(KPIX) — The NFC Championship between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers is a rematch of a Week 12 game that didn’t go so well for one of these teams. The 49ers beat the Packers, 37-8, in a late-November game that started one-sided and went downhill from there. It was basically over by halftime.
On the fifth play of the game’s opening possession, Aaron Rodgers was forced to step up in an already-crowded pocket to avoid the rush. Fred Warner sacked him, jarring the ball free. As the ball rolled slowly toward the end zone, Nick Bosa scooped it up and was tackled inside the five-yard line. Tevin Coleman ran it in on the next play.READ MORE: UPDATE: 15 Injured, 20 Rescued After Fire Erupts Inside San Francisco Tenderloin Apartment Building
The 49ers defense forced three-and-outs on the Packers’ next three possessions and five of their seven first-half possessions. Only one of those possessions yielded more than six yards. The 49ers led 23-0 at halftime, and 30-8 by the end of the third quarter. They limited Rodgers to just 104 yards passing and sacked him five times. The future Hall Of Famer, who proved entirely ineffective all game, was replaced by backup Tim Boyle late.
“Green Bay has to change up what they did in the first meeting, which the 49ers dominated,” says KPIX sports director Dennis O’Donnell. “So if I’m Green Bay, you’ve got to get Aaron Rodgers moving… roll-outs, short drop-backs in the pocket a la Drew Brees. There’s got to be a little bit more movement, so Rodgers has time to throw and can release the football. It’s a tall order, given the 49ers’ potency of their pass rush.”
The Packers will look to free up Rodgers to make plays. “San Francisco is vulnerable to movement in the backfield,” O’Donnell points out. “Russell Wilson beat them with Seattle. The quarterback Kyler Murray in Arizona gave them fits. Baltimore gave them trouble, they beat San Francisco. And Matt Ryan, not a particularly mobile quarterback, but there were a lot of misdirection, reverse-direction in that game.”READ MORE: UPDATE: Willow Fire Grows Past 2,000 Acres Near Big Sur, Evacuations Ordered
The San Francisco defense Rodgers saw last time was, believe it or not, enduring a bit of a slump, giving up an average of 25 points the prior three games. The New Orleans Saints would drop 46 points on them a couple weeks later.
Rodgers will have to contend with an even more fearsome unit this time around, one that looks much more like the dominant defense from early in the season. San Francisco welcomed back defensive end Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander last week against the Minnesota Vikings. (Safety Jaquiski Tartt, who also returned in the divisional round, played in the previous matchup with the Packers.) Ford, in particular, made an immediate impact, picking up one of the team’s sacks on quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“Aaron Rodgers is the better quarterback on the field on Sunday,” notes O’Donnell. “But Aaron Rodgers cannot block all those pass rushers coming in. Dee Ford didn’t even play in the first game and the 49ers were all over Aaron Rodgers. So the question from my perspective is what is [Matt] LaFleur going to do to slow down the 49er pass rush? You can’t play a 21 offense, with two running backs and a tight end, the whole game. How do you slow the 49ers pass rush”MORE NEWS: West Nile Virus Found in Mosquitos in Stockton
The 49ers play the Packers Sunday at 3:40 EST/PST.