of these teams have clinched their respective divisions and now look to secure home-field advantage and first-round byes. Clearly, it's an important game for both teams, maybe a little moreso for the 49ers (9-4) since they're one game behind the Packers (10-3) in the win column.
Both clubs are coming off impressive come-from-behind victories last week. San Francisco overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road at Dallas with less than six minutes to play. Green Bay, meanwhile, scored two TDs in the fourth quarter to overcome a nine-point deficit to defeat Minnesota. So these are two teams coming into this weekend's game with momentum and confidence.
Biting back: The injury bug
Good teams don't use injuries as an excuse. Good teams expect the players who step on the field to get the job done. Teams that win are the ones that do that -- and San Francisco and Green Bay are two examples. Each has had their share of injuries this season, perhaps moreso than most teams in the league.
The Niners have been hit especially hard by injuries on defense, particularly in the secondary, but they just keeping finding ways to get it done and win games. Defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. has done a good job overcoming the injuries and protecting certain weak spots in that defense. He had to use a variety of schemes and rotate players against the Cowboys last week. Julian Peterson, for instance, played four different positions. He played linebacker and defensive end, as he normally does, and also played a little bit at safety and corner.
Statistically, the 49ers defense doesn't compare to other teams in the league, but Mora has found ways to get it done with that group. This speaks volumes for him and his players, along with the rest of the defensive coaching staff. To have the injuries they've had at the safety position, yet be able to rotate people around as they have and still be able to win is impressive.
Green Bay also has had guys step up and make plays. Tony Fisher has performed very well the past two weeks, rushing for 187 yards and two TDs in place of the injured Ahman Green . Receiver Donald Driver got a little banged up against Minnesota , and though he was able to return, Robert Ferguson got more involved in the passing game than he had ever been. He had six receptions for 105 yards and two TDs on Sunday night.
For both teams, guys just seem to step up when they get the opportunity. To me, this is a sign of a good football team and one that is well-coached. Both of these clubs have exhibited this characteristic.
Niners 'O' vs. Pack 'D'
The Packers have had trouble stopping the run this season. They rank 29th in rushing defense and are the worst team in the league (along with Seattle) in yards per carry -- giving up 5.1 yards a rush. That has to improve, but one good thing is that they've been very effective on third downs and pass defense.
San Francisco would prefer to use the run to set up the pass. I would expect that to continue, provided Garrison Hearst can return. There's also talk Kevan Barlow might be back. Backup Paul Smith came in and did a nice job when Hearst went down with a hyperextended left knee last week. But it would be a boost for them if Hearst and Barlow can play against the Packers.
The 49ers are outstanding when it comes to protecting the football. They're tied with Jacksonville for fifth in NFL with a plus-11 turnover ratio. This is mostly a product of their offense not turning it over as opposed to their defense getting the ball for them.
Jeff Garcia doesn't throw many picks and doesn't get sacked much either. He makes very good decisions both throwing the ball and knowing when to run. He's very aware of game situations and what has to be done in different scenarios. I think he's a very heady player who does a great job for that football team.
Thoughts on KGB
*(Editor's note: Just one week before last Sunday night's game against Minnesota, Packers DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila witnessed the birth of his first child, only to get a call later that night informing him his mother had died in a car accident in California. Against the Vikings, Gbaja-Biamila showed great strength and courage, compiling six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in Green Bay's victory.) *
Anybody who has had the opportunity to visit with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila will discover he's such a quality person. He's someone I've enjoyed getting to know over the past two years that I've broadcasted some Packers games. Once you do get to know him, it's not surprising he responded the way he did despite what he endured last week. He's a very mature young man, and it doesn't surprise me at all.
There are a lot of those types of players on the Packers, and that's why it doesn't surprise me that they're having such success. In my experiences, good teams, more times than not, have solid individuals with good character. Kabeer is as solid as there is on that team.