NFL

Packers out to avoid another playoff nightmare against upstart 49ers

By Sports Desk January 19, 2022

The San Francisco 49ers prevailed in the Wild Card round as they renewed a storied rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. Now, they will be underdogs again as they lock horns with a postseason foe more familiar to them in recent years.

While the Niners' 23-17 upset win over the Cowboys was the first postseason meeting between the two teams since the 1994 campaign, playoff clashes between San Francisco and the Green Bay Packers have been more habitual of late.

Green Bay and the 49ers have faced off in the postseason in every decade since their first playoff meeting in the 1995 campaign, last doing so on January 19, 2020 when San Francisco won a 37-20 rout in the NFC Championship Game.

That scoreline carried on a trend in this matchup. The 49ers and Packers have split their eight all-time meetings in the postseason, but the Niners have won each of the last three. In those three games, they have outscored Green Bay by an average of 11.3 points (35.0-23.7). 

Saturday's game at Lambeau Field is expected to be much closer, with most backing the top-seeded Packers to turn the tide.

Green Bay won the Week 3 matchup at Levi's Stadium, though the Packers needed a last-gasp field goal from Mason Crosby, following some vintage Aaron Rodgers heroics, to avoid defeat.

Rodgers is the favourite to retain the NFL's MVP award and enters this game in blistering form. 

He has thrown for multiple touchdowns and no interceptions in each of his last seven games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history (Tom Brady, nine straight in 2010).

The three-time MVP threw 37 touchdowns and just four picks this season, the most passing touchdowns with four interceptions or fewer in a single season all-time. 

Yet Rodgers is going against a Niners defense playing its best football of the season. San Francisco held the Cowboys' number one-ranked offense (407 yards per game) to 307 total yards, with Dak Prescott completing only 53.5 per cent of his passes as he was pressured more than any other quarterback in the Wild Card round, coming under duress 25 times.

San Francisco's deep defensive front would appear to have the edge this weekend, too. The 49ers' finished the regular season ranked first in Stats Perform's pass rush win rate metric - boasting a win rate of 32.6 per cent - while the Packers were 23rd with a pass protection win rate of 72.6 per cent.

The Packers will hope the potential return of left tackle David Bakhtiari can redress the balance but if it does not then the contest could tilt in the favour of San Francisco. When under pressure this season, Rodgers completed 49.6 per cent of his passes. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts under duress, the only two to fare worse were rookies Zach Wilson (41.7 per cent) and Trevor Lawrence (45.7 per cent).

If the Niners pressure Rodgers and get the Packers behind the chains and playing catchup on the scoreboard, then they will look to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground with All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and rookie running back Elijah Mitchell.

Samuel scored the first rushing touchdown by a 49ers receiver in postseason history to put San Francisco 23-7 ahead against the Cowboys, while his 72 yards on the ground were the most in the playoffs by any wideout in the Super Bowl era.

Mitchell rushed for 96 yards last weekend, a 49ers rookie playoff record. The Niners are 7-1 when Mitchell rushes for at least 75 yards this season and 1-3 when he plays and does not.

A long night may be in store for the 49ers and their secondary should Rodgers stay on schedule, and that could mean history for his favourite target, Davante Adams.

Adams has had exactly nine receptions in each of his last three playoff games. That is tied for the longest streak of postseason games with nine-plus catches in NFL history (Julian Edelman, 2015-2016).

With at least nine catches in four of his five games against San Francisco (regular and postseason), he is a strong bet to break that record. Adams failing to do so would be a major indicator of Green Bay suffering another nightmare against a team that has continually haunted them in the playoffs.

Related items

  • Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing

    Cagliari were relegated from Serie A after only managing a draw against Venezia as Salernitana retained their top-flight status despite being thrashed by Udinese.

    Salernitana looked in serious danger of going down when Davide Nicola took charge in February, sitting bottom of the table with three wins from 23 games.

    Nicola inspired a resurgence, though, with his side picking up 15 points in a run of seven league games to head into the final matchday two points clear of Cagliari.

    However, Udinese were rampant as Gerard Deulofeu, Ilija Nestorovski and Iyenoma Destiny Udogie put Nicola's side 3-0 down before half-time on Sunday.

    Udinese captain Roberto Pereyra added a fourth after the interval as the Friulians achieved their best Serie A points haul (47) since the 2012-13 season (66).

    That meant Cagliari would have stayed up with a win at already-relegated Venezia, but Alessandro Agostini's could only muster a draw as the Rossoblu were relegated to Serie B for the sixth time in their history.

    Cagliari's failure handed Salernitana their first-ever Serie A survival, having failed to do so on their other two attempts in 1947-48 and 1998-99.

    Salernitana also became the first team to stay up despite conceding at least 78 goals in a single top-flight campaign after Livorno (79 in 1929-30) and Lucchese (82 in 1947-48, 79 in 1949-50).

    Meanwhile, Cagliari join Venezia and Genoa in Serie B and the trio will aim to bounce straight back up next season.

  • Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display

    Mario Balotelli finished the Turkish Super Lig season in stunning fashion with the first five-goal haul in Adana Demirspor's top-flight history.

    Ninth in the table heading into Sunday, Balotelli's ADS had little to play for against already-relegated Goztepe but put on a show.

    Vincenzo Montella's side ran out 7-0 winners, with Balotelli hitting five to finish the season on 18 league goals – behind only Kasimpasa's Umut Bozok (20).

    The Italy international's outstanding display represented a club first, while Alex in May 2011 had been the last Super Lig player to net five in a match, for Fenerbahce against Ankaragucu.

    This was Balotelli's first hat-trick since scoring three for Manchester City against Aston Villa in December 2010, making him the first foreign player to hit a treble for ADS.

    As if these achievements were not enough, Balotelli's fifth goal was an outrageous effort perhaps set to be considered for the FIFA Puskas Award.

    Seven step-overs tied Atakan Cankaya – who had earlier scored an own goal – in knots, finally working space seemingly for a left-footed shot before the striker executed a sublime right-footed rabona finish across the goalkeeper and into the bottom-right corner.

    "Five goals for me today," Balotelli posted on Instagram. "There was no better way to finish the championship! Thank you to everyone."

  • Barcelona 0-2 Villarreal: Xavi's side end season with dire defeat Barcelona 0-2 Villarreal: Xavi's side end season with dire defeat

    Barcelona's season ended with a whimper as Villarreal sealed a 2-0 LaLiga win at Camp Nou on Sunday.

    The Catalan club's spot in next season's Champions League was secured earlier in May, yet Xavi will be disappointed his side have ended the campaign with just a solitary point from their final two games.

    They went behind late in the first half through Alfonso Pedraza's strike, before Moi Gomez sealed maximum points for Unai Emery's men in the second half.  

    The result meant second-placed Barca ended the campaign a whopping 13 points behind champions Real Madrid, while Villarreal finished seventh.

    Adama Traore flashed over and Ferran Torres was denied by Geronimo Rulli inside a bright opening 10 minutes for the hosts.

    Barca looked the more likely to open the scoring inside the opening half hour, yet all they had to show for their dominance was a Sergio Busquets strike that flew narrowly over the crossbar.

    The inability to take advantage of their superiority was punished four minutes before the interval as Alfonso Pedraza latched onto Daniel Parejo's pass and steered past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

    Villarreal doubled their advantage in the 55th minute when Gomez lashed into the roof of net after cutting out Traore's dismal attempted clearance. 

    Frenkie de Jong had an effort ruled out for offside late on as Barca tried in vain to find their way back into the game. 

    What does it mean? Villarreal end dire run against insipid hosts

    Xavi has done well to steady the Barca ship after a chaotic start to the season, yet he will be disappointed with the way his players' intensity has dropped off in the final two games of the season.

    Victory for Villarreal, meanwhile, ended a run of 10 straight LaLiga defeats at Camp Nou, which was their worst run of successive away losses against a single opponent in the competition's history.

    Pass master Parejo

    Parejo's superb pass for Pedraza's goal saw him move level with Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain and Barca's Jordi Alba as LaLiga's top assister this season (10). It is the most he has ever achieved in his 14 seasons playing in the Spanish top flight.

    Torrid time for Traore

    Barca are not expected to take up the option of turning Traore's loan move from Wolves into a permanent one and it was not hard to see why on this evidence. The 26-year-old offered nothing in attack and was directly responsible for Villarreal's second goal – his last act before being hauled off for Ousmane Dembele.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.