Packers await San Francisco treat

Tonight's preseason game against 49ers will present several challenges

The Green Bay Packers' second preseason tuneup will have the feel of something resembling a regular-season game again.

Less than a week after facing the Cincinnati Bengals in Game One, Post Favre, the Packers visit the San Francisco 49ers in Rodgers-Smith Bowl I tonight at Candlestick Park.

For Rodgers, who grew up and played collegiately near San Francisco and was snubbed by the 49ers in the 2005 draft, the experience is invaluable. He will enter a Week 1 showdown against Minnesota with zero career regular-season starts, but at least he'll have some, ahem, big-game experience.

"I think the importance of the game is something you can really put in your bank account from quarterback experience," coach Mike McCarthy said.

Rodgers did more than survive the cauldron surrounding the Cincinnati game, finishing 9-for-15 for 117 yards and a touchdown. Two of the incompletions were drops, one of which resulted in an interception. He's looking to put together back-to-back strong performances tonight.

"We need to continue the momentum we had from the other night and capitalize," Rodgers said. "We could have scored on all four drives, and didn't make enough plays on two of them to get the ball into scoring positions. We need to get on a roll and get the momentum going into the season."

The defense would like to build off of the Bengals game, as well. The No. 1 defense yielded a mere 13 yards on Cincinnati's first three possessions before the Bengals drove down the field for a touchdown on their fourth drive against a mix of Packers starters and backups.

McCarthy challenged the defense this week to be a top-three unit this season, and players like safety Nick Collins and linebacker Nick Barnett are ready to take on that challenge.

"It means a lot," Collins said. "We've got the guys here that are capable of doing it. We just have to show it on the field."

The 49ers will provide a good test schematically. Pass-happy Mike Martz might not be a very good head coach, but the 49ers' first-year offensive coordinator knows how to run an offense. Defensively, the 49ers run a 3-4 scheme. That will challenge the Packers' new-look offensive line, which had just two practices to form something resembling chemistry.

"When it is all said and done, these games in the preseason will really help us," McCarthy said. "I think this particular game has the potential to be the most realistic regular season-type atmosphere that we'll play in. I'm sure the 49ers are looking to improve off of their performance last week, and they're going to do some more things than they did in Week 1."

The Packers spent part of their two practices this week doing game planning for tonight. Without it, Barnett said it would be "chaos" facing Martz's complicated attack.

"I think this is a very big preseason game for us," said Barnett, who was a force against the Bengals "We get to test ourselves against Martz one more time. It will test a lot of the young guys and see if they're ready to make the checks on the fly. It's another great dress rehearsal."

While it appears the 49ers are leaning toward using journeyman J.T. O'Sullivan as their starting quarterback, San Francisco has elite players on offense in tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore.

"Every game's a challenge for us, but this will be a good test for the safeties to go up against a nice tight end and see what we can do," Collins said. "We're trying to improve on our coverage of the tight end."

Teams don't put out an injury report for preseason games, but it seems certain the Packers will be without several key contributors, including running back Ryan Grant, receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker A.J. Hawk and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. Cornerback Al Harris, who missed Monday's game with a sore back, and receiver Ruvell Martin, who suffered a concussion against the Bengals, may not play, either.

The starters will play about one half, and McCarthy is looking forward to the challenge of a road game.

"It's like a real game to us," Barnett said. "Until I come out, we're playing hard with a fist of fury."

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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