Aaron Rodgers not out for revenge against 49ers

September 5, 2013

 

In this Oct. 7, 2012, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs from the pocket during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis. Rodgers, Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill, Josh Freeman, Jake Locker, Terrelle Pryor and Buffalo rookie EJ Manuel all can operate well on the move. That's critical in today's NFL: Don't underestimate how much of Rodgers' skill set is built around his mobility.


GREEN BAY Aaron Rodgers isn't out for revenge in Green Bay's season opener.

Sure, the San Francisco 49ers bounced the Packers from the NFC playoffs with a 45-31 win in January, but the former MVP quarterback who grew up a Niners fan in Northern California says he and his teammates are simply focused on the task at hand.

"It was never about revenge," said Rodgers. "We're way past that, I feel like. "(I) still follow the Niners. They're close to home there, still have a lot of friends that are still on the fence at times when the Packers play the Niners.

"This is a big game for both teams. First game of the season. It'll be a great matchup."

The matchup the last time wasn't so great for the Packers, who allowed Colin Kaepernick to run for 181 yards the most by a quarterback in NFL history in a regular season or postseason game and gave up 579 yards of total offense.

Green Bay's defense not only had trouble with Kaepernick running the read-option, but also with him pulling the ball down and scrambling on pass plays.

Kaepernick made things even harder on the Packers because he's not just a running quarterback he also completed 17 of 31 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown after opening the game with a pick-six interception to cornerback Sam Shields.

But the read-option is what got the Packers' attention, so much so that coach Mike McCarthy sent his defensive staff to Texas A&M this offseason on a fact-finding mission to learn more about how to defend such plays. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also talked with University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, an expert in defending the read-option who coached against Kaepernick when Kaepernick played collegiately at Nevada.

"Obviously, those guys made plays, but we definitely do our job, particularly on defense," Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji said Wednesday. "That's a big emphasis going into this game.

"I think Coach Dom has done a great job of laying down the game plan and what he feels we have to be ready for. The guys have really taken heed to that and hopefully that shows on Sunday."

While the playoff loss hasn't been a major topic of conversation in team meetings this week, McCarthy acknowledged that many of the plays from that game have been in the film cut-ups the coaches have used to prepare the players.

"As far as exactly what games are involved in our cut-ups, I'm not going to get into total detail. But, yes, that game is one of them," said McCarthy, whose team also lost its regular season opener last year to the 49ers, although that was at Lambeau Field and with Alex Smith at quarterback for San Francisco.

"You look at games that obviously you feel have input to your game-plan and how you prepare for the game. Obviously, when you play a team in the past like we did last year, watching both games, your opportunity for the players to see the matchups, you look at all that tape."

As much attention as the defense's poor performance received, though, Rodgers made it clear that the offense was to blame, too. Rodgers completed 26 of 39 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (91.5 rating), and the Packers scored only three third-quarter points as a 24-21 halftime deficit grew to 38-24 one play into the fourth.

"I mean, we had 24 points on offense," Rodgers said. "That's not bad against that defense, but we need to score enough points to win and we didn't do that. A couple drives there in the third quarter that really were frustrating, (we) didn't get enough points there. We had some opportunities. Playing a great team like this that you know can put up points, you have to maximize opportunities, especially when you're in the red zone and get seven points."

NOTES: The only player the Packers figure to be without Sunday is second-year CB Casey Hayward, who reinjured his hamstring against Seattle on Aug. 23 and has been ruled out. Hayward, who led the team in interceptions last season with six, had initially hurt the hamstring before training camp and missed the first three weeks of practice. ... Special teams ace Jarrett Bush (ankle) was listed as a limited participant in practice.


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws a pass during warm ups before an NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in San Diego.

Kaepernick had breakout game against Green Bay

SANTA CLARA, Calif. Jim Harbaugh wants to ensure mobile San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't blatantly targeted.

So the 49ers coach has gone to the NFL for clarity about when Kaepernick is supposed to be safe before declaring himself a runner.

Kaepernick ran the read option to near perfection on the big stage against Green Bay back in January. In this scheme, quarterbacks aren't as protected when they leave the pocket if it is clear they are runners.

"You're hearing a lot of tough talk right now, you're hearing some intimidating type of talk, the same thing we were hearing a couple years ago," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "It sounds a lot like targeting a specific player. You definitely start to wonder. A man will usually tell you his bad intentions if you just listen. You know what's being said publicly, not what's being said privately. You hope that their intent isn't going to be anything that's not within the rules."

Kaepernick ran right past the Packers in the playoffs, and through them, too.

Kaepernick's breakout game in a breakthrough season came in his first career playoff start only two months after winning San Francisco's starting job, carrying the 49ers to a 45-31 divisional-round victory in which he ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more.

He set a quarterback playoff record in the process with 181 yards rushing in the win that sent San Francisco to a second straight NFC title game.

Kaepernick said he can't concern himself with the defense's motivations

"I'm not worried about that," he said. "It's football, you're going to get hit."

Green Bay had no answer for the Niners' spot-on read option. Coach Mike McCarthy said the biggest problem for the Packers was getting Kaepernick when he scrambled out of the pocket.

When asked whether he was surprised at just how well everything went, Kaepernick responded: "You're supposed to go out and perform as players. That's what you get paid to do. You can only line 11 people up so many ways, so we've seen a lot of different looks."

Linebacker Clay Matthews insists the Packers will be better prepared come Sunday's season opener at Candlestick Park when they try again to slow down and stop Kaepernick.

"For the most part we had the entire offseason to focus on this," Matthews said Wednesday. "You look at the progression of the league and specifically quarterbacks, Kaepernick, you look at Washington, Seattle, there are quarterbacks around the league that present problems not only with their arms but with their legs, too. Whether that's in the pistol or the read-option offense, they're becoming more and more difficult to contest. We had an entire offseason to focus on last year's loss, having time to kind of figure out a way to defend that. We obviously like to think we're better prepared to defend that type of offense and what he brings to the table."

Harbaugh plans to speak to the officials before the game about what the coach calls a "gray area" in the rules. He doesn't expect to hear back from the league before the game.

"Those are the conversations right now," Harbaugh said. "I haven't gotten the final clarification on what it's going to be."

San Francisco had 579 total yards with 323 on the ground in the playoff win, scoring its third-most points in the franchise's storied playoff history.

"I can assure you they're trying everything they possibly can to try and stop Kaepernick and the rest of this offense," said 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, who has a touchdown catch in each of his four regular-season games against Green Bay. "The read option, it's not a joke, it's nothing to play with. You have to really be prepared, you have to do your due diligence on the read option before you can defend it. Especially when you have a guy like Kaepernick who can run really well, he's fast and makes the correct decisions. He's really disciplined when it comes to that phase, and they're definitely going to have to be prepared, and I know they will."

When reminded of how thoroughly his Packers were dominated by Kaepernick in the quarterback's record-setting day, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy made a point that this is a new season.

"That's well stated, I think anybody would be motivated when it's directed at you like that. But the reality is, it is a new year, this is a different game, and we're prepared for a totally different outcome," McCarthy said upon hearing Kaepernick's stats once more. "He had a heck of a night last year."

Notes: LB Patrick Willis, nursing a broken right hand, is expected to play Sunday. He hopes to be brace-free. "I'm going through some different contraptions, not sure what I'm going to end up with on game day," he said. "Hopefully, it will be nothing." ... Matthews said he might try to talk to former 49ers QB Scott Tolzien, now in Green Bay. "Maybe I should set aside an hour or so to pick his brain," Matthews said. ... When Harbaugh was asked whether he had spoken with LB Aldon Smith regarding a lawsuit naming him by a man who said he was shot during a party at Smith's house in June 2012, the coach said, "The team is handling it." Smith said the lawsuit was no surprise but he declined to discuss it specifically.

 

Associated Press