Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick (7) of the 49ers and Aaron Rodgers of the… (Getty Images )
Back when he was an assistant coach for the Packers, Steve Mariucci used to combat the cold during games by holding quarterback meetings in the sauna. (An added perk: There was only a sauna only in the home team’s locker room.) [Sam is checking whether this is still true, but he may not find out in time for deadline. ac] Both teams could certainly use that dash of comfort Sunday, when the temperature is expected to dip well below zero.
Thermometer aside, the 49ers have been torrid lately, finishing the regular season with an NFL-best six-game winning streak. Colin Kaepernick had 10 touchdown passes with one interception during that span. San Francisco has beaten the Packers in their last three meetings, scoring 30, 45 and 34 points. in those games.
Kaepernick doesn’t plan to wear a glove, no matter how cold the day is.
“The ball is going to be much harder, and that’s really the No. 1 obstacle,” said Greg Roman, 49ers offensive coordinator. “It’s more about the ball and the grip.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who missed much of the season with a broken collarbone, returned for the do-or-die finale at Chicago. He threw for 318 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Also back is receiver Randall Cobb, who returned last week from a leg injury that had sidelined him since Week 5. He caught seven passes for 108 yards and the deciding a touchdown.
Gored by Frank?
Arizona’s top-ranked run defense limited San Francisco’s Frank Gore to 14 yards in 13 carries last Sunday. He’s itching to return to form against a 25th-ranked Packers defense that has allowed seven 100-yard rushers in the last nine games, giving up an average of 157.2 yards rushing during that span.
For years, the Packers have lacked a strong running game. They finally have one behind the running of rookie Eddie Lacy, whose 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns put him in the offensive-rookie-of-the-year conversation. He had a fumble in the season opener against the 49ers, a mistake that landed him on the bench, and he’s now ready to make amends.
“I think I developed a lot,” Lacy told reporters this week. “I’m playing a lot faster, a lot calmer. I think I’m a much better player now than I was then.”
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Category | SF | GB
Points scored | 25.4 (11) | 26.1 (8)
Points allowed | 17.0 (3) | 26.8 (24)
Pass offense | 186.2 (30) | 266.8 (6)
Rush offense | 137.6 (3) | 133.5 (7)
Pass defense | 221.0 (7) | 247.2 (24)
Rush defense | 95.9 (4) | 125.0 (25)
Sacks | 38 (18) | 44 (8)
Penalty yards | 52.8 (18) | 50.1 (14)
Turnovers | +12 (4) | -3 (19)
Kaepernick has had a couple of phenomenal games against the Packers, and it only helps him that All-Pro Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews is out with a thumb injury. The bitter cold could be a factor in this game, but if the 49ers can protect the football, they should win. 49ERS 28, PACKERS 24