Revenge not on the menu for Rodgers
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.”