No Fear 49ers Readying for Lambeau Challenge
Sunday, the wild card San Francisco 49ers initiate this year’s playoff run on that hallowed frozen ground of Lambeau Field. Once upon a time, the Niners’ hopes went there to die. Jim Harbaugh and company packed a quarterback this week that can win a road playoff game (Steve Young never did and Joe Montana, only once). The 49ers smacked the Green Bay Packers in their previous two meetings. Sunday, expect more of the same.
It was last season’s NFC Divisional Playoff game when Colin Kaepernick recorded 181 yards rushing against Green Bay, setting a single-game playoff record for quarterbacks, on his way to leading the 49ers to a 45-31 win and eventually the Superbowl. Determined not to allow the same result, Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers stacked the box during this year’s Week-1 matchup and dared the fresh-faced youngster with the rocket arm to beat his defense from the pocket. That he did. San Francisco took the win again, 34-28. Kaepernick threw for 412 yards with a quarterback rating of 129.4.
What is so different at this juncture?
San Francisco is better now compared to last year’s Superbowl runner-up. Frank Gore, who also ran over the Packers in last year’s playoffs for 118 yards and a touchdown, can still get it done. Green Bay saw the Niners upgrade at wide receiver first hand, Week-1, when Anquan Boldin caught 13 for 208 yards. Pro Bowl tight end, Vernon Davis caught two touchdowns in that game also while Michael Crabtree was still out due to injury. Crabtree is back, and though not fully healthy, he must be respected by the Packers’ defense who must find a way to control this group with their 25th ranked defense.
For the Packers, Clay Matthews is out. AJ Hawk is the lone linebacker on their defense who is relatively healthy. The Packers are equally inefficient on the back side and must at least commit a safety or nickel to slow down Davis. Single cover Crabtree on the outside? What to do about Boldin in the slot? The Packers lack the pieces to solve their issues with the 49ers offense.
Here is an understatement. A win for the Packers falls on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers. He must beat the Niners 5th ranked defense where he is overmatched and pressured to outscore his opposition. He will depend heavily on Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. He can only hope Eddie Lacy will be the first running back to gain 100 yards against the 49ers this year and rookie David Bakhtiari stabilizes Aldon Smith. Even so, the Niners will dial up several blitz packages if they are unable to create pressure out of its base defense. Rodgers can light up any NFL defense like a Christmas tree. This man and his team cannot be counted out of any game. Nevertheless, Green Bay needs the game of their lives to get this one. 49ers win 30-17.