SANTA CLARA, Cal. (WBAY) - As the 14-3 Green Bay Packers prepare to face the 14-3 San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, it's time to get ready for kick with Dave Schroeder's 'Fast 5 Pack Facts.'
#1 First meeting means nothing: The 49ers put a 37-8 hurting on Green Bay in November. But for those that think that game means anything today? Even San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan has a message for you: "Don't be that stupid."
A brief history lesson should provide a lift for Packers fans. In 2014, Seattle beat Green Bay 36-16 in the regular season, but when the 2 teams met in the conference title game, the Packers built a big 16-0 and should have won that game.
In 2016, Atlanta squeaked out a 33-32 win over the Packers in the regular season before rolling in the playoff meeting after building a 31-0 lead.
In 2012? Minnesota beat Green Bay in WEEK 17, yet the Packers had little trouble defeating the Vikings the very next week in a Wild Card matchup.
You rarely see the same game (or even a similar game) when two teams meet again the in the playoffs.
#2 Packers are the hotter team: Everyone is extolling the virtues of the 49ers' defense thanks to San Fran's 27-10 win over the Vikings in the Divisional round. But Green Bay beat Minnesota 23-10 in late December, after overcoming 3 turnovers no less!
San Francisco gave up a paltry 147 total yards against the Vikes. But guess what? The Packers gave up only 139.
Each team gave up exactly 7 first downs. Each gave up an impressive touchdown catch to Stefon Diggs. And each gave up a field goal off a turnover. And. That. Was. It.
Green Bay's performance was just as impressive. The Pack may not have faced Dalvin Cook, but their meeting was in Minnesota.
Furthermore, the Packers are undefeated since losing at San Francisco before Thanksgiving, while the 49ers went 3-2 down the stretch in the regular season. San Francisco saw each of its final 5 games come down to the final play. If you think the Packers have won ugly? Take a look at San Fran's wins over Seattle, New Orleans, and Los Angeles late in the season. Then look at the 2 wins the 49ers squeaked out against an infereior Arizona squad earlier in the year.
My point? Wins are wins with nothing to apologize for, and the Packers aren't as ugly as you think.
#3 Tale of the trenches: The Packers need the Smith Brothers to show up like they have all year. Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith combined for 4 sacks last week in the playoffs, and combined for 2 sacks in the first meeting with the 49ers (Blake Martinez had a 3rd sack that night).
Green Bay did something that only 3 other teams did all year against San Francisco in sacking QB Jimmy Garoppolo 3+ times in a game.
On the other side? David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, & Company will have their work cut out for them. The 49ers had 5 sacks of Aaron Rodgers the first time around, and they were playing without speed rush mastermind Dee Ford. Ford sat out injured, and would not return to the lineup until just last week in the playoffs, as San Fran sacked Kirk Cousins 6 times.
The battle up front could be the deciding factor in this game.
#4 Must stop Shanahan: It seems silly to say you have to stop a coach, but the 49ers' head coach and play-caller has had so much success against the Packers in recent years. The last 4 times Shanahan has called played against Green Bay, his teams have scored 30+ points on every occasion.
2016 regular season: Shanahan's Falcons edge the Packers 33-32
2016 NFC Championship: Falcons build 31-0 lead and win 44-21
2018 regular season: 49ers fall 33-30 at Lambeau Field playing with quarterback C.J. Beathard
2019 regular season: 49ers beat Packers 37-8
Green Bay's defense has to deal with Shanahan's motions, ground games, and receiving threats. If they give up 30 points again, don't expect a Packers win.
#5 Turnover Tale: I mentioned in my Road To Miami story on Super Bowl trends last week that 75% of Super Bowl teams the last 6 years have had a top-5 turnover margin. Well? The Packers are the only team left in the playoffs in the top 3 this year (GB was 3rd at +12).
Garoppolo can be gotten. He has thrown an interception in all but 6 games this year. He is prone to mistakes. And while Green Bay didn't force a turnover in November, there is likely to be an opportunity or two today. The Packers must capitalize.
After the game, flip over to Action 2 News at 10 for postgame coverage that will roll on with Cover 2 at 10:35 pm. We will have LIVE coverage from Santa Clara and Green Bay as the Packers look to punch their tickets to Super Bowl LIV.