49ers pay for Rodgers draft snub
November 23, 2009
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Sure, Aaron Rodgers enjoyed beating the San Francisco 49ers. It’s the team he grew up rooting for, and the team that snubbed him on draft day in 2005.
But Rodgers wasn’t gloating after Sunday’s 30-24 victory, and neither were the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay (6-4) nearly blew a big lead in the second half, and now might have to hang in the playoff race without two key cogs in the defense: outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris, who sustained potentially serious knee injuries.
Kampman and Harris both were carted to the locker room in the second half, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged there is “some concern” about the severity of their injuries.
“Hopefully, these two injuries aren’t as serious as we may think,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the Packers should know more about Kampman and Harris on Monday. For now, they’ll try to carry all the things they did right in the first half into Thursday’s game at Detroit.
And if Rodgers felt any sense of satisfaction in beating the team that passed him over in the draft, he kept it to himself.
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“It’s fun to play against a team that you idolized growing up, and watched every Sunday after church,” said Rodgers, a native of Chico, Calif. “You’ve got to give those guys credit. I think in the second half, they fought a little harder.”
Alex Smith, the player San Francisco drafted No. 1 instead of Rodgers that year, rebounded from a miserable start to throw three touchdown passes after halftime for the 49ers (4-6) – including the first touchdown catch of Michael Crabtree’s career.
But the rally fell short, making the 49ers’ path to the playoffs much tougher.
“Either we’re digging ourselves a hole early in the game and it’s too much to overcome or we’re getting ahead and we’re finding ourselves too comfortable with a lead,” San Francisco coach Mike Singletary said. “We have to settle down, our young guys have to settle down and play football.”
The Packers led 23-3 at halftime and 30-10 in the fourth quarter after Smith threw an interception to Nick Collins that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Green Bay’s Ryan Grant, who rushed for 129 yards.
San Francisco’s Josh Morgan returned a kickoff 76 yards and Smith threw a 24-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis, cutting Green Bay’s lead to 30-17.
With Harris and Kampman still sidelined, Smith had long completions to Isaac Bruce and Crabtree on the next series, setting up a fourth-and-5 at the Green Bay 10. Smith found Frank Gore for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 30-24 with 5:56 left.
“Just because you’re up on a team doesn’t mean they’re going to quit, and they didn’t quit,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “We gave them some big plays in that second half and let them hang around and gave them some confidence.”
Davis said the 49ers’ success came in large part from their shotgun spread formations, and suggested the team should use the spread more often.
“We’ve just got to come out from the beginning and take advantage of the things we can take advantage of,” Davis said. “If it’s spreading the ball, maybe we need to do that. But it’s not up to me, I don’t call the plays.”
Smith wasn’t sold on the idea, saying it’s too late in the season to make major changes.
Despite the momentum swings, the Packers managed to hold on – something they didn’t do in recent losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay.
“It’s definitely something that we can build off of,” McCarthy said. “Because we’ve had some momentum swings in the past, just two weeks ago, that we didn’t recover from.”
After Gore’s score, the Packers put together a drive that included a third-down conversion by Rodgers on a sneak, allowing them to run out the clock.
Rodgers was 32 of 45 for 344 yards, including 274 in the first half as the Packers took a 23-3 lead. Rodgers got a serviceable performance from his offensive line, which allowed two sacks Sunday. Coming into the game, Rodgers had taken a league-worst 41 sacks.
Although Smith’s second-half rally was impressive – he finished 16 of 33 for 227 yards – Rodgers’ performance provided further evidence the Packers got the better end of the deal when the 49ers chose Smith with the No. 1 pick in 2005. Rodgers, who also was under consideration for the top choice, slipped all the way to the Packers at No. 24.
“I’m happy for him,” Smith said. “That’s a guy that’s been through his own adversity. The draft- day deal and then to come and sit behind Brett Favre and then the whole Brett Favre thing that happened here. Those are big shoes to fill and he stepped up.”
NOTES: Kampman and Harris’ injuries both appeared to be to their left knees. … Rodgers’ touchdown passes went to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Jennings had 5 catches for 126 yards. … The 49ers lost starting left guard David Baas to a right ankle sprain in the first quarter.