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49ers Defense Sizes up Aaron Rodgers-led Offense

Posted Jan 1, 2014

Players and coaches from both teams are quoted on five members of the Packers prolific unit, starting with Rodgers.

There's no mistaking the Green Bay Packers unit that will host the 49ers defense in Sunday's Wild Card playoff game.

“The offense runs through Aaron Rodgers," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "Run and pass, we have to defend.”

Added defensive tackle Ray McDonald: “When you’re in the playoffs, you’re not a one-dimensional team. They can run the ball too.”

With this in mind, 49ers.com collected the thoughts of players and coaches from both teams regarding five key players on Green Bay's prolific unit, which scored an NFC-second-best 26.1 points per game.

QB Aaron Rodgers

Willis: “He’s a dynamic quarterback, he can run if he has to, but he can definitely sling the ball. Running helps with the pass, but at the end of the day, they’re going to throw that ball.”

McDonald: “He’s Aaron Rodgers. He’s a baller.”

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio: "You bring him back, who many people think the best quarterback in the league, and they’re a tough assignment."

WR Randall Cobb

CB Eric Wright: "He looked like the player that we all know him to be (in Week 17). He's really explosive, quick guy and can get in and out of his breaks and has good down-hill speed... Especially with him coming back, they're looking to get the ball in his hands because he has that type of ability."

Rodgers: "It's great to have Randall back. He adds a lot to our offense, he can do a number of things from the slot for us. It was tough having him out so long. The offense definitely suffered a little bit. In his absence, Jarrett Boykin really emerged as a guy who can play outside and be productive. Jordy (Nelson) made some plays out of the slot. Those guys know every position interchangeably, so it helps the way they prepare and plugging Randall back in is not a big deal at all."

Coach Mike McCarthy: "He's obviously one of our primary playmakers. When we started the year, we felt we had a chance to have one of our, or the best year here offensively, and Randall is a big part of that, so it's great to have him back."

PHOTO GALLERY: Get to Know Green Bay's Starting Lineups

RB Eddie Lacy

Willis: “I’m sure they’re going to try to run the ball. He’s picked it up this season. He’s become one of the better young running backs in the league.”

McDonald: “It’s all about the looks the offense gets. If they feel like the defense has a light box, they’re going to run it more. Runs can pop out of light boxes. When you’re playing in the nickel front in a light box, you have to be more hands-on and sound with your keys... First and second down you have to sit on the run. The pass rush will suffer a little bit.”

DT Justin Smith: "He's a big, powerful running back. The last couple of games, he's done really well. He's definitely helped balance them out. Watching him in cut-ups, pretty impressive back... We expect to get a pretty heavy dose of him actually."

Coach Jim Harbaugh: “He’s a very physical runner. He’s got really good vision, ability to break tackles and make yards after contact, has a sense for the end zone, all those things. Been a real good back right off the blocks.”

Fangio: "He is running against a lot of nickel defenses. A lot of teams it’s nickel, but they still have the extra guy up there some because they’ve run it so well. They’ve just done a good job of blocking and he’s developed into a very good runner.”

Rodgers: "Eddie's had a great year. I hope he gets the recognition come the end of the season he deserves. He doesn't go down that easy and has agility for a big man, does a good job in pass-protection, coming out of the backfield and catching the football. He's going to be the workhorse, but James (Starks) provides a nice change-up for us."

McCarthy: "Talking with the medical staff, he's further ahead this week than he's been."

TE Andrew Quarless

Willis: “They don’t have Jermichael Finely. He was a reveiver-type tight end. Quarless, he does a good job. Not as shifty as JF, but he’s still a tight end you have to defend.”

Rodgers: "He's been really solid for him. When Jermichael went down, we had a few weeks there where we didn't have a whole lot of production from the tight ends. Something obviously clicked in for Andrew, and he's been playing very well the last four, five weeks. He's been finding ways to get open and catching the ball. I'm happy with his progress. You see the potential in practice from him all the time, and it's fun to see him carry it over to the games."

McCarthy: "He's given us some consistency there. We needed production, starting with the run-blocking. He's getting better there, he can still take another step. He's been very productive in the passing game, so very pleased with what Andrew's been able to get done the past couple weeks."

LT David Bakhtiari

Rodgers: "Very consistent, good mindset, good focus during the week and goes out and performs on Sundays. I'm really proud of him He's been a bright surprise for us this year, especially not thinking he was going to play a whole lot, starting the season with Bryan Bulaga healthy. Bryan goes down, David gets thrust in there and we haven't really worried about that spot too much. Obviously, in the playoffs you're going to be faccing a big-time pass-rusher every week. The expectations are high for David; we expect for him to play well."

McCarthy: "David's a good football players. Obviously, Aldon (Smith) is a very good player. How much we help him (with tight ends), how much we don't help him, that's what the game is for."


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