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Friday, May 20, 2022

Kurtenbach: How do the 49ers stop Aaron Rodgers? Hook, bear and prayer

Aaron Rodgers will be the NFL’s MVP this season, and it should be a unanimous vote.

Rogers is a master of his craft – a true genius in the toughest positions in the sport – pushing himself to the limit.

And he enters Saturday’s divisional round playoff game with the 49ers in Green Bay with a hitting streak unlike any I’ve seen in the NFL in years.

Rodgers has thrown 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last seven games, including against good defense. His ball delivery is almost flawless. His defensive dominance is mind blowing. He has such control over the Packers offense that since mid-November, his incredible shots have outnumbered his missed shots by a ratio of about two to one.

As I watched every shot he took this season over the past few days, one question popped into my head: how to stop this guy?

In truth, there is no good answer.

A few seasons ago, it was obvious how you stop Rogers: you put pressure on him. At that stage in his career, Rodgers held the ball for too long – he wanted to push the ball down the field instead of taking what the defense gave him, and this led to bad decisions and a ton of sacks.

The 49ers had no problem following this game plan twice in the 2019 season, including in the NFC Championship Game.

I thought the same formula would work again in week three when the two teams met in prime time at Levi’s Stadium.

I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

Rodgers learned from his 2019 mistakes and threw the ball with lightning speed. Rodgers averaged 2.04 seconds per shot in that game, according to Pro Football Focus, and was only hit twice in the competition. Overall, the Packers averaged over a respectable six yards per game and won without playing particularly well, at least by their standards.

So heading into this playoff game, the Niners need to at least mix things up a bit, or Rodgers will do the same thing again on Saturday and not end the Niners season.

Here’s a three-step formula for the Nines that could give them a chance to slow down the NFL’s best quarterback right now:

Hook

(Shay Hammond / Bay Area Newsgroup)
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