49ers cash in with nickel defense against Packers

Three and Out: Kap's toughness, Cox's major role

49ers cash in with nickel defense against Packers
January 6, 2014, 11:15 am
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According to Pro Football Focus, Perrish Cox allowed only one catch in coverage – a 26-yard pass to Randall Cobb on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. (AP)

Programming note: For comprehensive coverage of Sunday's 49ers-Panthers matchup tune in to 49ers Central tonight at 6:30 on CSN Bay Area

The 49ers were in their nickel defense almost the entire game on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers dictated that the 49ers go with five defensive backs through their use of three-receiver personnel packages. Nickel back Perrish Cox played all but one of the 49ers’ 63 defensive snaps in the 49ers' 23-20 victory in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay forced the 49ers to go with Cox instead of starting nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, and then tried to overpower the 49ers defense with running back Eddie Lacy, who gained 81 yards on 21 carries (3.9 average). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for just 177 yards and was sacked four times.

The only time Cox came off the field was for a play in which the 49ers had their goal-line defense, including reserve safety C.J. Spillman, on the field. On that play, fullback John Kuhn scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Spillman was also on the field for one play in which the 49ers had six defensive backs in the game.

[MAIOCCO: Cox returns, plays vital role in 49ers playoff victory]

Coach Jim Harbaugh said afterward that veteran cornerback Eric Wright, who was listed late in the week with a hamstring condition, was healthy. On Sunday, CSNBayArea.com reported that Wright had not been practicing well. Wright, who would've been expected to play the nickel role, did not play any snaps on defense.

The 49ers coaching staff, obviously, had a lot more confidence in Cox, who was added to the team last Monday after being released by the Seattle Seahawks three days earlier. The 49ers released Cox after 1 ½ seasons in November to make room for Wright’s activation from the non-football illness list.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cox allowed only one catch in coverage – a 26-yard pass to Randall Cobb on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.

With the 49ers in their nickel defense and Aldon Smith missing an extended period with cramps, rookie Corey Lemonier played 15 snaps. Dorsey played just nine snaps. The nose tackle is removed from the 49ers’ defense when they go to their nickel defense.

Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks had a huge day with two sacks and seven quarterback pressures, according to PFF. Defensive lineman Ray McDonald had a half-sack and four pressures and received a strong grade against the run.

Defensive play time
63 -- FS Eric Reid, SS Donte Whitner
62 -- CB Perrish Cox, CB Tramaine Brock, CB Tarell Brown, LB Ahmad Brooks, LB Patrick Willis, LB NaVorro Bowman
51 -- DL Ray McDonald
46 -- DL Justin Smith
45 -- OLB Aldon Smith
20 -- DL Tony Jerod-Eddie
15 -- LB Corey Lemonier
9 -- DL Glenn Dorsey
4 -- DL Demarcus Dobbs
3 -- LB Dan Skuta
2 -- S C..J. Spillman