Chase Stuart recently put together a look at one notable statistic for each of the 12 playoff teams. For the 49ers, he looked at how the team has performed through the first three quarters, and then in the fourth quarter. For the Packers, he looked at their negative point differential.
In discussing the 49ers, Stuart pointed out that they have averaged 18.1 points through the first three quarters of every game, while allowing just 9.6. That 8.5 points per game is the best in the NFL. For the fourth quarter, the 49ers have scored 7.3 points per game, and given up 7.4 points per game. That's not awful, but it's pretty average. In discussing this, Stuart asked if the team would be more ruthless in the postseason.
That has been a consistent concern among fans. At times the 49ers will roll up quick points and seem ready to roll through an opponent. And then the offense seems to curl up into a ball and go into super-conservative mode. It's seemingly allowed teams to get back into the game, and make things significantly more interesting than they needed to be.
Opposing teams can make adjustments, but it has felt like a recurring issue of the 49ers not closing out folks. It's not an every game concern, but it has happened enough to be a pain in the butt. The question now is if the 49ers will have that killer instinct.
One point that has been mentioned here and there is the notion that the team has been holding back. We saw it last year with the read option and Colin Kaepernick's general running. Kap was incredibly mobile during his second half run, but against the Packers, it went into an extra gear the team had not shown to that point.
Will we see something similar this year that allows the team to take a lead and put away the Packers sooner rather than later? The Packers are not as strong as they have been in recent years, but with Aaron Rodgers out there, they have a puncher's chance for an upset.