4

January

Cory’s Corner: Vernon Davis is a nightmare for Packers

When the weather is under 40°, Vernon Davis has four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

When the weather is under 40°, Vernon Davis has four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Packers fans have taken a beating by many folks leading up to Sunday’s playoff game.

The green and gold faction has been accused of being soft for the biblical cold that is supposed to engulf the upper Midwest like a tiny blanket that always keeps your feet freezing.

But thanks to sponsors that kicked in the final dough to mark the 320th straight sellout on Sunday while keeping the last time the Packers didn’t sell out was January 1983.

So, a blackout and empty frozen aluminum bleachers won’t be a problem.

But Vernon Davis will be.

At a chiseled 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Davis might be the most impressive looking athlete on the field Sunday. He’s a huge target that can catch, run and he regularly makes safeties and cornerbacks fold up like lawn chairs. Think of Davis as a carbon copy of Packers’ tight end Jermichael Finley, except a little more sure handed and sure headed.

In a game in which it will feel like -17° at kickoff and drop 7° three hours later, the ball will contract which will make the vertical passing game much more difficult.

Enter Davis. He is second on the team in targets and he has set career highs with touchdowns (13) and yards per reception (16.3). The eighth year tight end has shown this year he’s a favorite of Colin Kaepernick when it matters because of his 52 grabs, 38 percent of them have been made on third down.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers wants to keep this worn and weary defense off the field as much as possible. And now with Michael Crabtree back from injury and playing well, the Packers won’t have the luxury of double teaming Davis because they also have to deal with quasi tight end Anquan Boldin as the other receiver.

Which means, a linebacker will more than likely be matched up with Davis for much of the game.  Which is music to San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Davis’ ears. He can run circles around just about any linebacker in the league — sans his own — and he can run over most defensive backs.

13

September

Packers News: Matthews fined $15,000 for hit on Kaepernick

Clay Matthews admitted that his hit on Kaepernick "wasn't very smart," and he's been fined $15,000.

Clay Matthews admitted that his hit on Kaepernick “wasn’t very smart,” and he’s been fined $15,000.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has been fined $15,000 for his hit on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in last Sunday’s season opener, according to NFL Network’s Albert Breer.

Following Matthews’ hit on Kaepernick near the sideline, chaos ensued after the whistle, prompting 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to open his mouth.

“I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head,” Harbaugh said, according to the USA Today. “Well, one punch and one open slap.”

But Harbaugh didn’t stop there. He corrected himself and threw a jab of his own in Matthews’ direction.

“If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap,” Harbaugh said. “That young man works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap.”

If Matthews is going to take advice from anyone, it likely wouldn’t be Harbaugh who once fractured his hand in a fist fight with quarterback-turned broadcaster Jim Kelly. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy brought up Harbaugh’s comments in team meetings, while Matthews offered a short yet strong response to the 49ers controversial coach.

“I’m an awesome player, not a dirty player,” Matthews said, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

According to beat writer Tyler Dunne, Matthews reluctantly responded to the Harbaugh question after several attempts to move on to questions regarding the next game. But nonetheless, his answer was awesome. In a league polluted with “coach speak” in which athletes talk a lot but say very little, it’s refreshing to hear a high-profile athlete answer in a bold, Thad Castle-type manner.

Note: Comparing the Green Bay Packers to the Blue Mountain State Goats is foolish. Almost as foolish as calling Clay Matthews a dirty player.

Matthews, himself, admitted that he was wrong to hit Kaepernick as the quarterback neared the out of bounds line.

“It wasn’t a very smart play,” Matthews said, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I had already committed to hitting the quarterback, and I guess I should have figured he was going to step out of bounds.”

Nonetheless, Matthews’ reputation is certainly in much better shape that that of, say, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was fined $100,000 for his low block on Vikings center John Sullivan. But as Breer tweeted, comparing Matthews to Suh is apples-to-oranges…or apples-to-giraffes.

9

September

49ers 34, Packers 28: Game Balls and Lame Calls

Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was a positive for the Packers, except for one play that landed him on the Lame Calls list.

Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was a positive for the Packers, except for one play that landed him on the Lame Calls list.

For the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, the 2013 season opener looked a lot like how the 2012 season ended.

In January, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick racked up 181 yards on the ground, thanks in part to the read-option. The Packers schemed for Kaepernick’s legs this time around, holding him to just 22 rushing yards, but the rocket-armed quarterback did more than enough damage with his arm, throwing for a personal-best 412 yards and three touchdowns against a shorthanded secondary.

“If intimidation is your game plan, I hope you have a better one,” Kaepernick said after the game.

Losing a close Week 1 game against a team that many consider to be the best in the NFL is no reason to panic. But clearly, the Packers and 49ers don’t like each other.

Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco before becoming the head man in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers, a California native, was once bypassed by the 49ers with the No. 1 overall draft pick in favor of Alex Smith. Rodgers has risen to the NFL elite by playing with a chip on his shoulder and proving people wrong.

But as things currently stand, Rodgers is 2-3 against his hometown team with all three of those losses coming in the past 12 months.

I try really hard to avoid my Twitter timeline during Packers games, or any sporting event, for that matter. It seems like people tweet just to tweet, just like if you’re watching with your friends at a bar, there’s always one guy who talks just to talk.

And after losing three consecutive games to to the same team in one year’s span, much of the Packers’ passionate fan base erupted over Twitter far before the game had even come close to reaching its conclusion. It’s certainly not just Packers fans that do this; I’m a Packers fan myself and will never group everyone into the same group by saying, “Packers fans” are this or that.

But there are, in fact, good players on the other 31 teams, as well. The Packers came close to going undefeated in the 2011 season, but that shouldn’t be the expectation. They’re going to lose games, and opposing players are going to make good plays. It’s football.

9

January

How the 49ers Started, and Ended the Holmgren Glory Years

Terrell Owens

WR Terrell Owens’ clutch catch was the dagger in the heart of the Mike Holmgren era in Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers face off Saturday night in an NFC Divisional Playoff game which will be the sixth time since January 1996 that the two teams have faced each other in the playoffs.

The Packers and 49ers became quite familiar opponents in the 1990s as they played each other in the playoffs each year from 1996-1999 (note I am going by the year the playoff games were played, not the year of the ‘season’).   It was a rivalry for the ages as the Packers won the first three games and the 49ers won the fourth in dramatic fashion.

Even though the four games included an NFC Championship which the Packers won en route to Super Bowl XXXII, it’s the first and the fourth of the 1990s contests that have the highest historical importance.

They almost serve as bookends for the Mike Holmgren era.  The Packers’ 27-17 victory over San Francisco at Candlestick Park on January 6, 1996 served notice to the entire NFL that Green Bay was now one of the league’s elite teams.  The Packers lost to the Dallas Cowboys the following week in the NFC Championship, but the win over the 49ers served as a springboard for the great 1996 season.

On the other side is the 49ers’ epic 30-27 win over the Packers on January 3, 1999. Not only did it bring an end to the Packers’ reign as the kings of the NFC but it was the final game Holmgren would coach for the Packers.  Terrell Owens’ touchdown catch to win the game is forever etched in the mind of Packers fans as it marked the end of an era for the Packers that saw the team return to NFL prominence.

The Packers would have strong years afterword, but never again were they true contenders until the arrival of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

In that first win over San Francisco in 1996, the Packers were flying high after winning the NFC Central title thanks to an incredible Yancy Thigpen drop in Week 17 and after a strong performance in the 37-20 victory at Lambeau Field over the Atlanta Falcons.  In fact, Holmgren felt so strongly about his team’s chances that he proclaimed after the win against Atlanta, “we’re going to win it all.” Packer fans were feeling it but not many outside the state of Wisconsin gave Green Bay much of a chance against the defending champion 49ers.

6

September

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 1: Packers – 49ers Preview

Clay Matthews Alex Smith

This is our first chance to see if the Packers pass rush is truly improved.

It’s here. Finally, it’s here.

The draft? Done.  Training camp? Finished.  Preseason? Completed.

The dress rehearsals are done and the games that count are upon us.  The curtain on the 2012 NFL season has been raised and the march to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans begins in earnest this weekend.

The Green Bay Packers kick off their 2012 campaign Sunday at Lambeau Field against the San Francisco 49ers.  Many thought when last season’s playoffs began that this would be the NFC Championship Game, but thanks to the New York Giants the Packers’ season ended prematurely.

The regular season opener is the first big test to see if the Packers have fixed their defense, the Achilles heel that doomed their run at a second straight Super Bowl title a year ago.  It’s also a chance for reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to begin to make his case for a second straight award and that the Packers offense is still as lethal as ever.

How do the Packers stack up against 49ers? Let’s first take a look at their opponent

Scouting the 49ers

Last year, the Packers faced one of the top offenses in the league during their season opener in the New Orleans Saints.  This year, they face one of the best defenses in the 49ers.

When you talk about the 49ers’ defense, you start with linebacker Patrick Willis.  Willis anchors a linebacker group that is one of the best in the NFL against the run. He was an All-Pro selection along with NaVorrow Bowman and helped the 49ers allow only 77.3 rushing yards per gain.  With defensive end Justin Smith leading the group up front, the 49ers figure to again have a very stout rush defense.

A strong defense allows the 49ers to make their opponents one dimensional which in turn allows their secondary to go on the hunt for interceptions.  San Francisco finished 16th in pass defense last season despite decent years by safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers whom both were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Despite coach Jim Harbaugh’s background, the offense remains the weak link for the 49ers.  Alex Smith was re-signed by the team only after a secret attempt to sign Peyton Manning became public.  The 49ers still don’t quite know what they have in Smith despite having a career season in 2011 and nearly leading the team to the Super Bowl.