Quick Take: Packers at 49ers

January, 6, 2013
1/06/13
11:00
AM ET
Five things to know about Saturday's Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park:

1. Eventful history: San Francisco was the site of some epic Packers-49ers playoff games in recent history. The Packers won a 1995 divisional matchup 27-17, becoming the only road victory by an NFC team in the divisional playoffs during the 1990s. In 1997, the Packers defeated the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game 23-10 to advance to the Super Bowl. And you'll probably see the end of the 1998 wild-card game about 467 times this week: highlighted by Terrell Owens' 25-yard touchdown reception with three seconds remaining that gave the 49ers a 30-27 victory. (Yes, I know Jerry Rice fumbled earlier in the drive.)

2. The rematch: Here's an excerpt from my column after the 49ers' thorough 30-22 defeat of the Packers in Week 1 this season: "There was little question Sunday that the 49ers were the sharper, smarter and more physical team." Among other developments, tailback Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries. Here's what Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said Saturday night: "They're physical, but I think that plays to our advantage up front." Indeed, among the transformations this Packers team has made is improving its run defense and overall aggressiveness. (At least when they're not playing Adrian Peterson in the regular season.)

3. Rebalanced offense: The Packers' biggest change since Week 1 is the fact that their offense is much more balanced. In the first game, they abandoned the run almost entirely. Coach Mike McCarthy called more than half of his plays (31 of 61) without a running back even on the field. Contrast that to Saturday night's victory over the Minnesota Vikings, when running backs DuJuan Harris, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn combined for 27 carries. That puts the Packers in better position to compensate if the 49ers' zone coverage limits their passing game. Remember, Harris and Grant weren't even on the Packers' roster at the time.

4. Read-option factor: The 49ers are a different team as well, especially at quarterback with Colin Kaepernick. The Packers looked vulnerable Saturday night to the kind of read-option plays Kaepernick excels at. Behind quarterback Joe Webb, the Vikings gained 65 yards on six read-option plays, and they were fortunate the Vikings didn't use the approach more often. There is plenty of film now on Kaepernick -- he has started seven games -- and the Packers will have a full week to prepare.

5. Ready to rumble: The Packers are eager for this rematch. Saturday night, defensive back Charles Woodson flatly said, "we're a better team now" than in Week 1. Defensive lineman B.J. Raji added: "We didn't really have the identity of our team set at that point. Most coaches say it takes four weeks to find the identity of a team. It was a good game and they beat us, but we're different now."

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