Packers notebook

McCarthy's insight on 49ers a bonus; Williams makes shift; injury update; game plan

The game Sunday against the 49ers marks a return to San Francisco for Mike McCarthy. The Packers' first-year head coach was the 49ers' offensive coordinator last season.

McCarthy acknowledged Wednesday that his year of working under San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan will come in handy for the upcoming contest with some aspects of devising the game plan and matching personnel.

"Anytime you have an opportunity to be around players or even coaches on an everyday basis, you do have insight of things you do not from the outside," McCarthy said. "They're a team that's really changed a lot, personnel wise, since I was there last year. (But) I did spend time with (his own coordinators), kind of like I always do, (but) probably a little more than normal. We're hopeful it will help out a bunch."

Dominating the Niners
The Packers are 10-1 against the 49ers since 1995, which is the most lopsided series in the league during the time span. Green Bay's .909 winning percentage tops the .833 generated by Pittsburgh's 15-3 record against Cleveland. The lone Green Bay loss to the 49ers in the recent stretch was a controversial one. Rules in place at the time kept the Packers from recovering what clearly was a fumble by receiver Jerry Rice. The call that Rice was ruled down before he lost the football couldn't be overturned. It kept alive a drive that culminated with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young to Terrell Owens with three seconds left to lift the 49ers to a 30-27 win in an NFC wild-card playoff game Jan. 3, 1999, at San Francisco.

Mike Holmgren subsequently bolted as Packers coach for Seattle.

The last time the Packers lost to San Francisco in the regular season was Nov. 4, 1990, a 24-20 decision at Green Bay.

The last time the Packers lost a regular-season game at San Francisco was Dec. 8, 1974, a 7-6 outcome. Green Bay is 3-0 on the road in regular-season play against the 49ers since then. The most recent meeting at Monster Park was a 20-14 Packers win Dec. 15, 2002.

Start of a new end on rushing downs
Two days after head coach Mike McCarthy suggested some changes in roles -- not necessarily starting jobs -- would take place this week, one notable switch was apparent in practice Wednesday.

Corey Williams, who's primarily played inside his first three seasons in the league, took reps at right defensive end in place of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila on early downs.

Gbaja-Biamila, a Pro Bowler who's made a name for himself and lots of money off his pass-rushing skills, has struggled against the run. He was a target the last two games for Seattle and the New York Jets, who rolled up 235 and 178 rushing yards, respectively.

Gbaja-Biamila said Wednesday that the coaches told him he was doing just OK defending the run.

"There may be little techniques here and there. If there's anything that they've done to make an awareness (of his struggles), it's that Corey's in there right now," Gbaja-Biamila said. "That's the biggest communication I've gotten that they want to try something different."

Williams has started seven games this season at tackle, beside Ryan Pickett, but has as many sacks (five) as Gbaja-Biamila does. The versatile Williams moves well for his un-end-like size of 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds.

"My main thing is getting back adjusted to being out there on the edge," said Williams, who played some at end as a rookie in 2004. "I'll be good (there) by the time game time gets here. If they feel like they want to put me in to help slow down the run or stop the run, I think it's a great thing."

McCarthy was coy about any shifting of personnel for the game Sunday at San Francisco. He alluded, though, that Gbaja-Biamila hasn't been technically sound against the run.

"It's really the coordination between himself, the tackle and the line to bring a support element to that side," McCarthy said. "I don't think it's just one thing."

The Packers have to bolster their run defense because on the other side Sunday will be Frank Gore, who leads all running backs with a per-carry average of 5.5 yards and ranks third in the league with 1,217 yards on the ground.

Holiday may return punts Sunday
Wide receiver Carlyle Holiday probably will be thrown into the mix Sunday with limited knowledge of the game plan. The Packers claimed Holiday, a first-year player, off waivers from Arizona on Tuesday.

Holiday wasn't in any meetings before practice Wednesday and then arrived to the field tardy because he was held up with his physical.

"It would help if we could get him to a meeting first before we take him to practice," McCarthy quipped.

McCarthy said consideration would be given to trying Holiday, a converted quarterback, on punt returns. Cornerback Charles Woodson, who's handled returns most of the season, and receiver Greg Jennings have been playing through injury issues the last several weeks.

Receiver Chris Francies was released to make room for Holiday. Francies, an undrafted rookie, was promoted from the practice squad early in the season and played in four games. He had only two receptions for 16 yards.

Injury update
-- RT Mark Tauscher has been all but ruled out for Sunday's game at San Francisco because of a lingering groin injury. Tauscher, who has missed the last three games, is officially listed as doubtful on the injury report.

-- TE David Martin participated in individual drills at the start of practice Wednesday but is questionable at best to play Sunday with sore ribs. Martin has been out the last two games. -- MLB Nick Barnett practiced Wednesday and should be good to play for the second straight week with a broken right hand. He is probable for the game.

-- CB Charles Woodson was held out of practice to rest a chronic shoulder injury. Woodson is probable for the game.

-- CB Patrick Dendy practiced and is probable for the game. The nickel back suffered a concussion in the loss to the New York Jets last Sunday.

-- RB Ahman Green had his customary day off Wednesday so he could rest his ailing knees. Green is probable for Sunday.

Game plan
The subplot of this matchup between two sub-par teams in a late-season funk is which defense will blink the most. The Packers have the worst scoring defense (average of 27 points allowed per game), followed right behind by the 49ers (26.6).

Green Bay's emphasis is on stopping the run, namely the tenacious Frank Gore. The defense, which was run over the last two games, will try to keep Gore under wraps from the outset and dictate that the 49ers will have to beat it with the passing of Alex Smith, who hasn't thrown for 200 yards in each of the last six games. The aim is to hold Gore to fewer than 20 carries because San Francisco is 4-1 when he hits the benchmark.

It's incumbent on Green Bay's sputtering offense to give the defense some overdue relief by sustaining some drives. The Packers have converted only 11 of 40 third downs during their three-game skid. The sorry trend has to be reversed against a 49ers defense that has allowed opponents to cash in on 46.5 percent of their third-down opportunities.

In for a tryout
Here is a list of free agents who have recently worked out for the Packers in Green Bay:

J.T. O'Sullivan, QB, Cal-Davis - 11/21
Bradlee Van Pelt, QB, Colorado State - 11/21
Markell Thompson, DE, Florida - 11/28
Adam Stenavich, T, Michigan - 11/21
Tyson Walter, C, Ohio State - 11/24
Todd Devoe, WR, Central Missouri - 11/28
Walter Washington, QB, Temple - 12/6
Joshua Tinch, WR, Louisville - 12/6
Kelvin Morris, LB, West Georgia - 12/6
Gilbert Harris, RB, Arizona - 12/6
Cedric Humes, RB, Virginia Tech - 12/6

By the numbers
107 -- Points allowed by the Packers in their last three games, all losses. It's the most points Green Bay has given up in a three-game span since it also surrendered 107 early in the 2004 season.

Quote to note
"I've learned how much I hate losing. I've learned to appreciate winning and not take it for granted. (For most of his Packers career) it was always playoffs or in the hunt for it. Now, it's, 'Hey, can we win a game?' So, it's kind of a reality check."
-- Quarterback Brett Favre on what he has learned in the midst of going through a 4-12 season last year and a 4-8 season thus far this year.

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