For the first time in 10 years, the San Francisco 49ers will face the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. After losing to the Minnesota Vikings to lose a week off and a potential home game in the Divisional round, the Packers made short work of the Vikings at Lambeau on Saturday night.
Aaron Rodgers was at his best early, completing 14-of-18 passes for 205 yards in the first half. Joe Webb only completed three of his 12 first half passing attempts for 22 yards. Poor Webb looked overmatched on nearly every play, save for a couple nifty scrambles on the Vikings’ first drive.
Now the 49ers go into next weekend hoping their next battle with the Packers unfolds like Week 1’s 30-22 victory, and less like the vast majority of the two teams’ postseason matchups — Green Bay holds a 4-1 edge in the playoffs, with each game taking place between January of 1996 and January of 2002. The only 49ers win was the “OWENS! OWENS! OWENS!” game when T.O. dropped roughly 81 catchable balls and Steve Young fired the game-winning pass so hard that catching it almost knocked Terrell’s braces off.
Obviously the 49ers and Packers bear little resemblance to the teams led by Brett Favre, Young and Jeff Garcia. They’ve also changed so much over the 2012 season that extrapolating much from their Week 1 matchup makes little to no sense.
– In Week 1, Colin Kaepernick surprised the Packers (and most people watching) with a 17-yard scamper at the end of the first half. On Saturday, Kaepernick will start his first playoff game.
– In Week 1, Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined for 153 yards on 25 carries. Hunter is currently on injured reserve and Gore (who rushed 16 times for 112 yards at Lambeau) hasn’t rushed for 100 yards since Week 7 against Seattle.
– In Week 1, David Akers and Mason Crosby were coming off great seasons, and Akers made all three of his field goal tries including a 63-yarder. Akers — who may lose his job to Billy Cundiff this week — and Crosby finished the 2012 season as the two least accurate kickers in the NFL.
– In Week 1, Cedric Benson was the Packers’ lead back. Green Bay abandoned the run early that game, and Benson finished with 18 yards on 9 carries. Now, the Packers are forced to hope DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant can produce anything at all against the 49ers’ stout run defense.
Even without Justin Smith, the Packers probably don’t plan on establishing the run, sneaking some runs past the 49ers or even hinting at the run. It’ll be Rodgers and his receivers against the 49ers’ nickel and dime packages. Even after a long regular season that saw drastic changes on both sides, some things will remain the same on Saturday.