The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up for the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. For those of you too young to remember or fortunate enough to repress the mental scars, the Packers sit right behind the Dallas Cowboys as the ultimate in retro-rivals.
Ask any 49ers fan who grew up in the 80s or 90s, and their first response would be the Dallas Cowboys as their most hated team. After that, you’d most likely hear the Green Bay Packers.
So what made the Packers into this realm of hate? Pull up a chair.
Our story begins with the 1995 NFC Divisional game at Candlestick Park. The 49ers were ready to two-peat off their Super Bowl XXIX win the year prior. Well, that never happened thanks to some no-name country bumpkin named Brett Favre showing up at Candlestick and pulling an upset to ruin the party. The following two years were not much better; 49ers meet the Packers in the playoffs, 49ers go home. It was a butt-kicking thanks to San Francisco’s awful special teams play in 1996, and the loss of Jerry Rice helped in 1997’s defeat.
Of course, then came 1998 and this happened:
Sure, the 49ers found redemption, but that was three straight years of playoff losses to Favre. It didn’t help when they somehow get Aaron Rodgers afterward after boneheaded decisions in the 49ers front office. This decision would haunt the 49ers in several games ahead as they stumbled through seasons while the Packers would swap Favre for Rodgers and continue their offensive dominance.
The 49ers got the upper hand a few years later when Jim Harbaugh arrived. The rivalry resumed again with their 2012 home opener, where Alex Smith essentially outplayed Rodgers. The 49ers were none too happy about their NFC Championship loss the previous January to the New York Giants, and the Packers were the poor recipients of their built-up rage from the offseason.
Concluding 2012 was the NFC Divisional playoffs, another contest against the Packers, but this time without Alex Smith and a new kid. A kid named Colin Kaepernick. Much like Favre in 1995, there wasn’t much on this Kaepernick kid besides the fact he had a cannon for an arm, ran Tim Tebow packages, and somehow stomped the New England Patriots for three quarters.
Well, Kaepernick began with this:
Yes, that is how the 49ers’ first offensive drive went. It turned out Kaepernick was just spotting the Packers seven points because what followed was a beatdown any 49ers fan in the 90s can enjoy. Starting with this:
I had never seen a QB kill the Packers defense the way that Colin Kaepernick did. pic.twitter.com/GvsbQlgilQ— Fire Mike Groh (5-5) (@Damon089) November 14, 2019
and you can’t forget this:
But this was the true highlight of the night:
In case you’re curious, that was a touchdown.
The rivalry was back. This time, it was the 49ers who were breaking the hearts of Packers fans everywhere. The two met in 2013 to start the season, which wound up being one of the best games of Kaepernick’s career. Selling out to stop the run (how very Arizona of them), Kaepernick turned to the air and threw for 412 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 69 percent completion rate. There was even a scuffle during the thing due to the frustration of the Packers unable to stop Kaepernick:
The 49ers met again in the postseason that year, but thanks to rules and questionable officiating during the New Orleans Saints Game had the 49ers as a wild card team. The 49ers were going to Green Bay for the wildcard round. A cold Green Bay. Five degrees Fahrenheit temperature with -10 wind chill in Green Bay.
And Kaepernick did it again. Getting the 49ers out of Green Bay 23-20.
From there, the 2014 season brought the end of Jim Harbaugh’s coaching, and the 49ers went back to mediocrity just as things were getting good. The fact the 49ers and Seahawks weren’t playing nice was taking precedence over anything at the time anyways. There was one meeting during the Jim Tomsula era between the 49ers and Packers, but the less said of that, the better.
So that brings us to last year; the last time these two met. Like this Sunday, it was on primetime, though this was a Monday Night Football contest. The 49ers had already lost Jimmy Garoppolo along with half their starters for the season and had young Greg Mabin in at cornerback. This would prove to be disastrous as the Packers picked on him throughout the night.
Things started good with C.J. Beathard leading the offense for an opening touchdown but got narrow quick thanks in part to the 49ers’ then-atrocious defense, C.J. Beathard and his amazing friends’ knack for turning the ball over (that Jusczyk fumble still makes me cringe) didn’t help matters. The Packers had their issues at the time, most notably being the status of head coach Mike McCarthy. Regardless, it was a close game in the final minutes. That is until C.J. Beathard throws a bad interception with a minute to go in a tie game. As you know, one minute is plenty of time for Rodgers, and with the help of a strange illegal contact penalty (something not called all game), he was able to move down the field and get the game-winning field goal set up.
The 49ers defense once again collapsed, a common theme in 2018. Despite the talent level of the team (non-existent) and how the defense had been giving these things up to every quarterback, including Josh Rosen, Rodgers was glorified as a football god regardless and his “legend” as some call it had grown for beating a crippled 49ers team. This, of course, led to a week of replays at various angles of how he systematically picked apart the 49ers.
Funny, I think an NFL quarterback this year did that same sort of final-minute heroics last week, but everyone wanted to say the defense was terrible and counter that it was nothing special. I think...in the back of my mind. Some no-name quarterback. Who was it? Gee...what game was that? Who was that quarterback? I guess that must have been their only highlight, and they returned to the bench. Oh well. There are no double standards in the NFL, apparently.
The 49ers met the Packers in the 2019 regular season and Green Bay was absolutely demolished. While it’s still a fun game and impressive, it’s also a game both the 49ers and Packers are trying to forget.
And that brings us to here. The NFC Championship. Another playoff game between the Packers and the 49ers. Will the 49ers help one man’s legacy carry into the Super Bowl or will their Cinderella story continue at the cost of an old foe?