5 Things Green Bay Packers Must Do To Defeat San Francisco 49ers in NFL Divisional Playoffs
5 Things Green Bay Packers Must Do To Defeat San Francisco 49ers
The Green Bay Packers (12-5) will take on the San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Candlestick Park. The game will be a rematch of their Week 1 meeting in which the 49ers defeated the Packers 30-22 at Lambeau Field. However, Saturday night’s contest will be far different from the one that took place at the start of the season.
Green Bay dominated the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round to get the opportunity to face San Francisco in what will be one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the weekend. Even though the Packers’ victory over the Vikings was one-sided, they can still use the experience to help them get an edge over the 49ers.
There are several intriguing storylines between these two teams that will get plenty of attention in the days leading up to the showdown. For one, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was passed on by his favorite team (San Francisco) in the 2005 NFL Draft for Alex Smith, who has been replaced by Colin Kaepernick as the starter.
Smith was playing at a very high level this season before he suffered a concussion. Kaepernick took over the starting duties the following week due to Smith’s inability to play and has not given up the reigns since. It will be interesting to see if the move pays off as Smith has been playing the best football of his career over the past two seasons, including the 2011 playoffs.
The game will come down to whichever team can limit mistakes and force turnovers. However, there are also five things the Packers can do to help them defeat the 49ers.
Treat Frank Gore like Adrian Peterson
Green Bay’s defense did an incredible job against running back Adrian Peterson last week, holding the favorite to win league MVP to 99 rushing yards. The Packers will have to repeat their success this week against Frank Gore as he certainly has the ability to run all over Green Bay. If that were to happen it is hard to imagine the Packers being able to defeat the 49ers, especially with the way Kaepernick has played quarterback the last few weeks.
Gore rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the Week 1 matchup, which means Green Bay must do a much better job this time around if they want to play in their second NFC Championship game in three years. The Packers must create a wall of defenders just as they did against Peterson and contain the edge in order to keep Gore from bouncing outside. Keeping Gore ineffective will go a long ways to helping Clay Matthews and Co. tee off on Kaepernick.
Protect Aaron Rodgers at all costs
It does not get much more obvious than this but if Green Bay’s offensive line cannot protect Rodgers then there is no way the Packers are moving on to the next round. Rodgers was sacked three times in the first meeting and if linebacker Aldon Smith can remain healthy throughout the game, who knows what could happen. Undrafted rookie Don Barclay will have his hands full at right tackle while Marshall Newhouse will have to have the game of his career protecting Rodgers’ blind side.
Rodgers was dropped four times in the last two games against a Minnesota defense that recorded 32 sacks during the regular season. There is no question the 49ers pass rushers are much more talented, which means the Packers must use formations that will give the tackles some help on the edge. If the offensive line can give Rodgers enough time to deliver his passes then the reigning league MVP should shred San Francisco’s secondary.
Force Colin Kaepernick to pass
Kaepernick has been sensational in 13 games this season in which he has completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards, 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions. However, because Kaepernick is deadly with his feet, Green Bay’s defense will want to keep him in the pocket to pass rather than see him burn off 50 yard gains on the ground.
The 25-year-old rushed for 415 yards, five touchdowns and 18 first downs on 63 attempts, but he also fumbled seven times losing two of them. The Packers did a decent job against Vikings quarterback Joe Webb, who is very similar to Kaepernick in the sense that both players are very skilled in the open field. Webb averaged 9.7 yards per gain on seven carries in the Wild Card loss.
The difference is even if Green Bay is able to prevent Kaepernick from running all over the place, he can still put up big numbers through the air against a Packers secondary that allowed an average of 218.2 yards per game. However, making him one-dimensional is better than allowing him to decide how he is going to attack Green Bay’s defense.
Run enough to let passing game take flight
It is no secret that a great way to slow down San Francisco’s talented pass rush is to run the ball with success. Green Bay has certainly improved in this area late in the season with the emergence of DuJuan Harris and veteran Ryan Grant. The Packers are not a team that needs to gouge teams on the ground, although they certainly would not shy away from it if the opportunity presented itself. They are more of a team that needs to run just enough to keep the defense honest so that Rodgers can make plays downfield.
Green Bay was only able to muster 45 rushing yards in the Week 1 meeting. However, the offensive line has improved in their run blocking while Harris and Grant both run with authority, something the Packers did not do the first time around against the 49ers.
Get inside Colin Kaepernick’s head
The one major X factor in this game that could give Green Bay the edge is defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Arguably, the best DC in the business, Capers will draw up plays that will push Kaepernick’s mental stability to the limit. Not to mention, the fact that he has Charles Woodson and Matthews back in the fold mixed in with one of the most talented defenses in the league, Kaepernick could be in for the hardest matchup of his life.
Capers will do everything in his power to get inside Kaepernick’s head by showing him possibilities that are not really there in order to bait the young quarterback into making a poor throws. Also, different blitz schemes will be used in order to pressure Kaepernick from different sides on separate downs. Expect to see Matthews lining up at different positions across the line of scrimmage while Woodson will move around the entire field. However, this will only work if Green Bay’s young secondary makes the necessary plays when the time comes.