Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ offense doesn’t take a back seat to anyone on most Sundays.
On this Sunday, Rodgers and Co. took a back seat to the Packers’ defense.
Green Bay limited the 49ers to 196 yards and dropped Colin Kaepernick for six sacks en route to a 17-3 victory at Levi’s Stadium. After starting the season 2-3 in 2012 and 1-2 in 2013 and 2014, the Packers are 4-0 for the first time since opening 13-0 in 2011.
For Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who preached the importance of a fast start after losing at Seattle in last year’s championship game, it’s mission accomplished.
"Excited to get to 4-0," McCarthy said. "I think that’s the most important part for our football team. Going back to when the schedule came out, you could almost pencil in this game. We knew this was going to be a tough, tough battle. Excellent football team ... the challenge of the short week, ‘Monday Night Football,’ where we are from a health standpoint, playing a very, very tough competitor. Very pleased with our football team."
Rodgers finished with decent numbers – 22-of-32 for 224 yards with one touchdown. In the past, that wouldn’t have been good enough against Kaepernick, who put up 1,204 total yards and eight touchdowns in leading to San Francisco to three consecutive victories in the series. Green Bay’s defense, however, was the best unit on the field.
Kaepernick had a completion of 40 yards to Quinton Patton on a pass that traveled 2 inches in the second quarter and 47 yards on a deep pass to Torrey Smith late in the fourth quarter. Other than that, the Packers gave up just 109 yards on the other 48 plays.
The Packers took a 14-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter as John Kuhn followed left guard Josh Sitton’s dominating block for a 1-yard touchdown. The key play on the drive was Rodgers’ incredible 38-yard completion to James Jones on third-and-7. Rodgers, facing pressure, uncorked a deep pass off his back foot to Jones, who made a toe-tapping grab on the sideline against Kenneth Acker.
Green Bay added a field goal on the next possession. That would be all the Packers would need, as their defense turned in a suffocating wire-to-wire performance. Their 13 sacks over the last two games matches the best in franchise history.
“We’re playing football the way we know how. That’s physical and efficient," defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. "As long as we continue to improve every week, we would like to get solid results.”
It looked like business as usual for the Packers to start the game but they managed only a 7-3 lead at halftime.
Ty Montgomery dropped a potential 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the game but the Packers scored, anyway, on a methodical drive that’s been typical of this year’s offense. An illegal-contact penalty gave the Packers a first down on third-and-12, and Cobb had a 9-yard catch on third-and-2 and a 19-yard gain when breaking open on a crossing route. On the touchdown, a 9-yard pass to Richard Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers took a step to his right, then moved to his left, then moved to his left some more before firing a bullet.
That would be it, though, for a team that entered the game ranked fourth in scoring. Green Bay’s defense, however, mostly took care of business. San Francisco’s first three possessions managed only two first downs. On the fourth possession, a 40-yard flip to receiver Quinton Patton that was more like an end-around helped the 49ers get a first-and-goal at the 5. However, Nick Perry and Jayrone Elliott recorded sacks on back-to-back plays to help force a field goal.
Green Bay’s final drive of the half included a 36-yard pass to Jones and two well-executed fourth-and-1 runs by Eddie Lacy but ended with a sack and Mason Crosby’s first missed field goal of the season.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.