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Three keys to victory vs. Packers: Containing both Aarons

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Good Jimmy needs to show up

Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Say it with me, faithful, “One more game!” There’s just one more game before there’s only one more game. That game, of course, being the National Football Conference Championship Game (NFCCG). Even when coaching, I’ve always had this very mindset to ensure myself and the team didn’t look past the most important game, which is the next game.

Since you’re in the passenger seat and we’re having this conversation, that means the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round last week to advance to the NFCCG this Sunday, January 19th, 2020.

That said, welcome to (or back to) the Silverado, and thanks for riding with your boy Kev. As always, it’s safety first, so go ahead and click that seat belt in, and we’ll be on our way. During this second playoff edition victory ride, we’ll briefly discuss the victory over Minnesota (27-10), and yes, per usual I’ve loaded highlights from the win the impressive win last week.

Whether you saw the game (live or on tv) or not, now it’s time to shift your focus to the present. The only thing that matters now is the rematch vs. the Packers Sunday in the NFCCG, nothing else. So what will it take for General Manager John Lynch, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, and the 49ers to cook up another masterful performance to defeat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for a second time?

First and foremost, it’ll take the team to replicate the performance from week 12 when they smoked the Packers 37-8, this time with some reinforcements. As silly as that may sound, that week 12 win means nothing and everything (simultaneously) in terms of the outcome of this current game now that the playoffs have started. So do me a favor. For now, focus on the reality of this being the playoffs and the NFCCG and a whole new situation. It’s time to do it again! Let’s get to it.

Eliminate Aaron Jones and play dominant yet disciplined pass defense

By now, I’m sure you know how I am. I’m humble and non-bias as they come in terms of the 49ers as I can speak to both the good and not so good. But there’s no other way to say it. This 49ers defense went full Bill Belichick and took what they did best from them! It was truly a thing of beauty to watch this 49ers defense to throttle Rodgers and the Packers the way they did.

Rodgers truly looked mediocre at best. Now, of course, with the performance the 49ers defense had back in week 12, it’s easy to say “just do it again.” Let’s talk some numbers.

Adam Jones, Aaron Rodgers, and Devonte Adams had a combined for a total of 145 yards and 1 TD. Here are the stat lines for each in week 12: Jones 13 rushes for 38 yards, 2.92 yards per carry. By eliminating Jones, it put the pressure on Rodgers to perform, but so did the 49ers defense.

With Jones coming up missing and showing up on a milk carton, the Rodgers to Adams connection needed to be on full display, but it wasn’t. Rodgers finished 20/33 (60.61%) 104 yards 1 TD. Adams finished with seven receptions (12 targets) for 43 yards 1 TD. Below is a clip of what Rodgers’ night looked like.

As you can see, it was hard to smile for their big three as they were truly all but silenced by this 49ers defense. The pass rush harassed Rodgers all night and dropped five times. Some (Packers fans and 49ers naysayers) say the Packers playing without left tackle Bryan Bulaga for most of the game with an injury is the reason the pass rush recorded five sacks. And you know what? I agree.

It should’ve been more than five sacks, but the defense was missing Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander. That said, I’ll see them not having Bulaga and raise them not having both Ford and Alexander. Why does that matter? Refer to the below tweet.

Though Nick Bosa was on the field and was held to just one sack in week 12, he was still very disruptive. Per the numbers, you see how it works out when that big three is on the field together.

In terms of how having Ford on the field helps, I’ll just allow you to look at the numbers.

GO GET HIM, FELLAS! In the words of Brian Baldinger, aka Baldy, “It’s shark week!” So go feast!

Establish (make them respect) the run, but make them pay for it

It’s common knowledge the 49ers like to and can run the ball as they enter the game with the 2nd ranked (144.1 yards per game) rushing offense. The best part of that is the luxury of it opening up the play-action (PA) game and the middle of the field vs. this vaunted Packers top-ranked pass rush.

As dangerous as the combination of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida can be, this offense can also burn you via the PA game, especially in the middle of the field.

As you can see, even with the presence of the elite pass-rushing duo of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith off the edge, and Kenny Clark in the middle, this Packers defense has its weaknesses. Thing is, their shortcomings are the strengths of the 49ers offense.

Seeing as how the Packers defense are susceptible to passes between the numbers, pre-snap motion, PA, and allow 120.1 rushing yards per game (ranked 23rd), the 49ers offense should be able to do as they please vs. the Packers defense, especially if they get the run going and can keep Jimmy Garappolo clean.

I know George Kittle is the biggest threat of this 49er passing game and rightly so.

But don’t forget that Deebo Samuel,

or even Kendrick Bourne......

can make plays as well. Also not to be forgotten, Emmanuel Sanders and Kyle Juszczyk can attack any part of the field in the passing game as well, especially if the run game is clicking. I expect to see Shanahan and this offense in rare form regardless of who gets the touches.

More Good Jimmy, less Bad Jimmy

Okay, Jimmy, here we are. Yet again, you have the opportunity to prove further the doubters wrong. Even though still under heavy scrutiny from most media pundits, you’re 21-5 as a starter and one game away from the Super Bowl. But somehow, as Colin Cowherd discusses, most are still on his helmet like a decal because he’s not a stat freak.

Just keep playing confident and smart football Jimmy. Most importantly, just keep winning! You know, the Good Jimmy traits. As Nick Wright eluded to, just protect the ball. You’re here for a reason Jimmy!

We know Jimmy can make big throws, improvise with timely scrambles and win because we’ve watched him do it. You have playmakers around you, Jimmy; you’re not alone. No need to try and win it alone. Yes, he’s made some bad decisions by throwing ill-advised passes that result in interceptions, but more often than not, he’s solid.

You got this, Jimmy, go out there and be legendary! Sound, clean football Jimmy and all will be well. Just one more game before there’s just one more game, Jimmy. Go finish it!

We’ve arrived

So long as our 49ers go in here and be legendary, I’ll see you again for one more ride. For now, it’s time to go in here and leave it all on the field for another 60 minutes. On offense, protect the ball, make every possession count, and keep the Packers on their side of the line of scrimmage, thus out the face of Jimmy. Make the defense have to account for everybody that’s lined up, keeping them off balance.

On defense, shut down their big three. Constantly pressure Rodgers (shark week), maintain gap integrity stuffing Jones, and play sound coverage on the back end, keeping Adams quiet.

I look for the Packers to try and adjust their offense to short/quick passes, screens, bootlegs, and heavy PA trying to catch defense out of position. But with as much as the defense has seen and even been burned by this approach, I expect them to be ready, especially having and Alexander and Ford back.

And in the words of Colin Cowherd, “All the boys are healthy again, you don’t want any part of them. You want no parts of San Francisco; they look different.”

As always, it was a pleasure, and thanks for riding. Go ahead and head in, and I’ll catch up with you later. Let’s watch our 49ers complete the sweep of these Packers, continue this special season, and move one game closer to bringing home a sixth Lombardi Trophy, thus ending the quest for six. LET’S GO NINERS! BE LEGENDARY!