Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will face the San Francisco 49ers… (Andy Lyons / Getty Images )
When Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns to the Bay Area to face San Francisco on Saturday night, it will be a homecoming for him — with a twist.
His beloved 49ers passed on him with the first pick in the 2005 draft, selecting Alex Smith instead. Rodgers, who was a candidate for that prime draft slot, tumbled to 24th, where the Packers selected him.
Rodgers certainly isn't grousing about that now, having won a Super Bowl and a most-valuable-player award with Green Bay, yet he certainly has to love the opportunity he has this weekend. He's returning to Candlestick Park with a chance to knock off what used to be his favorite team. As a kid, he wore a Joe Montana T-shirt under his pads, and he grew up emulating Steve Young.
"It will be fun," Rodgers said this week. "I went to a few baseball games there growing up and saw a game there when I was in college. It will be loud, it will be a great environment, and it should be a good show for the fans."
Rodgers has won three playoff games on the road, two shy of the NFL record, and he was outstanding away from home this season, with 22 touchdown passes and just three passes intercepted.
San Francisco wide receiver Randy Moss has 10 postseason touchdown catches, tied for the third most in NFL playoff history.
With a touchdown catch against Green Bay on Saturday, Moss (10) would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff (10), Antonio Freeman (10) and Hines Ward (10) for the third-most postseason touchdown catches all time. He trails Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (22) and John Stallworth (12).
In his only playoff game against Green Bay (with Minnesota, wild card, Jan. 2, 2005), Moss had two touchdown catches.
The players with the most postseason touchdown receptions in NFL history:
PLAYER TEAM(S) TD Jerry Rice San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle 22 John Stallworth Pittsburgh 12 Randy Moss Minnesota, New England 10 Fred Biletnikoff Oakland 10 Antonio Freeman Green Bay, Philadelphia 10 Hines Ward Pittsburgh 10
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman of Fox, on the Packers trying to gain yards on the ground against San Francisco's stout defense: "This isn't the '85 Bears we're talking about, but it's hard to imagine the Packers being a team that's going to go in there to Candlestick and be able to run the ball effectively. But as we know, and what we've seen from [Packers Coach] Mike McCarthy ... as long as the score is close, he's not going to give up on the running game."
By the numbers
How the teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
GB SF POINTS SCORED 27.1 (5) 24.8 (11) POINTS ALLOWED 21.0 (11) 17.1 (2) PASS OFFENSE 253.1 (9) 206.1 (23) RUSH OFFENSE 106.4 (20) 155.7 (4) PASS DEFENSE 218.3 (11) 200.2 (4) RUSH DEFENSE 118.5 (17) 94.2 (4) SACKS 47 (4) 38 (11) PENALTIES 5.6 (T18) 6.8 (26) TURNOVERS +7 (10) +9 (8)
This figures to be a close game against two evenly matched teams. Critical to the 49ers will be the health and effectiveness of defensive lineman Justin Smith, who plans to play despite a torn triceps. I give the 49ers a slight edge for being rested and at home.
49ERS 24, PACKERS 21.