Contrasting styles for 49ers, Packers in opener

  • San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh watches as quarterback Alex Smith (11) warms up before the NFC Championship NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Sanchez)

GREEN BAY — Green Bay is Exhibit A in an NFL trend that emphasizes mesmerizing passing games above all else, and Aaron Rodgers nearly passed the Packers to an undefeated season in 2011.

The San Francisco 49ers bucked that trend last year, winning primarily with defense and running back Frank Gore — and they made it farther than the Packers in the playoffs.

And while both teams spent the offseason trying to become more well-rounded, neither is expected to stray too far from their identity in Sunday's season opener at Lambeau Field.

"Obviously, what they like to do is grind the ball out, grind away in the trenches, and they're really good at that," Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "And they try to eliminate that on the opposing side. What we do is we spread 'em out and we throw the ball around — and we have fun doing it."

All that fun didn't get the Packers back to the Super Bowl, so they tried to fix their porous defense with draft picks and beef up their running game with the addition of Cedric Benson. The 49ers added a few new pieces to their passing game — including old Packers nemesis Randy Moss.

Those tweaks add intrigue to a pair of potential Super Bowl contenders, but aren't likely to change either team's basic approach.

"Everybody has a formula or team identity they try to play to," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought the 49ers did a very good job playing to their identity. Obviously, their success reflected that and I think they continued that through the preseason. Their preseason tape has been very good. We're preparing for their style of play."

Still, the addition of veteran wideouts Moss and Mario Manningham, along with the selection of Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the draft, at least opens up the possibility that the 49ers will make more big plays.

Moss is 35 and was out of football last season, but 49ers quarterback Alex Smith says there's no doubt in his mind that Moss remains a dangerous player.

"A guy like Randy and the unique toolset that he has creates a lot of problems," Smith said. "I think it gives them a lot to think about."

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