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.
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
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.
defense not only had trouble with Kaepernick running the
read-option, but also with him pulling the ball down and
scrambling on pass plays.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."
right past the Packers in the playoffs, and through them, too.
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
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
he can't concern himself with the defense's motivations
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.