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Why the NFC Championship will be more competitive than Week 12

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Shanahan is doing everything to keep his players focused. Green Bay made a ton of mistakes...

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49er Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked how he would use the Week 12 matchup against the Green Bay Packers from a preparation standpoint for the NFC Championship game Sunday, to which he said:

“Yeah, we know it’ll be different. That game got away from them early and that’s definitely not the team we’re going to see this week. Everyone knows how good Green Bay is, how good their coaching staff is, how good their players are, how good their quarterback is. I don’t think they’ve lost a game since then. I think that game really holds zero relevance to what’s going to happen this Sunday.”

That game was a bloodbath and a bigger butt-kicking than the Minnesota Vikings received in the playoffs. The game got out of hand early as Fred Warner sacked Aaron Rodgers on the opening possession, and that turned into a fumble recovery for Nick Bosa. The 49ers scored the next play and never look back. The Packers didn’t cross midfield until 8:47 left in the third quarter. It was arguably the most complete game San Francisco played all season.

Mistakes

On Monday, Shanahan was asked what is teaching point is this week, knowing that you can take an opponent for granted after facing them a couple of months later. He said:

“Don’t be that stupid. That’s not real. This is about Sunday’s game. I could give a thousand stories of things like that, parts and plenty of games from my history that I’ve been a part of. I remember losing to Carolina 37-0 when they were 13-0 and we had to play them two weeks later and then we beat them at Atlanta and they ended up being 15-1 that year. There’s so many stories like that and this is the NFL. The game before never matters like that. There’s four teams left and it’s four very, very good teams. It’s going to be a hard game for all of us. Also, our players, the type of guys they are, the way they’ve been all year, I’m not concerned about that. They’ll have to answer that question, I’m sure, a lot, but I don’t think that’ll be a worry for our players, which means it won’t be for me.”

There are so many examples of this. In the 2010 divisional round playoffs, the Jets beat the Patriots after losing two months earlier to New England 45-3. You could probably pull dozens of examples like this.

The 49ers matched up well last week, and we saw how that game turned out, and it’s another favorable matchup against Green Bay. With that said, let’s look back at the mistakes the Packers made, and yes, the Niners played a hand in this. The question is, how sustainable was the performance in Week 12? Will San Francisco keep Rodgers and that offense from crossing the field for another half?

The box score is laughable. Rodgers threw the ball 33 times for 104 yards and took five sacks without Dee Ford playing a snap. Aaron Jones is one of the five best runners in football, in my opinion, and he averaged 2.9 yards a carry. Devante Adams is a top-10 receiver, and he was limited to 43 yards. The defense took away everything. It was like the Monstars in Space Jam’s level of dominance. San Francisco has been lights out on third down all season, but Green Bay went 1-15 on money downs. Thinking of who they have on offense, to go 2-18 on third and fourth downs, average 2.8 yards per play, and it wasn’t as if they were turning the ball over left and right. That fumble on the first possession by Rodgers was the lone turnover for Green Bay.

From Shanahan’s “don’t be stupid message,” to Richard Sherman feeling like he doesn’t receive credit, the 49ers leaders are doing everything they can to ensure the team is mentally sharp heading into this one. There will be no letdown like there was against Atlanta. Green Bay will be better because it’s tough to play worse than they did. That doesn’t mean they’re ready for the Niners.