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49ers Expect Heavy Dose of Rodgers

Posted Sep 6, 2013

The 49ers expect Aaron Rodgers to be throwing early and often on Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers has the highest average annual salary in the history of the NFL. The 49ers expect that money to be put to good use.

“He’s their best player, one of the best players in the league,” San Francisco defensive tackle Ray McDonald said of the Green Bay Packers quarterback. “They just gave him a bunch of money, so they’re going to want the ball in his hands a lot. We expect him to sling the ball around a lot.”

Rodgers, a nine-year veteran, enters Sunday’s matchup at Candlestick Park with tremendous respect from his opponents.

“It’s obvious,” Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s, many think, the best quarterback in the league. He’s a spectacular quarterback. Not to compare him to anybody else, but certainly if you’re talking about who the best is, Aaron Rodgers is going to be in that conversation. He’s a spectacular football player in every single way the quarterback can be. We have great respect for him.”

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Even with that admiration, the 49ers are focused on limiting the production of one of the top pocket passers in the NFL. San Francisco is aware of Rodgers’ play-making ability after beating him twice in 2012.

In a Week 1 meeting and a NFC Divisional playoff loss to the 49ers, Rodgers completed a combined 56 of 83 passes for 860 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Rodgers was sacked a combined four times in the losses.

A player with Rodgers’ accolades is hard to slow down in any game, but the 49ers found a way to slow his production in the 45-31 postseason victory.

“We just played well,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously our offense moving the ball helps. There wasn’t one thing. We just played good. It became a basketball-on-grass type game where it was just spread out, throw it every down.

“We were able to hold up, which is hard against that team. He’s a great quarterback. He throws it just as good as anybody if not better than anybody and he’s got all the elusiveness that goes with it. And he’s got good guys to throw it to, so they’re a hard operation to stop.”

The 49ers expect a similar game plan. Green Bay’s quick passes remain a threat.

“It’s all about the coverages and the looks they get,” McDonald said of the Packers propensity to throw on first downs instead of running the football. “If (Rodgers) sees that a cornerback is off, he’ll check to a quick throw.

“It’s just like a 4 or 5-yard run for them. It’s just as good.”

The quick passing game could also be a solution for the Packers who will start a rookie left tackle on Sunday. David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round selection, will make his NFL debut blocking the left side of the 49ers defensive front.

It also happens to be the side of the field where Justin Smith and Aldon Smith line up.

So while Green Bay featured four wide receiver sets primarily against San Francisco last season and could feature a similar plan of attack this Sunday, Fangio won’t be surprised if the Packers have a few more formations to unveil on gameday.

“They’re fresh in our mind,” the veteran coordinator said. “We’re fresh in their mind. After a long offseason, everybody has a little wrinkle here and there they do, so I’m sure we’ll see something that maybe they haven’t done in the past.”