The Green Bay Packers’ worst loss of the season came to the San Francisco 49ers in a 38-7 blowout back in week 12. Aaron Rodgers finished the game going 20-33 for just 104 yards passing, while the team gained 198 total yards and went 1-for-15 on third down. Needless to say, they were terrible. Luckily, the Packers have given themselves another shot at beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday. Matt LaFleur needs an innovative game plan to stay ahead of 49ers Head Coach, Kyle Shanahan. Here are 5 ways he can do that:
1. Go to a no-huddle offense, early
Everyone who has watched the Packers knows that if Rodgers gets into a rhythm throwing the football, he can’t be stopped. One of the ways to do that is going to a no-huddle offense. The 49ers defensive front is the best in the NFL, so if they’re going to rush hard on every play, let them come but don’t let them rest. Being able to effectively run the football with Aaron Jones will help create long drives in an effort to tire out their defense early. Green Bay needs to score early and make the 49ers play from behind. Because their pass rush is so relentless, Rodgers needs to set the tone early with a high-percentage short passing attack that allows him to get the ball out quickly.
An early score would help take the Levi’s Stadium crowd out of the game in the 1st quarter, unlike their last meeting where Rodgers fumbled the ball on the first drive of the game, leading directly to a quick 49ers touchdown. In week 12, Aaron Jones averaged only 2.9 yards per carry and didn’t catch a single pass. By going to a no-huddle attack, the Packers can create confusion by spreading out Jones in the slot. This will create 1-on-1 mismatches against the 49ers’ linebackers. Green Bay has had success in every game where Jones is catching passes and with Davante Adams most likely being blanketed by Richard Sherman, putting Jones in the slot offers Rodgers another much-needed weapon at the wide receiver position.
2. Offensive line needs to hold up (just enough)
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has had 3 weeks of rest due to the bye week and an illness that kept him out of the Divisional game against the Seahawks. He missed most of the previous match up back in week 12 when he had to leave in the 1st quarter due to ankle injury. With Alex Light on the field, San Francisco’s front four sacked Rodgers 5 times on the day. Screen passes to Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones will keep San Francisco’s defensive line honest and make them think twice about coming hard each and every snap. Right guard Billy Turner will need to be sharp with his blocking assignments because he’ll be lining up against excellent tackles DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, or ends Dee Ford and Nick Bosa if they shift inside. Look for C Corey Linsley to help out Turner if he gets overwhelmed with the pressure.
3. Catch Jimmy Garoppolo’s interceptions
The 49ers quarterback is susceptible to throwing into traffic and making questionable decisions. He had 13 interceptions in 2019 and threw three potential interceptions against the Vikings in the Divisional game. However, only one was caught by LB Erik Kendricks. Kyle Shanahan’s offense primarily uses the middle of the field for the majority of their throws to attack linebackers. That’s when Garoppolo usually looks for TE George Kittle, so Blake Martinez needs to capitalize on those opportunities. The Packers will need at least two turnovers from Jimmy G for a chance to win this game.
4. Must stop the run
The Packers currently rank 23rd in rushing defense this year and it’s been their Achilles heel in each of their three losses this season. San Francisco’s three running backs, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, have each rushed for more than 500 yards in 2019. Ball control and time of possession is important for Packers and it can’t happen unless Kenny Clark can clog up the middle of the line. This also keeps Jimmy Garoppolo in the pocket more and increases his throwing attempts, thus increasing the Packers chances for interceptions.
5. Special teams/trick plays
LaFleur better have some trick plays in his back pocket for this game. Not only on special teams, but also on potential two-point conversions. Traditionally, the Packers have always had very conservative special teams play. However, against a juggernaut like the 49ers, a fake punt by J.K. Scott or a reverse WR throw from Davante Adams on a two-point conversion might be necessary. They will need everything at their disposal to win this game.