49ers beat Vikings 27-10, will host Packers-Seahawks winner in NFC title game next Sunday
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers didn’t shy from the implications before traveling to the San Francisco 49ers in late November.
They knew what their prime-time matchup meant.
“This is an important one for us,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said four days before a 37-8 shellacking that now looms as large as they feared. “The way I look at it, we’ve got to beat them once at their place at some point. It would be nice to do it now.”
The Packers didn’t do it then. So, yes, if they beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in their NFC divisional playoff game, the Packers will have to do it now.
Win or lose, that Packers-Seahawks game will be the last this season at Lambeau Field. The 49ers ensured that with their 27-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday. As the NFC’s top seed, the win secured an NFC championship game next Sunday in San Francisco, regardless of whether it’s against the Packers or Seahawks.
The Packers will know exactly what they’re getting into. They never gave themselves a chance in their first meeting, falling behind 23-0 at halftime. The 49ers have perhaps the NFL’s more ferocious defensive line, including presumptive defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa. He’s one of four first-round picks on their defensive line, joining Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford.
The 49ers' defense took it to the Packers in November. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just 104 passing yards and averaged 3.2 yards per pass. Down early, they never got the run game going, with Jamaal Williams (11 carries, 45 yards) and Aaron Jones (13 carries, 38 yards) averaging just 3.4 yards per carry combined.
A matchup with the Packers would no doubt be centered on the pair of head coaches. Kyle Shanahan, perhaps the NFL’s coach of the year in his third season with the 49ers, is a mentor of Packers coach Matt LaFleur. Their offenses are similar, a byproduct of their shared experience. LaFleur worked under Shanahan in Houston, Washington and Atlanta.
In fact, LaFleur is even more familiar with a pair of 49ers coordinators. His younger brother, Mike LaFleur, is the 49ers offense’s passing game coordinator. One of Matt LaFleur's best friends is 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
None of that will matter if the Packers can’t take advantage at home against the Seahawks on Sunday night. If they do, they’ll wave goodbye to Lambeau Field for this season, the road to the Super Bowl now is going through San Francisco.