There’s no time for the Packers to wallow in any misery, and that’s just fine with them.
In the locker room following Sunday’s 30-22 season-opening loss to San Francisco, several players spoke of wanting to put this game behind them quickly. With NFC North rival Chicago coming to Lambeau Field on Thursday, they have no choice.
“As a team, when you lose, you want to get right back on the field and take it to ’em,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “We’re ready for Thursday. I’ll go play tomorrow. I think everyone on this team feels the same way. We need to get back on the field and show what we are.”
On offense, the Packers want to show they’re not a unit that’s going to score just once in their first eight possessions. Six punts and an interception through nearly 3½ quarters was as stagnant as Green Bay’s offense has been in quite some time. San Francisco’s defense was as good as advertised. Maybe better.
The Packers simply couldn’t hit the big play they’ve come to rely on. James Jones had a 49-yard catch-and-run off an Aaron Rodgers scramble to set up Jones’ TD grab to get within eight points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Packers only had one other gain all day longer than 16 yards.
“They did a good job making us go the long way, and it’s tough against a defense like that to go 80 yards, 10 yards at a time, three downs every 10 yards,” said receiver Jordy Nelson, who had the only other explosive play, a 28-yard catch on the offense’s first TD drive in the second quarter. “It makes it real tough on us, but it’s going to be no different on Thursday. Chicago is going to make us do the same thing.”
Meanwhile, the defense would like to pick up where it left off. It wasn’t pretty for a while, as the 49ers rolled up 186 yards rushing and quarterback Alex Smith posted an impressive 125.6 passer rating (20 of 26, 211 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs).
But the defense forced punts on four of San Francisco’s final five possessions, which fueled the comeback from a 23-7 deficit in the second half. A three-and-out preceded Randall Cobb’s 75-yard punt return for a score, and two other fourth-quarter stops gave the offense the ball down only one score.
The only breakdown late was following Rodgers’ fourth-quarter interception, when San Francisco’s Frank Gore (16 carries, 112 yards) blew around right end for a 23-yard TD on the very first snap. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers talks often about handling “sudden change” situations, such as those following a turnover, and the failure there was disheartening.
“They ran that same play all night long, I think I could say,” cornerback Tramon Williams said of the power sweep that got Gore out on the edge. “They have a good blocking scheme. You can’t take anything from them. They got out the back door on us.”
Still, veteran leader Charles Woodson said over and over that he’s confident the defense is headed for better things and not for a repeat of 2011. Woodson and Clay Matthews combined for four sacks, a single-game total the Packers hadn’t reached since Week 2 of last year. Those four sacks along with four stops in the final 19-plus minutes would seem to indicate Woodson’s onto something, though the one glaring omission was a turnover from the defense, when just one could have changed the game.
The 49ers are one of the best teams in the league at protecting the football, and they didn’t give it away once on Sunday.
“They’ve got to come,” Woodson said of the turnovers. “That’s what we’re known for. We’re just getting started here. It’s been a long training camp. We’re trying to figure out pieces and how we’re going to run this defense going forward.
“I’m going to keep saying it. We’re going to be a good defense. Trust me.”
Thursday can’t get here soon enough. The best tonic is to play another game, even on short rest.
“After you lose, it’s really not that hard,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “You’re kind of rarin’ to go. It’s all about how you come back and how you show yourself.” Additional game coverage - Packers vs. 49ers