'We're Just Getting Started' on Defense

CB Charles Woodson (Benny Sieu/USP)

The debut wasn't anything to inspire confidence but the Packers insist they'll be fine on defense. "I think it's part of the hangover that people keep trying to remind us of last year, but the reality is it's one game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday.

Charles Woodson isn't worried, even if Sunday's season-opening loss didn't offer clear-cut evidence that the Green Bay Packers' efforts to beef up their defense made much of a difference.

Woodson says it will take some time for the Packers' new players to make an impact, and the veteran defensive back insists he saw signs of progress in a 30-22 loss to San Francisco.

"We're just getting started here," Woodson said after Sunday's game. "It's been a long training camp, and we're trying to figure out pieces and how we're going to run this defense going forward. I'm going to keep saying, we're going to be a good defense, trust me."

After allowing more yards than any other defense in the league and giving up way too many big plays in 2011, the Packers used their first six draft picks on defensive players and did a little more shopping in the free-agent market than they typically have under general manager Ted Thompson.

But the revamped defense gave up 377 yards to the 49ers, who looked more explosive on Sunday than they typically did during last season's run to the NFC championship game.

Alex Smith was 20-of-26 for 211 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Frank Gore ran for 112 yards and a touchdown.

"This was a team that went to the (NFC) championship game last year and they have just about everybody back and they've added some pieces, so they're a good team, make no mistake about it," Woodson said. "We're jelling together as a team. This is really, especially defensively, a new team (with) a lot of new players. We're going to get where we need to be. I promise you that."

Things don't necessarily get easier this week, with the Chicago Bears bringing new wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Lambeau Field on Thursday night.

There were some positives. The Packers sacked Smith four times on Sunday, including 2 1/2 credited to Clay Matthews and 1 1/2 credited to Woodson.

They held ground on third down, allowing the 49ers to convert only two of nine times.

And they got by without playmaking linebacker Desmond Bishop, who is out for the season with a torn hamstring.

"I think it's part of the hangover that people keep trying to remind us of last year, but the reality is it's one game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "I thought we did some good things in the pass rush. The statistical support of that would be the four sacks, but I thought we had good pressure. I thought (rookie) Nick Perry did some good things, and we'll continue to implement some of our other players, too."

Some of the biggest changes for the Packers have come in the secondary, and McCarthy acknowledged that the team is mixing and matching personnel groups instead of having established starters at every position.

"It's tough," McCarthy said. "It's a challenge, anytime you're rolling players in and out. That's where we are defensively as far as playing individuals based on personnel groupings. We do have a number of our guys that are, frankly, our role players. They need to focus on their role and perform at a higher level in that role. And that's something that we'll continue to evaluate and game plan weekly. But as far as lining up with just one guy, there's only certain positions that you do that with."

The Packers allowed the 49ers to put together a pair of long touchdown drives — a nine-play, 92-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss in the second quarter, and a nine-play, 84-yard drive for a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the third quarter.

"Tiring, frustrating, all those negative adjectives," B.J. Raji said of the 49ers' long scoring drives. "They're a good opponent. Hopefully we can do things right if we see them later. You have to give them credit."

And linebacker A.J. Hawk said the Packers vulnerability to the 49ers running game was the most troubling thing to take away from Sunday.

"I think (we) definitely at times did a good job getting after the quarterback, getting off the field on third down, and we stopped the run a few times," Hawk said. "For the most part, when they really needed it, they found a way to run the ball on us. Obviously, any coach from any level will tell you to win a game, you need to stop the run first. We didn't get that done today."

The 49ers' second-quarter touchdown drive was helped by a pair of defensive penalties, including a roughing the passer foul on Matthews that drew disapproval from the Packers' bench and the Lambeau Field crowd.

"We're frustrated a little bit," Woodson said. "I look at a couple of the drives that they had where we thought we would've gotten off the field and there was some calls made, but we still had to play. We've still got to stop a team from going 80-plus yards or whatever it is. Forget about the referees, they do what they're paid to do, they ref, they make calls, but it's up to us to stop a team from driving the length of the field."


Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.

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