49ers: Previewing the NFC Championship from a Packers perspective

49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

We sat down with Dairyland Express’ Paul Bretl to gain insight on the San Francisco 49ers/Green Bay Packers’ NFC Championship Game meeting from the enemy’s perspective.

The San Francisco 49ers are set to square off with the Green Bay Packers for the second time this season. But this time, the two teams will do battle in the NFC Championship Game with a spot in Super Bowl LIV on the line.

The 49ers come into this game fresh off a convincing 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round last week. The team welcomed the returns of players like Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander as the 49ers defense was finally back to full strength.

And in turn, the defense wreaked havoc on Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and company all game long as the 49ers cruised to a playoff victory — their first since the 2013 season.

Meanwhile, the Packers also felt the benefits of a first-round bye as they were able to squeak by the beat-up Seattle Seahawks by a final score of 28-23. Despite a 21-3 halftime lead, the Packers nearly surrendered a late-game comeback attempt but held on in the end.

These two teams met for the first time back in Week 12 when the 49ers surged to a dominant 37-8 victory. San Francisco jumped out to a 23-0 lead at the half and didn’t look back decimating the Packers in a statement victory.

Green Bay is healthier this time around, but so too are the 49ers. And even though the Packers haven’t lost since that disastrous Week 12 game, San Francisco comes in as the overwhelming favorites.

But how are Packers fans feeling about this matchup?

We had the pleasure of teaming up with the amazing Paul Bretl of Dairyland Express to gain some insight into just how Packers fans are feeling ahead of the team’s biggest game of the season.

Here are the results of our discussion.

1. The Packers haven’t lost since their Week 12 loss to the 49ers. What has been the biggest reason for this turnaround?

"“While it hasn’t been perfect, the passing game has been much better over the last month of the season. Davante Adams appears to be fully healthy from that lingering turf-toe injury and has been nearly unstoppable as of late. Over the last four games he’s caught 35 of 53 targets for 472 yards with four touchdowns. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the emergence of Allen Lazard as a reliable second option for Rodgers, which is something that he didn’t really have the first time they played the 49ers. Lazard has come up big on numerous third downs and it’s clear that he has the trust of his quarterback.On the defensive side, I would say the two biggest differences are their performance against the run as well as limiting the big play. Both were issues through the first two-thirds of the season. But since Week 12, running backs are averaging less than 90 yards per game on the ground thanks to of course, Kenny Clark and also the elevated play of Dean Lowry and Blake Martinez in the middle. As far as the big plays go, communication has been key in limiting those. After being near the top of the NFL in terms of most 20 and 40 yard passing plays allowed, in their last six games the Packers gave up just 10 plays of 20 or more yards and two of over 40.”"

2. Green Bay had a couple of late-season scares with close victories over both the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions. What happened in those games and is it a cause for concern?

"“Although the Washington game ended up being a five point win, it was never really that close and I don’t think many Packers fans were ever concerned about losing. Green Bay out-gained them by over 80 yards and had twice as many red zone trips. At one point they were up 14-0 and then with two minutes left in the game, they were up 20 to 9 before Washington scored a touchdown with just over a minute remaining. Sure I wish they would have won by three scores, but the final score is also a bit misleading.The Detroit game, however, I’m not quite sure. That was an ugly first half of football and it’s almost as if Green Bay thought they had the first-round bye already secured. The Lions had a lot of success running the ball that game and the Packers offense couldn’t get anything going whatsoever due to poor throws and drops. Regardless of their records, Detroit always plays Green Bay tough and that coupled with the Packers probably looking ahead to the playoffs was almost a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, they escaped with the win.”"

3. How were the Packers able to get past the Seattle Seahawks last week? What were the biggest reasons for their success?

"“The Seahawks just don’t matchup well with Green Bay and the Packers were able to exploit those weaknesses. Seattle has one of the worst pass-defenses in football so Green Bay made sure to get Davante Adams the ball. And they also struggle in covering tight ends, so Jimmy Graham came up with three huge receptions in that game. On defense, while they didn’t always bring him down, they did sack Russell Wilson five times and pressured him on 42 percent of his drop backs, taking advantage of that Seattle offensive line. It’s also worth pointing out, that given Wilson and the Seahawks like to take shots down field, so defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called a lot of softer coverages, forcing Seattle to score with long drives. Which once again, is something Seattle hasn’t been the best at this season. In the end Green Bay played well and they were opportunistic in the matchups that favored them.”"

4. Who do you see as an X-factor for the Packers in this week’s game?

"While I would like to pick someone who is perhaps a lesser known player to 49ers fans, I have to go with Aaron Rodgers. The Niners whooped up on the Packers back in Week 12 and have been excellent for pretty much the entire season. However, the Green Bay Packers have the ultimate equalizer in Aaron Rodgers. But the big question is, what type of performance will we see from him?Overall his stats have been average in 2019 and he’s missed a number of throws that we expect him to make. On the flip side, he’s also made a number of vintage Aaron Rodgers’ throws as well, and led two second half comebacks on the road in Minnesota and Detroit recently. Not to mention that against Seattle he is coming off of what I think most would consider his best performance of the year. But this is a very good Niners’ defense he will be up against and for Green Bay to come away with the win, Rodgers needs to play quite well."

5. What are your final thoughts and predictions for this matchup?

"“This is a much improved Packers team since the 49ers last saw them. For one, Alex Light won’t be going up against Nick Bosa, and as I mentioned previously, the passing game and defense’s ability to limit the run and big plays is much improved. We’ve also seen players such as Tyler Ervin, Chandon Sullivan, and Allen Lazard emerge as big contributors since then. But with that said, this is going to be a very difficult matchup for Green Bay, especially on the road. While I am thrilled with how this year has gone under Matt LaFleur in his first season, I think it ends in Santa Clara. Packers 20, 49ers 27”"

A spot on the Super Bowl is up for grabs and with two of the NFC’s best teams set to meet, we should be in store for a great game.

Next. 49ers: 3 keys to victory in NFC Championship Game against the Packers. dark

Thanks again to Paul for joining us and be sure to check out all of his incredible work over at DairylandExpress.com!