Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes during
the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game
against the Minnesota Vikings Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Green
- The anxiety-filled green room and draft day seem so long ago now
to Aaron Rodgers.
Still, on this weekend, any lingering feelings of frustration about
how far he dropped will be directed right at the team that passed
him up with the No. 1 pick nearly eight years ago.
Rodgers brings the high-scoring Green Bay Packers (12-5) to
Candlestick Park on Saturday to face No. 2 seed San Francisco
(11-4-1) in prime time for a place in the NFC championship game.
He'll take the field in the very venue where he became a regular fan
as a boy rooting for Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Steve Young.
Rodgers, who appeared in a preseason game at Candlestick in 2008,
will play his first meaningful game at the stadium at last, as an
eighth-year pro. He will look to avenge a 30-22 season-opening home
loss to the 49ers.
"It will be fun. I went to a few baseball games there growing up,
and saw a game there when I was in college," Rodgers said.
"Stadium's got a lot of tradition. Looks like we're kind of
fortunate with the weather right now. Still wonder what that's going
to be like.
"But it will be a night game, it will be loud, it will be a great
environment and it should be a good show for the fans."
Rodgers is putting on quite a show, all right.
He returns to Northern California, where he became a college star
for California across San Francisco Bay in Berkeley, with a healthy
cast of receivers and the swagger of a Super Bowl champion.
When Rodgers dropped to No. 24 in the 2005 draft after Alex Smith
went No. 1, he was asked about his disappointment. He so
matter-of-factly said, "not as disappointed as the 49ers will be
that they didn't draft me."
Now, everybody in the Bay Area and beyond will be watching his every
He already upset some friends he couldn't accommodate with tickets.
Family first, with everybody else making the 4-hour trek from his
hometown of Chico left to fend for themselves.
Most important, of course, is getting Green Bay one step closer to
another Super Bowl. Last season's chance at a repeat championship
came to a screeching halt at the hands of the Giants in this very
round at Lambeau Field.
The Giants came to San Francisco the next week and won the NFC title
game, 20-17 in overtime.
Just as the Niners moved on from that heartbreaking loss and used it
as a motivational push each day this season, the same goes for
Rodgers after being slighted by his beloved San Francisco on draft
"It's been a long time since the green room," Rodgers said. "I have
a lot of good memories growing up watching Steve Young and Joe
Montana on TV and the Super Bowl wins and being a 49ers fan. That
was a team I enjoyed watching and dreamt about playing for. I'm
eight years removed here, and obviously I'm really happy with the
situation I'm in."
A lot has changed in that time for San Francisco, too.
The QB the 49ers picked ahead of Rodgers — Smith — spent the
season's second half on the bench as coach Jim Harbaugh promoted
second-year pro Colin Kaepernick. He will make his playoff debut
In an odd twist, Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee and adopted before
moving to California at age 4. Yes, he began as a toddler Cheesehead,
then changed allegiances "when I got drafted," Kaepernick said.
He has never met Rodgers. He still knows plenty.
Even San Francisco's opportunistic, ball-hawking defense realizes
just how hard it will be to rattle Rodgers or get him off his game.
He hasn't thrown an interception in five straight games and 177
passes. His receiving corps is intact again at last, each of the big
four of Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones
capable of game-breaking catches and career performances.
Jennings has 19 receptions for 226 yards and three touchdowns over
the last three games.
The 49ers will need big performances from Aldon Smith and Justin
Smith, the defensive pass-rushing menace expected back after he
missed the final two regular-season games with a partially torn left
triceps. Not to mention their talented seconardy.
Beating some of the NFL's top quarterbacks hasn't proven too much
for San Francisco so far. Aside from the win against Rodgers in the
opener, the Niners beat Drew Brees in New Orleans and shocked Tom
Brady in New England.
"We've played some of the best quarterbacks this year and have done
well," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "This Saturday is going to
call for our best. We can't afford to not play our best football,
play our best defense. There's no tomorrow, there's no next week."
Harbaugh has been impressed just how well Kaepernick seems to
understand the magnitude of this task, while also remaining unfazed
by the added hype and attention.
"It's a bit savant-like the way he's handling it so far this week,"
Harbaugh said. "So, that's really encouraging."
Poll the players and coaches around the 49ers and everybody believes
Kaepernick is perfectly ready for his biggest game yet.
"I don't think we're going to see any big eyes," offensive
coordinator Greg Roman said.
This was the matchup everybody expected in last year's NFC
championship game until New York came along and spoiled both teams'
Back in September, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks said the
win at Green Bay might be an "eye opener" and "maybe we'll see them
again in the NFC championship."
He was only one week off.
Now, San Francisco wants to make sure it is still standing next
"We still feel we're just as good as we were last year," Willis
said. "Hopefully this is a new season."
Same sentiments are coming from the Green Bay side. The Packers won
three road games on the way to their championship two years ago, so
why not keep a good thing going away from Lambeau Field?
And coach Mike McCarthy is counting on Green Bay being better
equipped to pound the ball in the run game.
"We have to be," the coach said, "it's the playoffs."
NFL Playoff Preview: Packers at 49ers
GREEN BAY (12-5) At SAN FRANCISCO (11-4-1)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — 49ers by 3
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Green Bay 10-7, San Francisco 9-7
SERIES RECORD — Packers lead 34-27-1
AP Pro32 RANKING — Packers, No. 6; 49ers, No. 3
LAST MEETING — 49ers beat Packers, 30-22, Sept. 9
LAST WEEK — Packers beat Vikings 24-10; 49ers had bye.
PACKERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (20), PASS (9)
PACKERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (17), PASS (11)
49ERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (4), PASS (23)
49ERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (3), RUSH (4), PASS (4)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Green Bay ranks No. 3 in league history
with 30 postseason wins, while San Francisco ranks No. 4 with 26
playoff victories. ... Teams last played in divisional playoffs in
1996, with Green Bay winning 35-14. ... Packers have won four of
five previous meetings against 49ers in playoffs, including two of
three at Candlestick Park. Overall, Green Bay has won 13 of its last
15 games against 49ers, but dropped season opener at Lambeau Field
30-22. ... Franchises last met in postseason in wild-card game after
2001 season at Lambeau Field, 25-15 Green Bay win. ... Playoff
meeting in the 2001 season was last time teams played where each had
11-plus wins — both with 12-4 records. ...Teams played each
postseason from 1995-98. ... This marks sixth time these teams meet
in postseason, tied for second most by Packers against one opponent
and behind seven playoff matchups with Giants. ... Green Bay owns
three-game road playoff winning streak dating to 2010 title run and
is 3-1 on road in playoffs under coach Mike McCarthy. ... Packers
are only NFC team to reach divisional playoffs each of last three
years. ... Green Bay gave up 10 points to Vikings in wild-card game
for fewest allowed in playoff game since 10 at San Francisco on Jan.
11, 1998. ... Packers QB and Northern California native Aaron
Rodgers passed on by 49ers with No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005 as
Alex Smith went first and Rodgers fell to 24. ... Rodgers has
110-plus passer rating in four of his seven career postseason
starts. That's tied for fourth in league history behind Joe Montana
(six in 23 starts), Brett Favre (five in 24 starts) and Tom Brady
(five in 22 starts). ... Rodgers hasn't thrown interception in five
straight games, 177 passes. ... Green Bay WR Greg Jennings has 19
receptions for 226 yards and three TDs over last three games. ...
Packers have five turnovers in last six games. Meanwhile, they have
held opponents to 20 or fewer points in nine of last 11. ... Packers
went 4-4 away from home this season. ... 49ers 12-3 at home in
divisional playoff games. ... 49ers didn't have three-game winning
streak all season. ... San Francisco defense allowed only 36 drives
to reach red zone all year, tops in NFL. ... 49ers TE Vernon Davis,
having quiet year, has 16 catches for 351 yards and 4 TDs in four
career games vs. Green Bay, including one touchdown in each game.
... San Francisco RB Frank Gore ran for 112 yards on 16 carries with
a touchdown in season opener at Lambeau. Gore also had 130 yards on
18 carries and a TD against Packers on Dec. 10, 2006. ... WR Randy
Moss' 14 touchdowns receiving against Green Bay are most by any
player in NFL history vs. Packers. His 1,320 yards receiving against
Packers rank No. 2 in league history. ... WR Michael Crabtree's
first career touchdown catch came at Green Bay on Nov. 22, 2009
(38-yarder from Alex Smith). ... 49ers LB Aldon Smith went final
three games without sack to finish with 19 1/2 and three shy of
Michael Strahan's single-season record set in 2001 with Giants. ...
DE/DT Justin Smith expected to play after he missed final two games
with partially torn left triceps muscle. ... 49ers QB Colin
Kaepernick makes first playoff start. ... San Francisco could carry
two kickers: struggling veteran David Akers and newcomer Billy
Cundiff. While Akers has been inconsistent making just 29 of 42
field goals, Cundiff missed potential tying 32-yarder that might
have cost Harbaugh's big brother John's Baltimore Ravens trip to
last season's Super Bowl in loss to New England for AFC
49ers place kickers Billy Cundiff, left, and David Akers (2)
chat during NFL football practice in Santa Clara, Calif.,
Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. The 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in
an NFC divisional playoff game on Saturday.
Harbaugh sticking with Akers as starting kicker
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - David Akers is keeping his job as San
Francisco's starting kicker. For now, anyway.
Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days
ahead of the 49ers' NFC divisional playoff game against the Green
Bay Packers (12-5) at Candlestick Park.
The 49ers signed Billy Cundiff on Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, a
15-year veteran who has struggled this season while making only 29
of 42 field-goal attempts. Akers revealed last week he underwent
double hernia surgery last February.
Cundiff, who missed a potential tying 32-yarder that kept Baltimore
and Harbaugh's big brother, John, from reaching the Super Bowl last
season, will remain on the roster.
Harbaugh said he isn't likely to be among the active players