The 49ers will try to keep Colin Kaepernick upright on Sunday. The Packers will try to keep Kaepernick on the ground. It's as simple as that. Like every football game, this one will be a battle in the trenches.
What's makes this matchup – the regular season opener on Sunday at Candlestick Park – different is how each team will go about achieving their straightforward objective.
San Francisco showed its ability to move Kaepernick around in the pocket and in space in its 14-point victory over Green Bay in a NFC Divisional playoff game on Jan. 12. The 49ers signal-caller would rush for 181 yards, including six-point scampers of 20 and 56 yards.
How will the Packers respond nine months after the fact? Linebacker Clay Matthews told ESPN Radio on Tuesday morning that, "since day 1 in OTAs," his unit has worked on defending San Francisco's "read-option, pistol, fake offense for lack of a better term" – a quote that was made to be taken out of context.
The more pertinent talking points from the four-time Pro Bowler: "One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback," Matthews said on the air. "So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they're too important to their offense.
"If that means they pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that's exactly what we're going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable."
This is not bulletin-board material. This is obvious in the way that 49ers right guard Alex Boone wanting to protect Kaepernick is obvious.
"Nobody ever touches 'Kap,'" Boone said after practice Tuesday afternoon. "As an offensive lineman, that's always our No. 1 rule. For us, it's going to be: play our game and be physical early and keep them off of 'Kap.'"
Told that Matthews believes the Packers defense is ready to stop the 49ers success on zone-read plays, tight end Vernon Davis, who will be patrolling the line of scrimmage at times, had a more diplomatic response.
"If that's what he believes in, that's what he believes in," Davis said. "We're the type of team – we try to talk through our actions. I'm a strong believer that actions speak louder than words; I'm sure the team believes in many of the same things."
Matthews and the Green Bay defense, coordinated by longtime coach Dom Capers, can hang its helmet on one other variable entering the teams' opener. Over the weekend, the Packers acquired two former 49ers quarterbacks with varying degrees of understanding of Jim Harbaugh's playbook: third-year pro Scott Tolzien, now a member of the Packers practice squad, spent two seasons mastering it, while veteran Seneca Wallace, a free-agent addition, spent only a week with the 49ers before packing his bags.
"I didn't think we put anything in (to our game plan) that he can take and give away," Davis said of Wallace's ability to share secrets with his new employer. "Even with Tolzien, he can go over there and say what he want… That's a unique thing about this (49ers coaching) staff is they always prepare for the worst and with Tolzien leaving and going over there to the Packers, we have to prepare for the worst."