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After defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-23 on Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers are now sixty minutes away from a trip to the Super Bowl. But standing in the way from a trip to Miami is the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers beat the Packers 37-8 in the same stadium on November 24th. A lot has changed since that night in Santa Clara. Now all the Packers have to do is continue what has worked for them during their six game winning streak.
Keys To The Game:
Anyone who watched the first match-up knows that Aaron Rodgers had his worst game in nearly five years as he threw for a 101 passing yards and a touchdown. He’s hasn’t had an overall passing performance that bad since the Packers lost to the Denver Broncos 29-10 in 2015.
Since that night six weeks ago, Rodgers had thrown 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions in the Packers’ last six games.
Last week against the Seahawks, he completed 16 passes and his favorite target Davante Adams caught eight of them for 140 yards and a touchdown. Now Adams will draw 49ers’ Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman in the day’s marquee match-up.
In their previous match-up, Adams did catch seven passes but he had only 43 yards receiving. His 3.78 yards per target was his second worst output of the season. A major part of the potential success for Green Bay on Sunday is getting him the ball. The Packers are undefeated (7-0) when Adams gets over 100 yards receiving in a game.
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay needs to be able to find and keep All-Pro tight end George Kittle away from the ball. Kittle manhandled the Packers in their previous match-up.
In the same fashion he does to most teams he plays against, Kittle had just as many receiving yards (66) before contact as yards after the catch (63) in the previous matchup. So safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage have to make sure the keep an eye on number 85 in the vertical passing game.
If they can take away quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target, it will allow the Packers’ dynamic duo at linebacker to create pressure.
Green Bay linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith combined for 25.5 sacks and when you add defensive lineman Kenny Clark’s six sacks, Green Bay has a solid group of pass rushers. The only problem is the rest of the team had 10 total during the regular season combined.
Getting to the quarterback will be critical if Green Bay plans on playing in Miami in two weeks. In the 49ers’ three losses this season, Garoppolo was sacked 14 times and in their 14 wins (including the playoffs) he was sacked 26. He was sacked only three times in their previous match-up.
This is a simple one. Green Bay running back Aaron Jones running will be the difference between his team playing one more game or getting ready for next season. When the Packers give the third-year running back the football, good things normally happen.
Since December 1st, Jones is averaging 86.5 yards per game and has scored seven touchdowns. His success running on first down has been one of the Packers’ major strengths on offense all season long.
He’s averaging 4.9 yards a carry on first down this season. If he can do that against a defense that allows the same 4.9 yards per carry on first down, he could change the game.
What makes him even more dangerous is his ability to catch the ball as well. He has eight games this season where he has four or more catches in a game and the Packers are 7-1 when that happens. He is going to be needed as a major weapon against the NFL’s best pass defense. He didn’t catch a single pass in their previous match-up.