Rivalry week continues, as this time, we take a look at the three playoff games from the 2010s between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. Last decade, both teams met nine times with the Niners winning six of those matchups. Here are the quarterbacks the Packers beat: Troy Smith (he went 10-25), Colin Kaepernick (that was in 2015 with Tomsula as coach), C.J. Beathard (Green Bay still allowed 30 points.)
Yesterday, my bias in favor of Steve Young showed when reliving the three NFC Championship games from the ‘90s. Today, as you can already tell, you’ll see, I do not like the Packers. I have some close friends that are Packers fans, and they are equally as obnoxious as Seahawks fans. To make matters worse, I don’t know how else to say this; they’re just not a smart bunch. The good news is I can send them box scores of games that mattered last decade with Green Bay on the losing side of everyone. Let’s start with the 2012 Divisional Playoff game.
Kap’s coming out party
Kap won nine games as a starter in 2012 during the regular season and had his fair share of impressive performances, but there was a lot of “let’s wait and see if he can do it when it counts” commentary. The Niners drew the Packers in the first round of the playoffs, and Kap is still running.
The game didn’t start so hot as Kaepernick’s second pass of the game was not only late, but it was across his body, and that resulted in Sam Shields having a pick-six to give Green Bay an early lead. For a young quarterback, an early turnover can be detrimental to their confidence, which usually results in them playing tentatively. Colin didn’t back down. A 3rd & 2 conversion thanks to a Tramon Williams pass interference aided San Francisco, but the following third down set the tone. Kaepernick didn’t have anywhere to go with the ball, so he used his legs to buy more time. It was 3rd & 10, so it was going to be tough to run for a first down. He found Frank Gore streaking up the sideline for a gain of 45. Three plays later, on another 3rd & long, Kap decided to use his legs and sprinted past the Packers for a 20-yard touchdown.
How much did your confidence change from Kap’s second throw to this run? Also, if I’m a defensive coordinator in this situation after seeing a quarterback in-person for the first time move this fast, I know I’m in trouble.
The Packers had a 14-7 lead and were set to get the ball back early in the second quarter, but Jeremy Ross muffed a punt. Kaepernick found Crabtree on a slant on third and goal that tied the game at 14. Tarrell Brown intercepted Aaron Rodgers, and a big return gave the offense great field position. Another third-down conversion, this time by Kap’s legs, moved the chains. But Colin received a taunting penalty for...lightly spiking/throwing the ball? Anyway, that didn’t matter as Kaepernick hit Crabtree on a rope for a 20-yard touchdown. Rodgers would score on the following possession, thanks in part to a helmet-to-helmet penalty from Dashon Goldson. That tied the game at 21. David Akers would hit a field goal before the half after Kaepernick ran for a first down on 3rd & 10 to give San Francisco a three-point lead headed into halftime.
After a Mason Crosby field goal that tied the game at 24, Kaepernick ran for a 56-yard touchdown that I would pay to see what NextGen Stat’s GPS/MPH tracker would have clocked him at. Kaepernick’s top speed on a few runs in this game were video game-like. The 49ers converted nine of their first 11 third downs, which ultimately made the difference. One of those came at the end of the first when San Francisco didn’t have time.
Kaepernick came through time and time again in this game. Even his non-touchdown plays were highlights. Do you remember the seam pass to Vernon Davis in the third quarter? That was the definition of a dime. Delanie Walker made a few plays, and Gore was Gore. This game was as dominant and explosive of an offensive performance as you’ll see.
The next year, both teams met in the wildcard round of the playoffs. This time, the game was at Lambeau field and, at the time, was the seventh-coldest game in NFL history. The game “felt like -14 degrees.” The first notable play in this game came when Jim Harbaugh decided to go for it on 4th & 6, and Kap found Crabtree on what looked like a busted coverage for a big gain. The Packers got away with a blatant pass interference, and the 49ers had to settle for three points. Kaepernick threw an awful interception as the Niners were driving that kept Green Bay in the game. The Packers turned that into a touchdown after Rodgers found Jordy Nelson in the end zone to give the home team a 7-6 lead. A 42-yard run by Kap put the 49ers in scoring position, and Gore punched it in from ten yards out. The 49ers led 13-10 at the half.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter, and the Packers go for it on 4th and 2 from the 30-yard line. Rodgers somehow escapes the grasp of Ray McDonald to find Randall Cobb for a first down. Green Bay would wind up scoring and taking a 17-13 lead. On the next possession, the Packers had a chance to get the ball back on 3rd & 4, but No. 7 found a way to make a play. A 24-yard run put the 49ers in scoring position. On the next play Kap looked off the safety and threw a back shoulder seam to Davis to put San Francisco back on top. Some of these throws, man. That pass made the score 20-17.
Kap wasn’t the only quarterback making plays. Rodgers continued to use his legs to buy extra time and avoid defenders, but their offense stalled on third and goal, and Green Bay settled for a field goal to make the score 20-20. Kap got lucky as Micah Hyde dropped an interception. On a key 3rd & 8, Kaepernick broke the defenses contain for a first down. Gore would convert two first downs on this drive, and ultimately Phil Dawson would kick the game-winning field goal. This game didn’t have the same theatrics as the 2012 playoff game, but there was plenty of excitement.
Big brother vs. Little brother
The 2020 NFC Championship game was over as soon as Green Bay punted on 4th & 1. No matter what they say during the press conferences, coaches are aware of who the better team is. A touchdown favored San Francisco after blowing out the Packers during the season. If the Packers don’t convert, the Niners have to drive 50 yards. Instead, Green Bay punts, and three plays later, the 49ers are on the Packers 38-yard line. Seriously, what did they think would happen? Raheem Mostert scored on a trap play on 3rd & 8, and that was all I needed to see. You could feel the energy in the stadium shift, and Green Bay wasn’t the same until it was far too late.
The Packers didn’t get into 49ers territory until midway through the second quarter, but DeForest Buckner stripped Rodgers, and the Packers missed out on a golden opportunity to score. Rodgers looked pedestrian all game, while Mostert ran for, and don’t quote me on this, 629 yards and all of the touchdowns. A 37-20 final score doesn’t do justice for how one-sided this game was. What we learned last decade was Green Bay was no match for San Francisco when it mattered.