After back-to-back blowouts at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, two of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks, the 49ers’ defense will finally get a break this weekend.
“Here comes Aaron,” coach Jim Tomsula sounded the warning on Wednesday.
That would be Cal product Aaron Rodgers, the league leader in touchdown passes (10), interception percentage (0.0) and passer rating (135.0) to name a few categories.
So which 49er hacked off the schedule-makers, anyway?
“I mean, we don’t control that,” safety Eric Reid said. “The only thing we can control is how we play, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Lately, the 49ers have played historically bad. They were torched for 90 points in the last two weeks, the first time opponents scored at least 43 in consecutive games since the 1980 season. Of course, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was responsible for some of the damage in Arizona with his two early pick-sixes last Sunday, but you get the picture: The defense stinks.
Among the many concerns for Tomsula and his staff is the ability of opponents to pass the ball at will against their zone scheme. The best option will be to pressure Rodgers into quicker, shorter throws, except that the front seven has recorded only a half-dozen sacks this season. The secondary accounted for the other two.
“That’s kind of the downside to the zone — you’re not close to [receivers],” Reid said. “We’ve got to do a better job of breaking on the throw, a little better job of getting pressure on the quarterback so the quarterback isn’t so comfortable.
“It’s an emotional sport. Some guys are unhappy with the way they’ve played or the outcome of our games, and you definitely can’t be mad about that. We’ve just got to bounce back and play better.”
Yet that may be easier said than done three games into the regular season. It’s far more difficult to make significant changes in personnel and/or schemes now than in the preseason.
Given the many new, less experienced players on the roster, Tomsula would rather err on the side of stability than risk further loss of confidence.
“My first reaction when something’s not going right isn’t to throw somebody out and put somebody else in,” Tomsula said. “That’s not the way I think. I don’t see it as people are disposable.
“If you’re spending time looking over your shoulder and you’re not spending time looking ahead and working on what you need to work on, then how do you get better? I want all the focus on that and the improvement.”
The unbeaten Packers will come off a short week of practice — they lit up the Kansas City Chiefs for 38 points on Monday night — but Rodgers and Co. seem to be oblivious to adversity this season.
Top wide receiver Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in the preseason, but the Packers’ offense hasn’t missed a step. Veteran James Jones was re-signed to help fill the void, and he and Rodgers were quick to recapture their magic of old. The former Raider and San Jose State product caught at least one touchdown pass in each of his three games.
“Personally, I get frustrated with my own mistakes, but I’m not frustrated with the team by any means,” Reid said. “It’s the NFL. These things happen. You lose games, but it’s only three games into the season. There’s no reason to panic.”