As you know, I write for the fans, from a fan's point of view. Right now, I'm stoked! In dominant fashion, the Packers ended the Minnesota Viqueens season. And, thus, another chapter in the rich rivalry between the Packers and the 49ers will be written this Saturday Night. A couple of vibes from the Wild Card Victory:
* Go for the throat, Irishman! I don't understand why McCarthy gets passive in a win-or-else scenario. At 24-3, it was unlikely that Minnesota was coming back. Sure, I agreed that running clock was vital. But, it shouldn't come at the expense of taking our offense out of it's rhythm. Short passes to WR's in space would work just fine.
* Loved the intensity of the fans at Lambeau. Felt the buzz through the TV screen. Goodness abound! BLESS!
* Welcome back, Sir Charles Woodson! Callme crazy, but one of the biggest plays in the game was 2nd & 5 from the Green Bay 13 on the Viqueens first drive of the game. In the 8-plus quarters that we had played the 'queens, we showed an inability to stop AP. Then, Sir Charles bursts through the double team and drops AP for a 2-yard loss. The defensive intensity and momentum shifted. Suddenly, we were dominating the line of scrimmage. Sir Charles, you are the Lion in this Kingdom!
* If Erik Walden & BJ Raji play as they did vs Minnesota, we're going to be really tough to beat. Well done, men! Beastly performance.
* Either AP or Peyton Manning will win the NFL's MVP, but Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's best player. IF we let him carry us, we'll be Super Bowl Champs. I firmly believe that.
* DuJuan Harris. Keep it up, mate. And if you do, you deserve a key to the City! He led the team with 5 catches. Moreover, he totaled 100 yards. He was a tremendous dump-off option. Patient, yet running with a vengeance.
* Be Great, Greg Jennings!
* Welcome back, Randall Cobb.
* Move sticks, J-Mike!
* KUUUHHHHHHHNNNNN! Remember how valuable he was in the XLV Run? If not, hopefully, that was a reminder. That said, please eliminate the FB dive.
* Jeremy Ross, once again, impressed in the return game.
* Love Jordy on the crossing route.
* T-Mon ups his intensity.
* The Claymaker is as valuable of a defensive player as there is in the NFL.
* Sammy Swagga playing at Pro Bowl levels!
* Brad Jones has his limitation, but his effort is great. Leaves his soul on the field on a weekly basis.
* Dom Capers deserves a Game Ball! Loved the way he adjusted. Kept the defensive energy at positive levels. Mixed up his looks. Loved how he intertwined Neal & Clay. Even though Neal has been relatively ineffective when he's standing up.
* I was satisfied with the entire OL unit. If they can play at that level for 12 more quarters, it'll be a SUPER offseason.
* It's great to have Aaron Rodgers as the Quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.
* Tom Clements, please don't leave. Same to you, John Dorsey. You're both valued and appreciated!
* Stay true, Mason Crosby.
* Kind vibes to you, Casey Hayward.
* Can someone please make a special teams tackle on kickoffs?
Green Bay at San Francisco. At the Stick. Saturday Night. Prime Time. If I am dreaming, Lord, please don't let me open my eyes. I'm confident. I believe the Packers are going to win. In convincing fashion. Seriously. I do. Eerily, I almost feel overconfident. Until I heard the potential weather conditions,I felt better playing in SF than I did playing MN last week. Generally speaking, I felt the Packers are better suited to play at the Stick in January than they are for playing at Lambeau. Even with the storied SF tradition and the rowdy SF fans. We're road tested. Battle tested. We've shown our mental mettle. We're fit to punch them in the mouth. For 60 minutes.
If the last two decades are any indication, this is going to be a game to remember. It's worth a trip down memory lane:
In the 1995 playoffs, the Packers were underdogs as they entered the Stick. Adam Walker fumbles after being popped by Wayne Simmons. Craig Newsome scoops it up. It was 21-3 at the Half. It finished 27-17. After this game, for the first time in my life, I believed the Packers could win a Super Bowl.
In the 1996 regular season, the Packers and Niners played a thriller on Monday Night. Down 17-6 at the half, the Packers stormed back in the second half. The beneficiary of a blown referee call, the Packers were in striking distance late. Chris Jacke was good from 31 yards with 8 seconds left to tie it. In OT, Jacke was perfect from 53 yards. Behind 11 catches for 220 yards from Don Beebe, the Packers were victorious, 23-20.
The '96 playoffs featured one of the most fun games I've ever attended. Desmond Howard was magic and put the Packers in position for 14 points with two electrifying TD's. The Packers marched to the NFC Championship with a 35-14 victory.
The Packers and Niners met at the Stick in the 1997 NFC Championship. The Packers dominated throughout and left with a 23-10 victory. The Niners did not score an offensive TD.
In the regular season in 1998, they met in Green Bay. Travis Jervey was a gem. He rushed for 95 yards and a game clinching 11 yard TD run. Antonio Freeman was a stallion as he caught 7 balls for 193 yards.
The '98 playoffs featured the Packers v SF at the Stick in the Wild Card. Rice fumbles. Packers recover. Game over. Or so we thought. The ref blows the call. Says Rice was down. Steve Young to TO. 49ers victory. Devastation.
In the 2001 playoffs, SF traveled to Lambeau. Mostly remembered for the unbelievable deflection by Mike McKenzie. It was 18-15 midway through the 4th Quarter. It appeared as though SF was moving in for a score. Jeff Garcia had TO running down the sideline. TO had a step on Mike McKenzie. At the last moment, McKenzie got his hand in the air and knocked the ball into the air. Drive-by Tyrone Williams came down with the interception. Favre went to work. Green Bay won 25-15.
In 2002, we saw TO bust out the pom poms at the Stick. The Packers defense was stellar. Green Bay won 20-14.
In 2010, we witnessed what was arguably the best individual effort in my lifetime. Donald Driver's 61-yard TD was a thing of beauty. Never to be forgotten. Green Bay rolled, 34-16.
Yes, there have been many moments. Fun games. Mostly Packers wins. And, then this year, the vibe changed. In the season opener, SF came to Lambeau and left victoriously. They dominated Green Bay. They more more physical. More athletic. Plainly stated, they were the better team.
In mid-December, it was hard for me to envision a scenario in which the Packers would beat the NYG, SF or Denver in a playoff battle. I couldn't picture the Packers OL protecting Rodgers enough to win. But, things have changed. Don Barclay has improved our run blocking. So has EDS. Harris has provided a legitimate running threat. Justin Smith is playing with one arm. And, at times, in late December, the SF defense has looked winded.
Offensively, while Colin Kaepernick gives SF more diversity and big play potential, he has not brought the same consistency that was present with Alex Smith. Although Kaepernick's legs present a significant threat, he's occasionally been an erratic passing QB. And, while he's shown glimpses of brilliance, he's also shown that you can confuse him. Get creative, Dom Capers.
Don't get me wrong, SF is a formidable foe. They punish you. They can dominate with physicality. They bring high intensity to every play. Jim Harbaugh, like him or not, is a master of creating mismatches. He puts his players in position to succeed. He'll have some tricks up his sleeve. Harbaugh will utilize Gore and Kaepernick in the run-draw option formation that MN used so successfully on its first possession. The Packers will have to be prepared.
Harbaugh will get LaMichael James into space. It'll be important for the Packers to stand him up because if James gets loose, he won't be caught.
Although Kaepernick hasn't been utilizing Vernon Davis as much, it'll happen this week. Be ready, Sir Charles. Woodson did a great job of not biting on the play fake last week. He was glued to Rudolph, which helped the defensive frnt to make big plays as Joe Webb was late to get off of his 1st read.
Whoever is playing against Michael Crabtree better get in his face. SF runs a variety of short routes to Crabtree. They rely on his run after the catch ability. They run the slant with great success. If there's help over the top, I'd like to see T-Mon look to jump one of those slants. But, there has to be help as I can see a pump-fake and Crabtree sprinting down the sideline.
With injuries to Mario Manningham & Kyle Williams, we'll see a bundle of our old nemesis, Randy Moss. Historically, Moss has burned the Packers. This time, I like the was Sammy Swagga & T-Mon match up with him. They'll test us deep. Beware.
Frank Gore is tough to bring down. He's a machine. A possible HOF rusher. If he's held to under 100 yards as AP was last week, it'll be tough for SF to win. With the run-draw option, look for Gore to run between the tackles. It'll be important for the DL to hold its ground. Stick to your gaps. Don't be confused.
Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith absolutely crushed the Packers OL in Week 1. The 49ers also sent Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox on a variety of successful blitzes. The Packers will be better prepared this time.
In Week 1, Chris Culliver was an absolute stud. He manhandled all of our WR's in man-to-man coverage. Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner were absolute monsters.
Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis form the best LB tandem in the game.
If the Packers don't nut-up, it'll be frustrating.
Give the ball to Aaron Rodgers. Let him be a Superstar. Let Aaron Rodgers carry you, Mike McCarthy. Play with 3 wide. J-Mike up tight on the side of the field in which Aldon Smith is lined up. Chip Aldon Smith. Every play. Rodgers will need two dump off options. One being J-Mike. The other being the RB. At times, I look for it to be Harris. Other times, it'll be Kuhn. And, look for a bit of Cobb in the backfield as well. Don't be surprised if he's consistently used as a receiving option out of the backfield The Packers will have to mix it up.
Rodgers was great against MN. He was patient. He used the dump off. He got rid of the ball quickly. He was cerebral. He'll have to play this way again.
I expect to see a lot of John Kuhn as a blocking back. He'll also be a receiving option. Look for Kuhn, Harris and Cobb to combine for a minimum of 10 catches out of the backfield.
Glide on by, Greg Jennings. Glide on by. Make a big play. Change this game.
Joe Staley couldn't block the Claymaker in Week 1. I'd use Erik Walden, not Matthews, as the shadow for Kaepernick. Walden has done this before. In his best game as a Packer in Week 17 of the 2010 Season, Walden mostly shadowed Ray Nutler and came on delayed blitzes. I'd like to see him do the same this week. Don't hinder Clay as a pass rusher. Send CM3 directly after Kaepernick. One mission. Get the QB, Clay. Hopefully, Neal can get some pressure as well. But, importantly, have Walden shadow Kaepernick in an effort to prevent the big play with Kaepernick's legs.
I feel good. I think the Packers come out with a vengeance. And - one of the DB's makes a BIG play. I'm guessing T-Mon. In grand fashion. Possibly a Pick-6. Sir Charles has had great fortunes against young QB's. He, too, is a prime candidate for a monster, game-changing play.
I envision a big victory at the Stick. After all, if anyone in this world deserves to go out on top, it's Double-D. Does anyone have better karma coming to him than Quickie himself? Here's to you, Donald Driver! Go be a gunner and make a tackle, mate!
Don't let Ted Ginn beat us.
Green Bay 30. San Francisco 20.
Go Pack Go!