Rodgers, Packers try to extend perfect start against 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Sure, the Green Bay Packers know exactly where the Super Bowl will be played four months from now.
They will take the field at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers with high expectations of returning to the Bay Area for a second time come February to play for the Lombardi Trophy.
Not that coach Mike McCarthy is mentioning anything of that nature. Nor does he need to.
“That’s not really my style or my approach,” McCarthy said. “We’re aware of where the Super Bowl is and the 50th anniversary and all those things.”
The unbeaten Packers (3-0) are more concerned with keeping a good thing going and making key strides on both sides of the ball — especially considering they have lost their last four to the 49ers, including two playoff defeats.
Yet this is hardly the same San Francisco team. It has a drastically different defense and a struggling offense that will be hard-pressed to turn things around from a 1-2 start that includes giving up 90 points the past two weeks. Colin Kaepernick threw a career-high four interceptions in last week’s 47-7 beating at Arizona.
Yet Aaron Rodgers realizes Kaepernick has been at his best against Green Bay, and the MVP quarterback certainly isn’t getting ahead of himself even as others say he’s playing his best football yet.
“It’s early in the season, but we’re happy with the way it started,” he said.
Here are some things to watch Sunday when the Packers make their first visit to San Francisco’s second-year, $1.3 billion stadium:
I SPY: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has served as a spy in the past on the mobile Kaepernick, who ran for a quarterback playoff-record 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his playoff debut against Green Bay in January 2013.
San Francisco will have to keep an eye on Matthews, too. His specialty is rushing the passer, but Matthews has been playing a lot more at inside linebacker to help stop the run. Then, on Monday night, he was turned loose on the quarterback again and had two of Green Bay’s seven sacks against Kansas City.
“I think the thing we generally like is the fact that not only do we put our 11 best players on the field, but we have plays where I’ll have an outside rush, me on the inside, as well as dropping into coverage,” Matthews said.
WHICH TEAM WILL CATCH HIS PASSES?: Kaepernick has played two of his best games against Green Bay, winning one with his legs and the other with his strong arm.
Yet the biggest question now is: will he throw to his own team or the opponent. Kaepernick is coming off his worst game as a pro with the four interceptions and a pair of pick-6s against the Cardinals.
“Very hard to see myself go out and play like that and hurt this team the way I did,” he said.
GIVING UP THE BIG PLAY: Ben Roethlisberger burned San Francisco’s defense at every chance in Week 2, then Arizona’s Carson Palmer did so last Sunday. The 49ers have given up 90 points over two games for the first time since 1980. The combined 65 points the 49ers have lost by in those also is the largest margin over a two-game stretch since that 6-10 year in ’80 — a 48-26 loss to the Los Angeles Rams followed by a 59-14 debacle against Dallas.
“Aaron Rodgers is obviously dangerous if he’s comfortable in the pocket, so that’s something we have to do this week,” safety Eric Reid said. “It seems like every play there’s something we could have tweaked that would have given us a better chance on that play.”
REGGIE’S RETURN: San Francisco might get a boost in the running game to complement Carlos Hyde if Reggie Bush returns for the first time since injuring his left calf in the Sept. 14 season opener against Minnesota. He returned to practice this week.
GO WEST: What a roller coaster of a month for Packers wide receiver James Jones. He was released by the Giants at the end of the preseason before getting picked up days later by Green Bay to help replace injured Jordy Nelson. Through three games, Jones has 12 catches for 219 yards and four touchdowns. The native of San Jose is headed back to the Bay Area as a go-to guy for Rodgers.
“It’s been amazing having him back,” Rodgers said. “He’s a great teammate. He has a lot of talent. We were really surprised he was out there after last cuts. We felt like we had a need there and I’m glad we brought him in.”
AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas contributed to this report.
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