Instead of sending blitz after blitz, forcing the secondary to make up for those blitzes by playing in zone coverage, they spent much of the day rushing Rodgers with four players. That led to leaving more players in coverage, making things more difficult for Rodgers than for Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer the last two weeks.
After allowing 90 points over their last two games, the 49ers allowed just 17 points Sunday to one of the NFL's most explosive offenses and best quarterbacks. However, another poor offensive performance prevented the San Francisco from posing a realistic threat to beat the Packers, who are one of six undefeated teams remaining.
"We just had a four-man rush pretty consistently throughout the game," defensive lineman Quinton Dial said. "Just winning the one-on-one battles and pushing the pocket on him."
The 49ers didn't register against the Steelers and notched just one in Arizona. Sunday they had three, including two from second-year pass rusher Aaron Lynch, who totalled four tackles for loss. The sack totals weren't indicative of their ability to pressure Rodgers, who was on the move for most of the day. Officially, San Francisco's defense notched five quarterback hits.
"Like I've been saying, we're young," NaVorro Bowman said. "We have a new caching staff here so it was going to take a few games for us. Facing a quaterback like Aaron, knowing that he's going to come in prepared and ready, I think we had a little bit more focus on that, just trying to make sure all the way up to the game that we were on the same page. I think that showed today."
Bowman finished second behind Michael Wilhoite with eight tackles, after reporting tweaking his knee in last week's loss in Arizona.
Despite some bad body language from the offense, the team's defense is doing what it can to avoid pointing fingers and creating problems in the locker room. San Francisco's offense is the lowest scoring unit in the NFL.
"We got to feed off each other," Dial said. "We don’t point fingers in this locker room. We got to work each and every day and continue to grind. It’s a long season. We got 12 games left. Nobody’s going to lay down."
Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks notched his first official sack of the season Sunday. But perhaps more importantly, one sack he split with Dial on Green Bay's first drive was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Wilhoite. Instead of going three and out, Rodgers led the Packers on a 12-play scoring drive, which was ultimately enough with the home team mustering just three points.
"Don’t just let him go out there and play seven on seven. Because that’s pretty much what he did the first series," Brooks said.
Rodgers found his tight end Richard Rodgers for that touchdown pass, after dancing around in the pocket once the initial play broke down. Rodgers beat strong safety Antoine Bethea in coverage for the nine-yard score.
The Packers controlled the tempo for most of the game, rushing for 162 yards on 33 attempts and racking up 36:34 minutes of possession to San Francisco's 23:26.
Still, holding the Packers' fourth-ranked scoring offense to just 17 points is a move in the right direction.
"I think we definitely took a step in the right way as a defense, but we would like to get the win," Bowman said.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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