I asked Jim Harbaugh one question before today’s press conference became a bit of a feeding frenzy to see who could get the San Francisco 49ers head coach to say something juicy about the Jim Schwartz handshake incident from last year. After Harbaugh named everyone there was to name, I thought about a conversation I had on Twitter with @Tre9er and @CoreyLongTime this morning about the 49ers’ defensive performance. The discussion centered on whether the 49ers got enough pressure on Rodgers, who was sacked three times but also completed 30-of-44 passes for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns.
My thought was that the 49ers were concerned with Rodgers’ status as a dual-threat player. He may be the most accurate passer in the NFL, but of all the best pure passers in the league (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and you can even add Philip Rivers to this category if you wish), Rodgers is the only one who’ll consistently try to beat teams with his legs. In four full seasons Rodgers has averaged 60 carries and 284 rushing yards per season. Those aren’t quite Michael Vick numbers, but Vick doesn’t average 4,259 yards passing per season, either.
So I asked Harbaugh about keeping Rodgers contained. Here is Harbaugh’s answer, with video of the exchange underneath.
BASG: Aaron Rodgers isn’t just obviously a great passing quarterback, but running. How happy were you with how well you were able to kind of contain him in terms of what he did on the ground?
Harbaugh: Well, it stands to reason that when you have a star quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, and that ball was coming out so quick and accurate. And then his ability to run, which is well-documented and he runs, and he runs to hurt you. And then the great group of wide receivers and tight ends and playmakers that Green Bay has, it stands to reason that you’re not just going to shut them down, play after play after play to negative yardage. But what you hope to do is not give up the big, big play in the run game or the pass, which I thought our team did an outstanding job of not giving them. And then eventually, you get them shut on a series of downs and you get the ball back. But I thought pursuit was the key. Nobody staying on the ground, nobody staying blocked. Getting off blocks, pursuing like the dickens. And you saw that with any number of our guys. Aldon early in the game, getting a sack. And that kind of play, that kind of hustling backs on the back end, tackling and not giving up big plays was essential to getting them shut on some of those series.