At the end of the first quarter, the 49ers were up 10-0. At halftime, the lead was 23-0. The matchup of 9-1 San Francisco and 8-2 Green Bay back on Nov. 24 wasn’t close, with the Niners rolling to a 37-8 victory.
Now, with the teams set to meet again in the NFC Championship Game Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, Green Bay – which defeated Seattle this past weekend in the divisional round – knows it will have to play much, much better to have a chance.
In that first game, the 49ers dominated. They outgained the Packers 339-198. They averaged 7.5 yards per snap while allowing just 2.8. They sacked Aaron Rodgers five times. They allowed Green Bay to convert on just 6 percent of its third-down plays.
Rodgers, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, had a dismal day, passing for just 104 yards on 20-of-33 completions.
“Yeah, we’ve got to play a lot better, obviously,” Rodgers told reporters Sunday night after his team had beaten Seattle. “They’re a great football team, have a great front, obviously get after the passer and don’t need a lot of guys to do that. Excellent pass rush and really good on the back end, smart.”
Plus, the 49ers are on a roll. They took the No. 1 seed in the NFC by going 13-3 in winning the NFC West, then demolished the Vikings Saturday in their divisional-round game, 27-10. San Francisco had six sacks and used a punishing, efficient ground game to control the game’s tempo. The 49ers outscored Minnesota 13-0 in the second half to break open what had been a close game at halftime.
Packers’ first-year head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters he’ll have to come up with a completely new approach this week if his team is to get past the 49ers and into the Super Bowl.
“I think there’s a lot to learn,” said LaFleur. “First of all, that’s a really good football team, and we know that we’re going to have to be at our absolute best in order to compete with them. I think, unfortunately, last time, for whatever reason, we weren’t.”
In the 49ers’ playoff win over the Vikings, their defense was as dominating as it was early in the season. Pass rusher Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt were back in the lineup after injuries, and the entire roster seemed to feed off the defensive success. This could be an even better 49ers team now than it was in November’s win over Green Bay.
Said fullback Kyle Juszczyk to Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee: “They give us so much energy. When I just see that pocket collapse and offensive linemen just in the lap of their quarterback, it’s just a huge energy boost and gets you motivated to go out there on the next drive and just impose our will.”
Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium is set for kickoff at 3:40 p.m.