The Green Bay Packers have become a familiar postseason foe for the San Francisco 49ers. Saturday marks the fifth time in San Francisco’s last six postseason appearances dating back to the Jim Harbaugh days of 2012 that the 49ers will play their rivals from the NFC North.
Oh, and the 49ers are 4-0 against Green Bay in the span, with two wins at home and two at Lambeau Field.
Levi’s Stadium will host on Saturday, where Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur will meet for the fifth time, with Shanahan leading the series 3-2 and winning both playoff games. But like Shanahan with Brock Purdy, LaFleur also has a new quarterback to introduce to the storied rivalry:
Of four quarterbacks. Packers quarterback Jordan Love was one of four quarterbacks this season to finish in the top 10 in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and TD/INT ratio.
There are a couple of statistical similarities between the Packers quarterback and Brock Purdy, one of the other three quarterbacks to accomplish the feat, with Dak Prescott and Baker Mayfield as the last two. Love and Purdy were also the only two quarterbacks this season to have at least five games with three or more passing touchdowns with no interceptions, matching each other with five such games. But let’s look at Love a bit closer.
He took his bumps in the first half of the season, averaging 223 yards per game with 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his first nine games. Love turned it around in the back half of the season, throwing for 269 yards per game with 18 touchdowns to just one interception, with the Packers going 6-2 over the last eight games, just sneaking into the NFC Playoffs.
The Packers have essentially played a month’s worth of elimination games, needing to win its last three games of the regular season to get into the playoffs, and the moment has yet to be too big for Love. In his previous four games - including the win against Dallas - Love has averaged 266 passing yards per game, completing 74 percent of his passes, throwing for ten touchdowns and no interceptions, easily the best four-game stretch of the quarterback’s young career.
Love’s last four games have been against the Panthers, Vikings, Bears, and Cowboys - defenses that pale compared to the 49ers’ defense - but Love is hot, and that’s a cause for concern.
Team. The Packers became the first team in NFL history to have four rookies finish with 30 or more receptions.
Aaron Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay partly because of the Packers’ inability to get receivers around Davante Adams. What Rodgers saw as an issue, Love saw as an opportunity, and in just one season, Green Bay now has a receiving corps with a bright future.
With the youthful duo of Christian Watson (24 years old) and Romeo Doubs (23) in their second season, Green Bay drafted wide receivers Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks and selected tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft. The four rookie pass-catchers combined for 168 receptions for 2,081 yards, scoring on 14 of Love’s 32 passing touchdowns.
Doubs and Reed were also one of four receiving duos with eight or more receiving touchdowns this season, hauling in eight touchdown passes each. Watson finished with five receiving touchdowns in nine games, making Green Bay the second team in NFL history with three or more players under 24 with five or more receiving touchdowns in a season (Pittsburgh had four players in 2020).
The Green Bay passing attack could create issues for the 49ers’ defense, but the future is bright for the Packers’ offense.
Rushing yards per game. The Packers defense allowed 128.3 rushing yards per game, fifth-most in the league.
This is where Kyle Shanahan is going to attack on Saturday. While Green Bay’s pass defense is one of the best in the league, its run defense is one of the worst. The Packers allowed 100 or more rushing yards nine times in the regular season and 200 or more in a league-high four games. Green Bay also allowed a 100-yard rusher four times:
- Bijan Robinson, Week 2 - 124 rushing yards
- David Montgomery, Week 4 - 121
- Jaylen Warren, Week 10 - 101
- Isiah Pacheco, Week 13 - 110
The Packers’ defense allowed 123 rushing yards against Dallas’ 14th-ranked rushing attack, and it won’t get any easier in Santa Clara. The 49ers run offense finished third in the league, averaging 140.5 rushing yards per game, nearly 30 yards better than Dallas. San Francisco also had 16 games with at least 100 or more rushing yards but didn’t have a 200-yard game this season. But Christian McCaffrey had seven games with 100 or more rushing yards - most in the league - and will be the best running back the Green Bay defense will have to face all season.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense has averaged 125 rushing yards in the five games against Green Bay since 2019, and those were without McCaffrey. There is no bigger mismatch than the 49ers run offense against the Packers run defense.