Today marks the official kickoff to the 2012-2013 season with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants set to face off this evening. The NFL season is upon us, and teams are preparing for their Week 1 match-ups. The San Francisco 49ers have the Green Bay Packers to start the season -- not the easiest transition from exhibition to regular season action.
On Tuesday morning, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke about the upcoming match-up on KNBR 680 radio. Harbaugh seemed excited, and genuinely enthused to get this season underway. He did however have some interesting things to say about the Packers, particularly their star quarterback.
The Niners coach spent a chunk of his visit talking about Aaron Rodgers, and all the things he can do for the Pack. For Harbaugh's comments on the prolific passer for Green Bay, please continue after the jump. Thanks to Cam Inman for transcribing the interview.
Highest level in the history of game, based on statistics or what else?
"Doing everything really well, at the highest level I think anybody's ever seen. Getting the ball out of his hand quick. Throwing with tremendous accuracy, velocity, any 'T' at the end you want to put on it. And then the way he runs the football, he runs to score touchdowns in the red zone. He's really good at running the football, really smart at running the football. He rarely gets hit. Again, when he runs it, he hurts you by picking up first downs and scoring touchdowns in the red zone."
So is the mission then to keep him off the field?
"If you could accomplish that . . . you'll never accomplish that completely. But the better you can do that, you could say the better your chances will be. We've got to stop him. We've got to play good football. We'll look at a great week of preparation and feel better about it after then, I'm sure, if we can accomplish a great week of practice this week. But right now, yeah, it looks like a very daunting, formidable task."
When he is on the field, do you pressure him with defense?
"That's an interesting question. At first glance you say, 'Pressure him, pressure him.' But teams do. They try to pressure Aaron Rodgers, and they'll have free runners at the quarterback and they will barely get across the line of scrimmage and he'll already have the ball out and on somebody accurately. It's really amazing to watch. If you didn't have to play against him, I guess it'd be amazing and good to watch."
Is there something the Giants did in the playoff win over the Packers that caught your eye?
"We're watching all the tape, no question. We'll do the best we can. We've got a great week of preparation ahead of us."
It's good that Harbaugh loosely identified what makes Rodgers dangerous, because to stop the QB, you have to understand his strengths and weaknesses. It's no mystery that Rodgers is the focal point of this Green Bay team, so he warrants much of the attention when it comes to pre-game and game-planning.
To defeat the Packers, the 49ers have to defeat Aaron Rodgers.
Harbaugh wasn't giving anything away about the team's game-plan to limit Rodgers on Sunday, but I got the feeling that he's got a few ideas rattling around in his head. After watching how the Giants defense played Rodgers, and even how the 49ers own defense played Brees, they should notice some patterns.
For instance: pressure and hits on the QB change things dramatically. The 49ers were able to pressure with three and four rushers against New Orleans, dropping the rest into coverage and just challenging Brees to make extremely difficult throws in tighter windows than he's used to.
Having Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks will allow them to pressure with different combinations of three and four. The Niners could send three of these five and be effective getting to the quarterback; that's a huge advantage. This is how I feel the 49ers will and/or should play Rodgers on Sunday.
But just in case that doesn't work, the 49ers should have a contingency plan. Because like coach Harbaugh said, the challenge of Rodgers is "daunting, formidable task."
For the full transcript courtesy of Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News, click here.