Packers and 49ers: Then and Now
After dismissing the Minnesota Vikings in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs, the Green Bay Packers will travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers in a rematch of week one. In that game, the 49ers prevailed 30-22 at Lambeau Field in a game they controlled from start to finish.
A lot has happened between then and now. The Packers worked through a variety of injuries to post an 11-5 record and number three seed in the NFC. The 49ers, on the other hand, were one of the healthiest teams in the league until recently, and posted a record of 11-4-1 and earned the number two seed in the NFC.
Below is a 30,000 foot overview of a few key areas for each team.
PACKERS RUN GAME
Aaron Rodgers was the Packers leading rusher in week one with 27 yards. Of the Packers 348 combined yards, 303 came through the air. If that happens again, the 49ers will win.
Most recently, the Packers have used a running back by committee system with Dajuan Harris and Ryan Grant receiving the bulk of the duty. Alex Green and James Starks have been slowed with injuries but have factored into the equation as well.
The Packers rushed for over 100 yards in five of their last six games and were 4-1 in those games. The 49ers boast the 4th best run defense in the NFL and are 10-1 when holding teams to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. Conversely, they are 1-3-1 against teams that rush for more than 95. Thus the importance of running the ball.
THE KICKING GAME
In their week one matchup David Akers connected on a league-record tying 63 yard field goal. It has been all downhill since then for the 49ers veteran kicker. Akers ranked 30th in the NFL in field goal percentage during the regular season at 69%. The Packers Mason Crosby ranks 31st at 63.6%. The two kickers are a combined 20-40 from 40 yards or greater.
While the Packers have decided to stick with Crosby through his struggles, 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh brought in veteran free agent Billy Cundiff to compete with Akers for field goal duties. It is still not clear who will handle the kicking come game time.
In week one, Kaepernick took just one snap at quarterback and ran 17 yards setting up Akers 63 yard field goal. Alex Smith was the starter at QB that day and was a very steady 20-26 for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kaepernick, who was born in Milwaukee, took over for Smith as the starter in week 11 after Smith suffered a concussion the week prior. All the second year quarterback did in his first start was throw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-7 thrashing of the Bears. Kaepernick's legs are perhaps even more threatening than his rocket arm. He is elusive, makes good decisions on the run, and delivers a great ball.
The Packers defense saw some read-option plays against the Vikings in the wild card round, but that was against Joe Webb. Webb was not a threat to pass - Kaepernick most certainly is.
Since week one, the Packers have lost running back Cedric Benson (foot), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip), inside linebacker D.J. Smith (knee) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (wrist). After Sunday’s win over Minnesota, the Packers anticipate placing Jerel Worthy (knee) on injured reserve.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are without wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee), wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee), running back Kendall Hunter (Achilles) defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) and have a beat-up defensive end in Justin Smith (triceps).