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The 49ers find themselves in their fourth NFC title game in the last decade. A tilt versus the Green Bay Packers can help them even up the 1-2 record they have in the previous three conference title games.
Keys To The Game:
Everyone, especially the Packers, is well aware of San Francisco’s potent running game. The Niners love to run the football and Sunday they have to remind Mike Pettine just that. Green Bay loves crowding the line of scrimmage; the Niners will look to audible out of inside handoffs, differing to tosses and outside runs instead.
The Packers’ linebackers also have a tendency to over-commit when blitzing. As a result of this, big openings on the edge for short plays and passes over the middle of the field could open up even bigger plays. If Jimmy Garoppolo can identify those blitzes early, he can gash the defense for big chunks of yards.
For the 49ers, the offensive line must protect their young quarterback in the pocket. Look for Green Bay to assign a player to the halfback and fullbacks as a late blitzer on most passing plays. The 49ers can’t afford to let them get pressure on Garoppolo, who can make mistakes in the face of danger.
Defensively the 49ers shouldn’t “hunt for fools gold” and stay disciplined. Almost everything about the Packers’ offense starts with movement pre-snap and then deception after the fact. San Fransisco can’t get caught up in all the gyrations by the skill position guys and hard counts by the quarterback.
San Francisco has to walk a thin line between trying to stop wide receiver Davante Adams and making sure they aren’t too focused on him. Just like he’s done all season, Aaron Rodgers will look for his pro-bowl receiver every single play. For the 49ers, they must balance out the coverage on Adams as well as other receivers.
Although they can usually generate pressure with just four players, the 49ers must blitz more on this elite offense. Rodgers’ ability to extend pass plays by moving out of the pocket is lethal and sending an extra guy (or two) to attack the edge can keep him somewhat immobile, causing him to make poor decisions when throwing.
Richard Sherman is a veteran who has won his fair share of playoff games and a Superbowl title. He needs to dominate and shut down one side of the field no matter which Green Bay wide receiver comes strolling over there. If it’s Adams, the Packers could be in trouble.