SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Even when Aaron Rodgers engaged super-quarterback mode Sunday night against the 49ers, the Packers came away frustrated.

Rodgers accelerated out of a sure sack and rolled out of the pocket under duress with six and a half minutes remaining in the second quarter. He unleashed a running rainbow leap throw down the right sideline. The pass floated to where only tight end Jimmy Graham could catch it.

Graham did not catch it.

Safety Jimmie Ward instead did enough to wrestle the ball away, and a special throw fell incomplete to prompt fourth down and a punt. Throughout San Francisco’s 37-8 victory, defenders thwarted Rodgers’ best efforts to lead a comeback. The quarterback finished the game 20-of-33 passing for 104 yards. He was sacked five times.

If the Packers get a postseason rematch with this elite 49ers defense, being limited in their famous Rodgers-led improvisation could spell swift elimination. San Francisco might be too good against whatever traditional offensive scheme coach Matt LaFleur cooks up for Green Bay to consistently move the ball from planned approaches.

“They shut us down for a good part of the night running the ball, and we couldn’t really throw worth a you-know-what either,” Rodgers said. “We were pretty bad on offense.”

MORE: 49ers add scary new dimension to offense

For all the talk that usually accompanies California-born Rodgers playing on the West Coast, the quarterback is 1-5 lifetime against NFC West teams in the postseason, including an 0-2 mark against the 49ers. The Packers have had some of their most gut-wrenching exits in this region. Rodgers has been more reliable in regular-season play around here, Sunday notwithstanding, but that does not completely alleviate the catalogue of bad memories.

It is possible, and perhaps probable, that Rodgers will visit San Francisco or Seattle during the playoffs and once again reckon with one of the NFL’s top pass rushing and coverage units in unfriendly territory. While he is a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback without anything to prove to himself, Rodgers is not immune to what those teams offer.

The 49ers certainly solidified belief they can handle the Packers.

“A dominant performance in a big-time game,” said defensive lineman Arik Amstead.

Added safety Jaquiski Tartt: “It is just being relentless. Be relentless on every play.”

MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture

The relentless harrying of Rodgers began on the first drive of the game, when Fred Warner drilled the two-time MVP and jarred the ball loose, enabling Nick Bosa to recover a fumble and take it to the 2-yard line. Moments later, Tevin Coleman ran the ball into the end zone to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead.

Green Bay nearly turned the ball over again on its second possession. A high third-and-4 throw from Rodgers bounced off receiver Geronimo Alison’s hands and just out of the reach of Tartt, who dove forward toward the ball from his up-top position.

Most of the contest followed a singular script for the Packers: little time for Rodgers to stand in the pocket, and few places for him to throw.

Afterward, an offensive group used to putting up gobs of points found it difficult to accept what transpired.

“We’ve got to give more,” said veteran offensive lineman David Bakhtiari. “We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to be more.”

Several Packers players said they expected to return to Levi’s Stadium in the coming months. They offered a variety of platitudes to explain why next time might be different. They argued this was an outlier performance, not one that offered definitive proof of which team was better.

Rodgers kept upbeat despite one of the worst passing efforts of his career. His words were among the suprisingly few positive things he created Sunday night.

“They played really well, but I still like our chances,” Rodgers said. “I think we have the makeup to bounce back from these kinds of things and put ourselves in the position to potentially come back here and play again.”

Sporting News