Linebacker Clay Matthews, who played the role of antagonist the last time the Packers visited the 49ers, was up to his old tricks on Sunday.
On one play in the third quarter, the Green Bay linebacker gave Colin Kaepernick a wallop on a read-option play on which the quarterback had handed the ball away. Two snaps later, he sacked Kaepernick and then added an exclamation point by kissing his biceps, which is Kaepernick’s signature celebration.
Microphones also picked up a message he had for Kaepernick: “You ain’t Russell Wilson, bro.”
Kaepernick said he didn’t see Matthews’ antics but he did ask the umpire why the Packers linebacker wasn’t penalized on the play.
“No, I didn’t get a reason why it wasn’t,” he said. “To me, not only did I not have the ball but it was also targeting the head. But, to me, we’re onto the next play. I can’t sit there and complain about it.”
The Packers have had to watch Kaepernick do quite of celebrating in the past. He had been 3-0 against them before Sunday’s meeting, including a game in the 2012 playoffs when he ran for a quarterback-record 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Before the teams’ next meeting in 2013, Matthews warned that the Packers were ready to hit Kaepernick when the 49ers used the read option, even on plays in which he didn’t have the ball.
There wasn’t much of that in the 2013 game, but Matthews did cause a stir by tackling Kaepernick when the quarterback was well out of bounds. The hit sparked a brief sideline melee and led to some strong, day-after comments from Jim Harbaugh who ridiculed Matthews for the open-handed slap he made on tackle Joe Staley during the scuffle.
“That young man works very hard on being a tough guy,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll have some repairing to do on his image after that slap.”
Defense simplifies -- A 49ers defense that may have been confusing itself more than its opponents in recent weeks played it simple on Sunday and held the Packers to their most modest outing of the season.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers certainly wasn’t stymied. He finished with 224 yards and had a 99 passer rating. But he also was sacked three times, threw just one touchdown -- he had 10 going into the game -- and was frustrated by the 49ers pass coverage on several plays. The Packers punted six times after averaging three punts in their first three contests.
That’s largely because a 49ers defense that had blitzed heavily to start the season dropped into coverage against Rodgers, who often found no one open. The 49ers also used their outside linebackers, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch, to rush the passer instead of in coverage, which they had done at times in the first three games.
“We just had a four-man rush pretty consistently throughout the whole game,” defensive end Quinton Dial said. “We were just winning the one-on-one battles and getting push in the pocket.”
It looked as if the 49ers had forced a punt on Green Bay’s opening drive when Brooks sacked Rodgers on third down.
But an illegal contact penalty against linebacker Michael Wilhoite gave the Packers a first down. Rodgers took that gift and went on a 12-play, 80-yard drive. On the final snap, the Packers quarterback spun away from pressure and found tight end Richard Rodgers in the end zone for a nine-yard score.
The penalty ended up being a huge play in a game that only had two touchdowns. Wilhoite said he made contact with a Packers receiver beyond the five-yard limit but said that the contact was so light that it didn’t alter the receiver’s path.
“We’re not the judge of that, the refs are,” Wilhoite said when asked if it should have been a penalty. “Their game, they called it. But at the same time, it was a small thing in the scheme of four quarters.”
Wilhoite led all players with nine tackles. Brooks later added a sack that wasn’t wiped away by a penalty while Lynch had two sacks and now leads the team with three total.
Patton produces -- Quinton Patton, the team’s No. 3 receiver, had the most productive game of his career, catching two passes for 54 yards.
The first came after courtesy of a short, shovel toss from Kaepernick. Patton turned up field for 40 yards, helping to set up the 49ers’ only score of the game.
Patton, however, was being monitored for a concussion after the game, and due to the league’s concussion protocol, he was unable to talk to reporters. His injury was the only one reported by the team.