Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers Have a Chance to Exorcise Their Playoff Demons Against the San Francisco 49ers

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers officially know their opponent for the divisional round of the playoffs. The Packers, fresh off a bye, will play host to the San Francisco 49ers.

Of all the possible matchups, this is the one opponent that will strike fear straight into the hearts of Packers fans everywhere. Recent playoff matchups against the 49ers have not gone Green Bay’s way.

No matter how cold it will be, there will be demons and devils in the air at Lambeau Field.

It’s up to the Packers to dispel them.

The Green Bay Packers have had terrible playoff luck against the San Francisco 49ers as of late

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. the San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers rests between plays during the first half against the San Francisco 49ers | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If you were looking at the all-time matchup, the 49ers and Packers have actually had a very even rivalry in the postseason. This upcoming matchup at Lambeau Field will be the ninth time the two franchises have met in the playoffs. The current all-time series is tied, 4-4.

Here’s the issue for Green Bay. Though this has been a historically even matchup, it has been anything but for the Packers in recent memory.

The last time Green Bay beat the Niners in the playoffs was the Wild Card matchup in January of 2002. The Packers beat the 49ers, 25-15, at Lambeau Field, thanks to a two-touchdown performance from Brett Favre. The Packers went on to lose in the divisional round that season to the St. Louis Rams. That game will be forever stuck in the nightmares of Packers fans thanks to the six interceptions thrown by Favre in the loss.

Back to San Francisco, the 49ers have had Green Bay’s number in the postseason ever since Rodgers took over at quarterback. The two franchises have met three times in the playoffs with Rodgers under center. All three games have gone the 49ers’ way.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers haven’t just lost to San Francisco. They’ve lost ugly

The first matchup between Rodgers and the Niners in the playoffs was memorable not for what Rodgers did but what the Packers couldn’t do.

What the Packers, and specifically their defense, weren’t able to do that night in 2013 was stop San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had an iconic showing in the final postseason game at Candlestick Park.

Kaepernick threw for 263 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, but he forever made his mark because of what he did with his legs. He rushed 16 times that night as the Packers proved unable to stop San Francisco’s read-option running scheme, which was still new and innovative. Kaepernick averaged 11.3 yards per carry and finished with 181 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The Packers and 49ers met the next season in the Wild Card Round, with San Francisco again getting the best of Rodgers and the Pack. The two teams were tied at 20 late in the fourth quarter after a Mason Crosby field goal with 5:09 to go. The Packers kicked the ball back to San Francisco and never saw it again. Kaepernick and Frank Gore led a 14 play drive that bled the clock down to three seconds. The 49ers won the game on a last-second Phil Dawson field goal.

While both of those losses undoubtedly stung for Green Bay, the worst loss was easily the 2019 NFC Championship matchup that saw Green Bay lose, 37-20. The final score does not tell the real story of the game, because the Packers were absolutely pulverized by San Francisco.

Raheem Mostert ran for a franchise-record 220 yards with four touchdowns. The 49ers were so dominant on the ground that Jimmy Garoppolo only had to throw the ball eight times.

“Right now, they are the gold standard in the NFC,” head coach Matt LaFleur said of the 49ers after the game, according to ESPN.

The Packers have the chance to change the tide against the 49ers

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers Defensive End Nick Bosa (97) and Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) hugs at the end of an NFC Conference Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Can Aaron Rodgers finally get a postseason win against the 49ers? | Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Green Bay has had terrible luck against the 49ers as of late, but that doesn’t mean the Packers will be intimidated heading into this contest. They are the No. 1 seed, after all. They’re also getting healthy at the right time. Along with the core that won them the No. 1 seed and led them to a 13-4 record, the Packers are hoping to regain the services of star players like Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, and Za’Darius Smith just in time for a playoff run.

The Packers will be as close to full strength as they’ve been all season, but that doesn’t mean this will be easy.

The 49ers are red-hot coming off an upset win over the Dallas Cowboys that saw them put up 341 total yards of offense, including 169 on the ground. All-everything wide receiver Deebo Samuel only caught three catches for 38 yards, but he once again proved his ability to be a dual-threat, rushing 10 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Elijah Mitchell, playing in only his 12th game for the team, carried the load for the 49ers on the ground. He rushed an impressive 27 times for 96 yards and a touchdown.

That’s what Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers do, and that’s what they’ll plan to do against Green Bay to wear down the Packers’ defense and keep Rodgers on the sideline.

Ultimately, it will come down to whether or not the Packers can buckle up and stop that plan of attack, though the good news is that Green Bay did have the 13th best run defense in the league. They gave up just 112.8 yards per game on the ground.

Rodgers, and whether or not he can finally step up and beat the 49ers in the playoffs, will also play a significant role in this game. He played much of the regular season like he wanted to win his fourth MVP award, but as both he and the Packers know, none of that means anything in the postseason.

Both Rodgers and the Packers have demons they need to exorcise next weekend at Lambeau. They’ll be the ones running out of the visitor’s locker room.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. 

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