Roman: Read-option rule change 'needs to be refined'
Clay Matthews racked up 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries in Week 1 last year. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Editor's note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Packers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at Candlestick Park
49ers LT Joe Staley vs. Packers OLB Clay Matthews
Tale of the tape
Staley (74): 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, seventh season, Central Michigan
Matthews (52): 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, fifth season, USC
Joe Staley was bloodied and he was battered.
The 2012 season got off to a bad start for the 49ers' Pro Bowl left tackle despite the fact the 49ers came out of Lambeau Field with a victory. Staley sustained a gash on the bridge of his nose from his ill-fitting helmet sliding down, and Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews provided another deep-cutting wound.
Matthews racked up 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries, as he used a bull-rush technique to power through Staley, who was playing on his heels the entire game.
The game forced Staley to analyze what had gone wrong and correct some obvious technique errors.
"That carried me throughout the whole entire season," Staley said. "Obviously, if I played throughout the season the way that I played Week 1, I'd be a miserable player. So I changed what I did and really identified some things I was doing wrong on film in that game and worked hard to improve them."
Staley finished strong, all right. He was honored with his second straight Pro Bowl selection, as well as a second-team All-Pro mention for the second consecutive season.
"I think he's a fantastic athlete," Matthews said. "He definitely handles his own. I had a little success against him in Week 1, so he'll definitely present a great challenge."
Matthews ranked fifth in the NFL with 13.0 sacks last season despite missing four games with a hamstring injury. When the teams met again in the playoffs, Staley fared much better. Matthews recorded a first-quarter sack against Staley with an inside move but Staley got the better of the action the rest of the way.
"I thought it went well," Staley said of the postseason rematch.
There is little doubt a lot of eyes will be on the Staley-Matthews matchup during Sunday's game.
Said Staley, "He's definitely a guy you circle when you do the scouting report."
But there is more intrigue this week, in light of Matthews comments about physically forcing teams with a read-option quarterback to abandon that element of their game. Matthews this week talked about the importance of putting hits on quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- whether he's a passer, a runner or carrying out run fakes.
[RELATED: Harbaugh: Hits on QB are 'gray area']
"Any defensive player is going to say they're going to tackle our quarterback and tackle the running back," Staley said. "That's their job. That doesn't surprise me in a bit. I think our defensive players would say the same thing about Aaron Rodgers and any quarterback you go against. You want to hit the quarterback.
"As offensive linemen, our job is protect him and create lanes for our running game."