Notebook: Special teams provide spark

Nelson makes big plays; short-handed offense; Brohm struggles again; and more from the loss at San Francisco.

The Packers' special teams weren't exactly special on Saturday night at San Francisco but, boy, they sure provided some excitement.

Whether it was Jordy Nelson's two explosive kickoff returns or former Packer Allen Rossum punctuating the 34-6 blowout with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown, there were plenty of big plays provided by the special teams.

Even with allowing a touchdown, the Packers' special teams took a step forward on Saturday after an uninspiring preseason debut on Monday against Cincinnati.

Nelson figures to make a push to replace either Tramon Williams or Will Blackmon on the No. 1 kickoff-return unit. In the third quarter, he returned a kickoff 56 yards with a superb individual effort. In the fourth quarter, he took advantage of good blocking to return a kickoff 58 yards.

Later, rookie Patrick Lee had a 33-yard kickoff return.

Michael Montgomery almost blocked a punt, and the Packers showed some razzle-dazzle on a punt return when Blackmon lateraled to Atari Bigby, who brought the ball back 23 yards late in the first quarter. That play, however, was nullified by offsetting penalties.

Punter Jon Ryan, who averaged 37.0 yards on seven punts against Cincinnati, including one shank and one that was partially blocked, averaged 50.3 yards on seven punts on Saturday. The coverage — except when Rossum ran through five tackles en route to the end zone — was mostly superlative. The 49ers' other five punt returns totaled 19 yards.

Two of kicker Mason Crosby's three kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, and he drilled two field goals, including a 49-yarder.


Certainly nobody on offense was going to use this as an excuse, but the Packers were without three top playmakers: receivers Greg Jennings (knee) and Ruvell Martin (concussion) and running back Ryan Grant (hamstring). Jennings and Grant are starters, while Martin is a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers.

The defense also was missing some key players, including starting linebacker A.J. Hawk (chest), starting defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring) and pass-rushing end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee). Also out were safety Charlie Peprah, linebacker Desmond Bishop, offensive tackle Orrin Thompson, tight end Tory Humphrey, running back DeShawn Wynn and defensive tackle Justin Harrell.

The 49ers were without five players, including starting receiver Bryant Johnson.

During the game, the Packers lost star middle linebacker Nick Barnett when he went high to tackle tight end Delanie Walker. Barnett did not return to the game after the injury, which occured with 9:44 left in the second quarter. There was no word from the team on the extent of the injury.

Brohm's woes

Rookie quarterback Brian Brohm did little to thwart the momentum to give fellow rookie Matt Flynn a shot to be Rodgers' backup.

Brohm completed 4-of-9 passes for 33 yards in a little more than a quarter of work. He should have been intercepted for the second consecutive game, but intended receiver Jake Allen swiped the ball from the defender's hands.

In two games, the second-round pick is 12-of-26 for 103 yards, with no touchdowns, one interception and three points on the scoreboard (courtesy of Nelson's first big kickoff return). Flynn, after a 5-of-6 performance against the 49ers, is 17-of-30 for 130 yards, with one touchdown, no interceptions and seven points on the scoreboard.

Both fumbled away the ball against the 49ers.

Bad night for Bush

The Packers' penalty that wiped out the Blackmon-to-Bigby punt return was an illegal block by Jarrett Bush. Bush also was called for unnecessary roughness on an earlier punt return, giving him two special-teams penalties.

Those were just part of Bush's bad night. He was beaten badly for two big plays on the 49ers' first touchdown drive and called for pass interference later to set up another touchdown.

Flag daze

The Packers were penalized nine times for 78 yards on Saturday, giving them 16 infractions for 153 yards in two games. Along with Bush's three penalties, Jason Hunter was hit with a pair of 15-yard penalties for grabbing the face mask.

"It was something that was an emphasis, if you can believe that or not," McCarthy said, noting two personal fouls against Cincinnati. "We had way too many penalties."

No-Wynn situation

The ankle injury that limited Wynn to four carries against the Bengals kept him out against the 49ers.

The second-year pro needs to get healthy. There were few highlights from Saturday, but Vernand Morency picking up 20 yards on a screen was one of them, and Noah Herron looked sharp in picking up 35 yards on six rushes and making a nifty catch for a 6-yard gain on a screen. With Brandon Jackson and Ryan Grant assured jobs and plenty of playing time, the Packers don't have room on their roster for a continually ailing halfback.

The last word

"It means nothing. That's the good thing about playing this poorly in preseason," McCarthy said. "This is an excellent opportunity for our team to learn from this, and I will take full advantage of this opportunity of our football team to learn from this, whether it's the quarterback, the free safety or defensive linemen throughout our football team."

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at

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