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49ers' defense should get its shots at Rodgers


SANTA CLARA ? No team in the NFL gives up sacks at the rate of the Green Bay Packers. And only three defenses get to the quarterback with less frequency than the 49ers.

The pressure will be on the 49ers? defense Sunday to apply pressure to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the league?s fourth-rated passer who has been sacked a league-high 41 times in nine games.

?I look at him and see a shifty quarterback who can run,? 49ers outside linebacker Manny Lawson said Wednesday. ?He holds the ball a little. We just have to hurry up and get to him.

?He?s holding the ball for a reason, because a play?s about to open up downfield. He?s an unselfish player. He?s rather take the hit than somebody else.?

The 49ers have 17 sacks in nine games. Eleven players have contributed to the total. The bulk of the 49ers? pass rush is designed to come from outside linebacker, but those players ? Lawson and Parys Haralson ? have combined for 3? sacks.

Lawson, a fourth-year pro, is in his first season of remaining on the field as a pass-rusher on third downs. He has 2? sacks. Haralson, who led the 49ers with eight sacks last season, has just one sack.

The 49ers are tied for 26th in the league in sacks, and they rank 30th in sacks per pass play.

?Whenever you talk about making strides, you look at numbers,? Lawson said. ?We all want more sacks. I think we can get more. When the opportunity presents itself, we have to take advantage of it.?

The 49ers should get that opportunity Sunday, as the Packers have had difficulty with protection from an offensive line plagued by injuries. Green Bay is lucky its quarterback has remained healthy.

Rodgers said the pounding he has endured has not yet taken a toll on his body.

?I have a good massage therapist,? he said.

The 49ers? defense is coming off a game in which it failed to sack Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. But nobody is complaining because the 49ers intercepted five passes and kept the Bears out of the end zone in a 10-6 victory.

?I always say, ?Do you want interceptions? Do you want sacks? What do you really want from a defense?? Last week we had opportunities to hit Cutler, which we did,? 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. ?He released the ball and we made some good plays on it. I think it is give-and-take. I?d like to have five sacks and five interceptions, but sometimes you just get one or the other and that is just as good.?

Rodgers grew up in Chico as a fan of the 49ers. When he played at Cal, Rodgers wore a Joe Montana T-shirt under his pads.

Prior to the 2005 draft, the 49ers brought Rodgers in for a visit and publicly stated he was being considered with the No.1 overall pick.

But they selected Alex Smith, and Rodgers? ordeal stretched for hours when the Packers finally selected him with the No.24 overall pick.

But Rodgers said he has turned the page and no longer has any ill feelings toward the 49ers. It certainly worked out for him. He spent three years learning the Packers? offensive system behind Brett Favre before taking over as the starting quarterback last season.

?I firmly believe things happen for a reason,? Rodgers said. ?And they made their decision. I still follow the team and still have a special place in my heart for the San Francisco 49ers. But I?m glad to be in Green Bay, and I?m glad the way my career has gone so far.?

EXTRA POINTS

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye had completed most of his film work on the Packers? defense when he watched Green Bay?s game Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys on TV. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers changed things up against the Cowboys, and it sent Raye back to the drawing board.

?They game-plan every team that they?re going to play differently, based on the strengths and weaknesses of that offense,? Raye said.

Raye said he believes the Packers will ?target? slowing down Frank Gore and Vernon Davis. But the 49ers are changing, too. Raye said the 49ers have become a ?little more throw than run? with Alex Smith at quarterback.

Veteran linebacker Matt Wilhelm is scheduled to start if Takeo Spikes (hamstring) is unable to play Sunday against the Packers, Manusky said. Spikes did not take part in Wednesday?s practice.

For more on the 49ers, go to Instant 49ers at blog.pressdemocrat.com/49ers. You can reach Staff Writer Matt Maiocco at matt.maiocco@press

democrat.com.