Packers nickel and dime Rice Extra defensive backs pay off for Green Bay

January 07, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Holmgren is supposed to know all the secrets of the San Francisco 49ers offense because he was the team's offensive coordinator for six years before becoming Green Bay Packers head coach.

So what was Holmgren's advice for Packers defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur this week?

"I tried put in my two cents," Holmgren said. "I said, 'Let's watch Jerry Rice. Make sure he's covered.' "

Holmgren said Shurmur replied, "Is that all?"

Shurmur stopped Rice yesterday with a scheme that featured double coverage and jamming him at the line of scrimmage. The Packers played with five and six defensive backs much of the game.

Shurmur said: "We were in our base defense [4-3] one snap. We felt we could control it [the run] with three guys, so the plan was to be in the nickel [five defensive backs] and the dime [six defensive backs] and to try to be physical on [tight end Brent] Jones and Rice."

The plan worked, as the Packers upset the 49ers, 27-17, to advance to the NFC title game.

Rice's stats (11 catches for 117 yards) were more impressive than his impact on the game.

The Packers double-covered Rice most of the game.

"But the first time he got in there [against single coverage], he caught one on us and I didn't like it a lot," Shurmur said.

Rice caught four passes in the first half, when the Packers jumped to a 21-3 lead.

Rice said: "We started playing catch-up, and they were playing well. I kept my confidence and thought we could come back. It's just one of those things.

"We're not hanging our heads. We'll rebound next year. Life goes on. We've got to deal with this and not make the same mistakes again."

49ers quarterback Steve Young said: "Green Bay rolled its coverage toward Rice, but he still made plays. We just played into their hands when we fell behind."

Jackson comes through

When Keith Jackson was traded in the off-season to Green Bay, he wasn't happy.

He tried to force the Packers to trade him and held out until Oct. 20 before finally reporting.

Once he arrived, Mark Chmura was entrenched as the starting tight end, and Jackson made one start in the nine games -- when the Packers used two tight ends.

His best game was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when he caught four passes for 54 yards.

Jackson, though was a key factor in the Packers' victory yesterday with four catches for 101 yards. He got free in the seam down the middle against the 49ers' two-deep zone. He also made one catch when Brett Favre fell down and got up and found him.

"It was worth the wait," Jackson said of his limited production during the season. "Especially when you're one-on-one with linebackers. Brett did a great job of reading."

Jackson, who will be a free agent after this season, still won't commit to returning to the Packers next year.

"No answer," he said.

Big start

Running back Adam Walker had failed to hold onto the ball eight of the past 10 times he touched it going into the game. He had dropped six passes and fumbled twice.

But he was Young's first target of the game. He fumbled, and Craig Newsome scooped it up and ran it for a Packers touchdown.

The original receiver was John Taylor, but when he slipped, Young went to Walker as the outlet receiver.

Stunned 49ers

This is the second time in the past eight years the 49ers haven't made the NFC title game, the first time since the 1991 season.

The 49ers' Dana Stubblefield said: "You've got to be stunned in a situation like this. I've never been in this type of spot before. I don't know what to do now."

Coach George Seifert said: "We had some great efforts throughout our season, but for whatever reason, it wasn't meant to be for us this season."

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