Aaron Rodgers next test for 49ers' beleaguered defense

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, right, shares a laugh with former 49ers No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, now with the Chiefs. AP Photo/Mike Roemer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In Week 2, the San Francisco 49ers faced Ben Roethlisberger and his two Super Bowl rings, and the 12th-year veteran with almost 40,000 yards and 250-plus touchdown passes lit the 49ers up for 369 yards and three touchdowns.

A week later, Carson Palmer, a former Heisman Trophy winner, the No. 1 pick of the 2003 NFL draft and two-time Pro Bowler, riddled the 49ers for 311 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.


"And here comes Aaron," said 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, referring to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "I got you."

The 49ers' run of facing top-notch veteran signal-callers might have reached its apex with the two-time and reigning league MVP coming to Levi’s Stadium this weekend.

He has already thrown 10 touchdown passes, without an interception, in leading the Packers to a 3-0 start. Rodgers has thrown 159 consecutive passes in the regular season without being picked off, dating to Week 15 of the 2014 season.

"I think we’re playing well on offense," Rodgers said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week. "We’re moving the ball efficiently and not turning the football over a lot, which helps. We’re three games in, so I think a lot of the chemistry on the football team is still being brought together and the identity of the football team is still being established.

"It’s early in the season, but we’re happy with the way it started."

Said Tomsula: "A lot of people are saying he’s playing better than he’s ever played. I’ve looked at this guy for how many years? I don’t know how this guy ever plays better than he’s ever played. I think he’s always played that good. I’ve got the utmost respect for Aaron Rodgers.

"What they’re doing, where Aaron’s at, what Aaron does, the way that offense works, what they do there, the way they’re playing defensively, their special teams, that is a really good football team."

Plus, Rodgers is coming to Santa Clara with a chip on his shoulder, one that has been there since the 49ers bypassed the former Cal star in favor of Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick of the 2005 draft. Rodgers fell to No. 24 overall and sat behind Brett Favre for three years.

Still, Rodgers, who has 48 passing touchdowns and five interceptions since the start of last season, has not had a lot of recent success against the 49ers, losing four straight to them, including twice in the playoffs.

But those were different San Francisco teams, squads filled with veterans on defense who have either retired (Justin Smith and Patrick Willis) or moved on (Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald).

"I enjoyed the challenge of playing against those guys," Rodgers said. "They’re great players. I always enjoyed competing against them. It will be different, but they still have guys with that name recognition and young guys who are trying to make a name for themselves. So that’s what happens in this league.

"There’s a lot of turnover. There’s a lot of changes over the years. It’s a young man’s game. You have to kind of fight against Father Time to hold on."

From the 49ers’ perspective, they also have to fight with another accomplished veteran quarterback.