SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After giving up 141 rushing yards to Chicago’s Matt Forte in the season opener, the Green Bay Packers’ run defense has undergone a renaissance, containing one of the league’s top running backs for the third straight week.
San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde entered Sunday’s game ranked third in the NFL with 262 rushing yards. His 16 rushing first downs led the league.
But the Packers held the 6-foot, 235-pound second-year running back to 20 yards on eight carries (2.5 yards per rush) in their 17-3 victory Sunday.
“They brought the safeties down, played a zero look a lot,” Hyde said of the Packers. “They brought extra defenders in the box. It’s hard to run against eight or nine guys in the box.”
The Packers focused their game plan on stopping Hyde first and forcing quarterback Colin Kaepernick to try to beat them.
“Our ability to stop the run was our starting point,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
On five of Hyde’s eight carries, the Packers held him to two or fewer yards, and he didn’t rush for a first down all day. Green Bay’s seven tackles for loss, including two each by Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, were a season-high.
Overall, San Francisco ran for 77 yards, 57 of them coming from Kaepernick on read-options or scrambles.
“No, that’s not what we want,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said of Hyde’s eight carries. “But, we have to play a complete game. We have to be able to throw the ball. We have to be able to protect. We’ve got to be able to do those things and stay into an offense that is in rhythm.”
Entering Sunday’s game, the Packers had allowed 383 rushing yards — an average of 127.7 per game and in the bottom five of the NFL. But two weeks ago, Green Bay held Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards on 15 carries, and last week, allowed Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles only 49 yards on 11 carries.
With the return of suspended defensive tackle Letroy Guion and a resurgent start of the season from nose tackle B.J. Raji, Green Bay’s run defense has become a strength.
“They pride themselves on their running game,” Packers linebacker Mike Neal said of the 49ers. “They are a physical football team. They like to come down here and pound the football. We were able to stop them there.”
» The Packers have outscored their opponents 38-6 in the first quarter this season, and their 189 first-quarter points since the start of 2014 lead the NFL. They also lead the NFL with a plus-195 first-quarter point differential.
» Green Bay scored touchdowns on two of four possessions in the red zone. The Packers now have scored 11 touchdowns on 17 red-zone possessions, while the 49ers’ defense has allowed 11 touchdowns on 15 red-zone possessions.
» The Packers’ 18 first downs were their fewest since collecting only 15 against Minnesota almost exactly a year ago.