SANTA CLARA -- The Green Bay Packers insist they're better prepared for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers' versatile offense for Sunday's rematch at Candlestick Park.
That bar got set historically low last January.
Kaepernick ran for 181 yards -- the most ever in an NFL game by a quarterback -- and the 49ers totaled 579 yards of offense in their 45-31 divisional playoff win at Candlestick.
"We've had the entire offseason to focus on last year's loss, as well as the games they played in the playoffs and Super Bowl, and we've had time to figure out a way to defend that," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said Wednesday on a call with Bay Area media.
Until proven otherwise, the 49ers own bragging rights, and that includes Kaepernick telling Sports Illustrated this summer how he heard the Packers arguing in their defensive huddle during the 49ers' second-half rally.
"I don't agree, but if that's his observation, that's fine," Matthews responded. "We're always trying to improve our defense and figure out the checks we need as the play's progressing. He had a fantastic game."
So what steps have the Packers taken to avenge that loss, which came four months after the 49ers and then-quarterback Alex Smith won 30-22 in the season opener at Lambeau Field?
One strategy is to hit Kaepernick when they can. According to a re-emphasized NFL rule, read-option quarterbacks aren't afforded the same protection as pocket passers, because the officials initially will view them as ball carriers.
"It looks like as long as the quarterback carries on that play fake, he loses his right as a pocket passer," Matthews said.
Coach Jim Harbaugh calls that a "gray area," debating that all quarterbacks should start out with the normal protection "until he declares that he's a runner."
Kaepernick is not openly concerned, stating: "It's football. You're going to get hit."
Harbaugh, however, called into question the "tough talk" circulating among defenses toward read-option quarterbacks and wondered if bad intentions are being formed.
"We like to think our game plan fits within the scheme of the officials and what we want to do," Matthews added.
No one touched Kaepernick when he raced for a 56-yard, tiebreaking touchdown run on a read-option fake handoff. To prevent that from happening again, Packers coaches have studied up on the read-option attack, and that meant a March field trip to Texas A&M.
"The experience at A&M is a very small part of what we've done as a staff," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have a system of football defensively where we have base concepts and variations that focus on the athletic quarterback, particularly Kaepernick and others.
"We're definitely better prepared for it than we were last year."
Last-minute preparations are coming with inside knowledge from quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace, who were cast aside last week by the 49ers. Tolzien, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback the past two seasons, surely has more intelligence to offer than Wallace, whose 49ers tenure lasted only a week.
"I'm sure Scott and the players are having conversations in the locker room," McCarthy said. "We tend to leave that room to the players. I'm sure there's insight there."
But aren't Packers coaches also interrogating Tolzien in advance of Sunday's season opener?
"It's important for any player who comes to the Packers to meet all the coaches," McCarthy said.
Harbaugh sounded unfazed by the Packers' ploy, stating: "Our plan remains the same. There's things (Tolzien) knows. We'll see how that plays out."
There's many other things the Packers know better than they did in January. But they learned a season-ending lesson that day.
"Obviously Colin's going to make his plays," Matthews said. "but we've got to minimize that."