One more game.
Just one more game and the 49ers are back in the NFC Championship.
The first order of business is handling another historic rival in the Packers, although the 49ers and the Packers have rekindled that rivalry in the past 10 years off and on with the 49ers OWNING Green Bay.
However, things are different this time around.
The playing field is not on near or equal footing as it has been in other playoff matchups between the two sides. The 49ers are having to play a consecutive road game on a shorter week, while the Packers have been resting up.
To beat the Packers, the 49ers will need to continue what they do best. Run the football and play suffocating defense. But that alone isn't enough to pull the upset at Lambeau field. Jimmy Garoppolo will need to make a handful of impact plays and take care of the football.
Garoppolo is the key to the 49ers defeating the Packers.
Against the Cowboys, Garoppolo had a solid first half. His throws were connecting well and consistently. He was part of why the 49ers offense was driving smoothly.
That did not sustain itself in the second half.
Garoppolo would play quite putridly in that half and single-handedly give the Cowboys life. His lone interception was what gifted the Cowboys their only touchdown in the game. If it wasn't for his errant play in the second half, the 49ers would have cakewalked to a win. Instead, they had to play high intensity football to not allow the Cowboys to tie it in the end.
The 49ers should have never been in that spot and it was all thanks to Garoppolo. A performance like that will not slide in Green Bay. The Packers are significantly better. They will make the 49ers pay more for the mistakes of Garoppolo, which is likely to happen. Garoppolo is second-worst among starters when it comes to turnover-worthy plays at 4.6 percent, per Pro Football Focus.
Even if Garoppolo is just a game manager, which he is more times than not, the Packers can still emerge victorious. It isn't impossible to win by having Garoppolo be careful all game, it just doesn't instill confidence in a win.
Garoppolo will need to have some moments in this game.
Back in Week 3 against Green Bay, the 49ers needed Garoppolo to do more. Yes, I understand the whole offense was massively different. Deebo Samuel is much more valuable and Elijah Mitchell was out. But both of their roles have nothing to do with the lack of push from the offensive line. The Packers' front dominated the 49ers' offensive line. If something similar happens, then the demand for Garoppolo to throw increases.
Then there is the chance of the defense having a lapsed drive or two where the Packers score touchdowns. Garoppolo could also be asked to deliver more as a result of that as well. Ultimately, to avoid the game being put too much in Garoppolo's hands, the 49ers need to commit to the run and be effective. I don't envision that going too smoothly. At some point, I believe Garoppolo is going to have to make a handful of plays.
And that is where my belief in a 49ers win dwindles.
The factor that tips the scales in the Packers' favor for me is because of Garoppolo. Trusting him is just not wise, especially with his playoff history. To expect him to suddenly look solid for a whole game with an injury riddled throwing arm is delusional. I'm sure he'll have his moments as he always does, but then there is going to be his moments where he flips the game on it's head.
Beating the Packers is not impossible. There is a legitimate chance to do so and there are great cases to be made for the 49ers to win. But it isn't one I am willing to make on this and it all stems with Garoppolo.
Unless the 49ers can have a legendary ground game against the Packers again, they are going to lose at the hands of Garoppolo's failures.