49ers key to stopping Packers? Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers was voted to his third Pro Bowl last season. He threw touchdowns on 7.1 percent of his throws. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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SANTA CLARA -- A few of the names on the Green Bay roster may have changed since the two games they played against the 49ers last season. But San Francisco's defensive scouting report on the Packers remains the same.
"The last scouting report we had on them, the only thing we added was our (playoff) game," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "We don't add the preseason games to it. They're fresh in our mind. We're fresh in their mind. After a long offseason, everybody has a little wrinkle here and there that they do. I'm sure we'll see something that maybe they haven't done in the past. But they have a great offense. It's been highly ranked in all offensive statistical categories that count, scoring points No. 1. I don't see them changing very much."
One of those wrinkles Fangio referred to is the additions of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. The Packers drafted the running backs out of Alabama and UCLA in the second and fourth rounds to bolster a less-than-impressive ground game. Green Bay's six backs combined for only 1,314 yards in the regular season last year. Frank Gore alone had 1,214. Fangio is prepared for the Packers to expand their running game Sunday, though the passing game is their bread and butter.
"They threw it a bunch against us last year in both games and a bunch of them were extremely quick passes," Fangio said. "That's just part of their everyday operation. Will they do it more? I don't know, but they do it a lot anyway."
Fangio says Green Bay used more three- and four-wide receiver sets against the 49ers than any other team last year. Run or pass, the key for the 49ers defense is the Packers' $130 million man under center. Aaron Rodgers can quickly capitalize on a defense's mistakes.
"It's all about the coverages and the looks they get," said defensive lineman Ray McDonald. "If he sees that a cornerback is off or something like that, he'll check to a quick throw. It's just a like a 4-yard, 5-yard run for him, so it's just as good."
Rodgers can lure a defense into making mistakes as well. That's what safety Craig Dahl expects, especially as Rodgers will be playing with a rookie left tackle, David Bakhtiari, a local product out of Serra High School in San Mateo.
"I can see him helping out his offensive line, changing up the snap cadence trying to draw offsides," Dahl said. "He's very good at that. And then when he gets defenders to jump he goes downtown assuming it's a free play for the offense when the flag's thrown."
Dahl was with the Rams last year when Rodgers threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-20 win over St. Louis. Rodgers' four top receivers from that game, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley, will be on the field Sunday against the 49ers.
"He's going to rely on the guys that he's had there," Dahl said. "And they do a good job mixing in the talent and finding a way to get them the ball, too."
Though McDonald is pragmatic about how much Green Bay and Rodgers will truly mix in the run.
"That's their guy," McDonald said. "He's one of the best players in the league. They just gave him a bunch of money, so they're going to want the ball in his hand a lot. So we expect him to sling the ball around a lot."