3 Keys to Victory for the 49ers in Week 12 vs. Packers
The NFL doesn’t always make the wisest decisions, but flexing this matchup to Sunday Night Football is pure genius. Both teams enter the contest as division leaders and only a game separates the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers for the NFC’s top playoff seed.
Last week, the 49ers were able to avoid a let down against the Cardinals, but this weekend brings in a much better opponent so the margin for error is razor-thin. San Francisco is firmly in the postseason picture and the outcome of this game won’t change that, but the team needs to start thinking about playoff position. Losing this matchup could not only cost the team home-field advantage but also a chance at a home playoff game.
As long as the Red and Gold accomplish these three keys, their status for January and February will remain intact.
For some, this might be breaking news but Aaron Rodgers is pretty good at this football thing. Stopping him is nearly impossible and sometimes limiting his possessions is the best way to accomplish that lofty goal. Winning the time of possession battle will not only keep one of the best players in the NFL off the field but also play into San Francisco’s strength and Green Bay’s weakness.
All year the Packers have struggled to stop the run and allow 126.9 yards per game which is the eighth-worst in the league. Conversely, the 49ers have the second-best rushing attack with 149 yards per game and have a stable of running backs to deploy. In Green Bay’s two losses (Eagles and Chargers) they have surrendered a total of 335 yards on the ground so clearly, the running the ball is the most effective way to attack their fairly decent defense.
The game plan should be pretty simple for head coach Kyle Shanahan. Use your team’s strength to attack your opponent’s weakness and simultaneously keep their most dangerous player off the field.
Cover the Backs
While wide receiver Davante Adams garners most of the attention in the Packers’ aerial attack, the team’s running backs cannot be ignored. Rookie head coach Matt LaFleur has effectively integrated both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the passing game. Jones is third on the team with 354 receiving yards and Williams leads Green Bay with five receiving touchdowns.
Covering those two is difficult for any team and San Francisco’s linebackers must be up for the task. Luckily Dre Greenlaw has strung together a few impressive performances and on the season he allows 4.2 yards per target and a passer rating of 58.1. However, the Arkansas product won’t be able to do it alone and the team will need strong performances from players like Fred Warner and Elijah Lee.
Hopefully on Sunday the Red and Gold won’t feel the side effects of losing Kwon Alexander, but the threat is certainly there.
Get the Momentum Going Early
Anyone who has ever put on a pair of shoulder pads knows that there is something different about games played under the lights where everyone is watching. Levi’s will be packed with about 70,000 fans waiting for a reason to scream their heads off. The 49ers need to get the home crowd into the game early and often.
Gaining some early momentum will allow San Francisco to build confidence and potentially give them a two-possession (or more) lead late in the game. Time after time Green Bay and Rodgers’ have shown the ability to string together impressive comebacks. As an opponent, there are two ways to prevent this from happening: play from behind late in the game or build an insurmountable lead throughout the contest. This is an assumption, but I think Shanahan and The Faithful would prefer the latter of the two.
If San Francisco can build an early lead and get the crowd into the game, the Packers’ confidence will diminish and players could start to feel defeated. In other words, an early lead could go a long way for the Red and Gold.