Steve Wilks looking to stop Packers’ run game to limit QB Jordan Love

Jan 19, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: 4:48 pm

Drake Jackson #95 of the San Francisco 49ers pressures Jordan Love #10 of the Green Bay Packers dur...

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Steve Wilks has two priorities this weekend against the Packers: Stop the run and make Jordan Love uncomfortable in the pocket.

The San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator echoed those two sentiments to his unit this week, expecting a tough clash with Green Bay. The visitors shocked the NFL world last Sunday with a dominant 48-32 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Green Bay was able to take command thanks to the play of Love, finishing his first postseason appearance with 272 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Wilks is looking beyond QB play to stop the Packers, focusing in on the run game as the key component to a Matt LeFleur offense.

“Well, I think the number one thing is we have to try to stop this run to try to make them one-dimensional,” Steve Wilks sad Wednesday. “They’re very effective running a ball. I think it just opens up the play action. That’s where you see him being extremely effective in taking the shots down the field and finding an open receiver. So, that’s number one. Then again, we’ve just got to try to mix things up on him a little bit to give him something to think about and figure out where he needs to go with the ball.”

That run game of Green Bay starts with former Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones.

Jones had a marginal 2023 season compared to his standards, hurt for a large portion of it. But in his last four games, he heated up, averaging 119 yards and 21 rushes a contest. That didn’t change on wild-card weekend, running for 118 yards and three TDs on Dallas.

Wilks’s philosophy is simple: If you stop him and the run game, you can get after the quarterback in the backfield.

“He’s real good. He runs behind his pads, he can run in between the tackles, he can really jump-set and get the ball to the perimeter of the defense. That’s a point of emphasis each and every week, but particularly this week as well, we’ve got to do a great job setting edges,” the coach stated. “I think, again, running behind his pads, he does a hell of job in really making the first guy miss after contact. So, we’ve got to do a great job with 11 guys swarming and getting to the ball.”

The 49ers’ DC still gave Love his flowers, impressed by what he saw last Sunday in Texas. In fact, they saw the influence of backing up one of the all-time greats at the position for many years.

“I think he’s real good. I think a lot of part of the season, maybe he was maybe twice or maybe three times NFC Player of the Week. So, he’s doing some great things and I think number one he’s protecting the ball. He’s putting the ball where it needs to go. You think about a young guy like that and you forget that he’s really played behind [New York Jets QB] Aaron [Rodgers] for three years. So, he’s learned a lot. He’s mature. You can see that on the field,” Wilks explained.

While Green Bay finished 11th in passing yards per game this season (235.6), they finished third over the final three games of the regular season (291). The Packers do it as a group, with young receivers making the most of their opportunities.

San Francisco feels fortunate about that as well, except on the other side of the football.

The 49ers’ young secondary evolved as the season went along, finishing 13th in the year (214.2). But with first-year Pro Bowl cornerback Charvarius Ward leading the group, SF likes their chances if Love wants to air it out.

“I think we match up well,” Steve Wilks said about his secondary. “I’m very pleased with how the guys have been playing. We’ve got to be consistent throughout this performance, in this game and throughout postseason. But it starts here with this game first, allowing us to be able to proceed and move on. Our front seven has always been the focal point of this defense for years. You see the way the guys are stepping on the back end has been great. But the key thing for us this week is we’ve got to go and make plays. We can’t give up any big plays. We’ve got to keep the ball in front of us. We’ve got to find a way to take it away.”

Upcoming schedule for Steve Wilks and the San Francisco 49ers 

  • January 20th – vs. Green Bay Packers (NFC Divisional Round)

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