49ers notes: Secondary depth on display, etc.

49ers notes: Secondary depth on display, etc.
September 12, 2012, 12:07 am
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SANTA CLARA -- Aaron Rodgers threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions when he and the Packers opened the 2011 season against the New Orleans Saints. It began a record-setting season in which he threw for 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and posted the highest-ever QB rating in a single season -- 122.5.

On Sunday, the 49ers ensured he would have a difficult time matching those stats, and their third and fourth cornerbacks were a big reason. Chris Culliver was on the field for 65 of 72 defensive snaps (90), and Perrish Cox played 55 snaps (76).

Culliver and Cox can expect to see plenty more action with the 49ers' schedule featuring matchups with the pass-heavy offenses of the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.

"Especially with the schedule we got this year," veteran cornerback Carlos Rogers said, "These powerful quarterbacks, they've got a lot of weapons and it's going to take all of us on the field at one time like this past game."

Cox and Culliver are featured in almost all of the 49ers' pass-heavy schemes. SportsNet Central's 49ers reporter Mindi Bach will have detailed analysis of the team's nickel, dime and dollar defensive packages on CSNBayArea.com Wednesday.

"The main goal is taking away big plays from any offense," Cox said. "We knew Aaron was one of those guys."

The main goal was achieved. The Packers, who were third in the NFL last season averaging 307.8 passing yards per game, managed just three plays that gained more than 20 yards. Rodgers made a pair of 28-yard completions in the second quarter and completed a no huddle 49-yard pass out of the shotgun formation in the fourth quarter.

"Them little couple yards that he get -- five, six, seven here or there -- that's not gonna kill us," Culliver said. "But if we keep 'em in front of us and don't allow them to get in the end zone, that's our MO. That's what we strive for."

The collective effort from the 49ers' secondary was no better illustrated than by the game's final play, when Rodgers' attempt to Jordy Nelson was batted down by Culliver.

"That was a fun play," the second-year cornerback said. "Coach called a good defense, and I just played it like a play in practice."

Culliver finished the game tied for third on the team with four tackles and contributed the one key pass defended. Cox had two tackles.

Cox, who bumped his personal grade from "okay" to "more than good" because of the team victory, had one final -- and scary -- observation.

"It could be better."

Alex Boone made the first start of his life -- at any level of football -- at right guard Sunday, and he played well enough to ease the pain of the offseason loss of Adam Snyder.

"It felt great," Boone said. "Proud of the offensive line. Thought we ran the ball well. Thought pass protection was great. Still a few things we need to iron out, but other than that, great day."

Clear communication in a loud and hostile environment and keeping his pad level low as a 6-foot-8 guard are two of Boone's biggest challenges, but he was encouraged by the Week 1 win.

Boone is sandwiched by center Jonathan Goodwin and right tackle Anthony Davis, and he feels the continuity on the line gets better every day.

"A.D. and I are like brothers," Boone said. "Thick as thieves. I think we blend well together."

The Packers did sack Alex Smith four times, thanks to two and one-half sacks from All Pro linebacker Clay Matthews.

The offensive line will look to improve in Week 2, but it won't be easy. They face one of the league's toughest front four in the Detroit Lions' Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Vernon Davis was the subject of some heavy ribbing from teammates after he followed his touchdown catch Sunday with an attempted dunk over the goal post that didn't quite make it.

Apparently, the team had a pretty strong reaction when the highlight was replayed on the charter flight home, and it was fellow pass catchers Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree sourcing most of the grief.

Davis claimed it was returning pain from a tweaked foot in training camp that he felt just before he attempted the dunk that distracted him, but even he smiled as he provided the backstory.

After acknowledging that Moss and Crabtree are probably the two best basketball players on the team, Davis told his story of going to high school to play basketball and converting to football.

He was asked if he can still dunk the round ball. "Oh yeah," Davis said. "Windmills, whatever."

Davis finished the game with three catches for 43 yards and the touchdown, good for the team's third-most receiving yards -- behind only Crabtree and Moss.

More from the "teammate clowning" department, Carlos Rogers is tied with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks for the team lead in sacks after Week 1, and he said he's making sure Smith, in particular, knows it.

Smith set the 49ers rookie sack record with 14 last year, a half-sack away from Jevon Kearse's NFL record for rookies. Smith didn't put a number on it, but he said he's looking to statistically improve upon his freshman campaign. He's on pace to do so, with one sack after one game played.

REWIND: Smith sets sack goal

For reference, Fred Dean set the single-season franchise mark with 17.5 sacks in 1983.

After six-plus years in the league, the sack was the first of Rogers' career.

"I just don't blitz," he said.

Not according to 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.