September 30, 2015

In Week 3, Aaron Rodgers decimated what was considered a respected defense entering the season. Next up is a team that's allowed 90 points and nearly 900 yards of offense in its last two games.

The Green Bay Packers head to San Francisco on Sunday with hopes of overcoming possibly their most nagging opponent over the past three seasons.

Given the combination of Rodgers' early season dominance and the 49ers' recent form, it might not take much.

The 49ers (1-2) have ended two of the Packers' last three seasons and won four straight in the series including the two postseason games, though they didn't meet last year as San Francisco's NFC prominence fell into decline.

That's continued this season with back-to-back losses, and last Sunday's 47-7 defeat in Arizona was the team's most lopsided in 10 years.

Green Bay (3-0), conversely, held at least a two-possession lead from the 5:47 mark of the second quarter on in Monday's 38-28 home win over Kansas City. The two-time MVP quarterback said there's more to come.

"I just think we're scratching the surface a little bit," Rodgers said.

Rodgers, who lost another starting receiver when Davante Adams left with a recurrent ankle injury, went on to throw for 333 yards and five touchdowns without an interception on 24-of-35 passing. He's throw a league-high 10 TDs without an interception, and only Tom Brady and Eli Manning have more attempts without a pick.

The team's one giveaway for the season was a Week 2 fumble by No. 2 running back James Starks after top back Eddie Lacy was carted off with an ankle injury. Green Bay's plus-3 turnover differential is tied for sixth in the league, while San Francisco's minus-4 puts it ahead of only Washington and Indianapolis.

"I think we're doing a lot more good things than we are (bad things)," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Obviously (there are) corrections that need to be made."

It seems those have started to come on the defensive end. Green Bay gave up 402 yards in Week 1 to Chicago and 189 on the ground. It's since held Seattle and the Chiefs to 194 rushing yards with Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles combining for 90 on 26 carries.

Charles ran for three scores, but two of those came in the final 10 minutes after the Packers had built a 38-14 lead.

"We obviously have high expectations for our defense and what we like to do," linebacker Clay Matthews said.

"Obviously I think for the most part of three quarters we kept that up, but obviously (there was) a little letdown in the fourth quarter. We'll adjust that and correct that."

The offense that allowed them to loosen up has been made up of evolving tools due to injuries, but Rodgers keeps on ticking. Lacy carried only 10 times for 46 yards and Starks was underwhelming with 32 yards on 17 carries. But covering for Adams, James Jones caught seven passes for 139 yards and a score, Randall Cobb had seven for 91 and three TDs and rookie Ty Montgomery caught his first TD.

How San Francisco plans to handle that is anyone's guess. The loss to the Cardinals was San Francisco's first by 40 or more points since a 41-0 defeat at Kansas City on Oct. 1, 2006.

"I don't think I've ever lost a game by 40 points," linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. "I know what this team is capable of doing."

Whatever that is might be buried under 899 yards in two games, and the 446 against Arizona could have been far worse considering it included a first quarter in which the Cardinals scored all 14 points defensively.

More specifically, off interceptions for touchdowns. Colin Kaepernick was 9 for 19 for 67 yards with four picks.

"Very hard to see myself play like that and hurt this team the way I did," said Kaepernick, whose struggles resulted in the 49ers posting their lowest yardage output (156) in 29 games including playoffs. "I nullified all the efforts of every other player on that field today and that's something that I have to fix."

Kaepernick, however, is 3-0 with six TDs, two interceptions and a 101.3 rating as a starter during the four-game winning streak against the Packers. Rodgers has played all four with eight TDs, three interceptions and a 96.0 rating.

Should the streak continue and the 49ers show a return to the form displayed in a 20-3 season-opening home win over Minnesota, a 2-2 record with a victory over a hot Green Bay team will come with plenty of optimism. A 1-3 record will make coach Jim Tomsula answer more questions about the ceiling coming down a quarter of the way into his first season.

"We are a work in progress," Tomsula said. "As far as a lost season, no. I disagree wholeheartedly. And in terms of anybody that's not here, we spend zero time thinking of that. That doesn't help us get better."

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