2019 NFC Championship Press Conference Edition - That’s What Cheese Said

The Packers are off to Santa Clara for a rematch of Week 12's blowout loss, only this time, win and they're off to Miami for the Super Bowl. It's a special edition of That's What Cheese Said breaking down the NFC Championship press conferences. 

The Packers held special press conferences this week in honor of the NFC Championship Game coming up on Sunday. Big names like Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, the Smith Bros, and the head coach and coordinators took to the podium to answer questions about the matchup in Santa Clara. Everyone knows what happened last time the Packers and 49ers faced off in Week 12, but Green Bay is confident it won’t be such a lopsided affair this time. 

“That last game was a long time ago. I think both teams have come a long way since then,” said LaFleur. 

Since the Week 12 blowout, the Packers are on a six-game winning streak, taking care of their final five regular season opponents to secure a first-round playoff bye, and then beating Seattle in the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. 

In the midst of an impressive stretch, LaFleur still doesn’t feel there’s a ton of momentum carrying over from last Sunday’s win against the Seahawks. 

“I think it’s game-to-game,” he said. “A lot of our success is going to be dependent upon how we do on those first and second downs, getting in those third-and-manageables.”

For reference, in Week 12 against the 49ers, Green Bay converted only 1-of-15 attempts on third down. Against Seattle last week, the Packers converted a much-improved 9-of-14 attempts. 

Throughout the past week, and the whole season, really, media members and fans have spent copious amounts of brain power trying to figure out what exactly went so wrong in Week 12. 

“If you look at the number of mental mistakes over the last six weeks, I think they’ve been significantly down,” said Rodgers. “And I attribute that a lot to Matt and his staff with kinda the slight changes they’ve made in some of the install stuff and some of the practice stuff we’ve been doing.”

“I think the mental portion is so critical,” LaFleur said of the team’s preparation each week. “I mean I look at both offensively and defensively, and on special teams, the last game, we had our fewest amount of mental errors, and I think that is a recipe to play your best football.”

To the team, it doesn’t matter whether the game-plan or execution was more at fault for the first loss in the Bay Area. None of that matters right now to the Packers, who instead are focused on the performance they’ll leave on the field Sunday in Santa Clara. 

“Obviously if we left out the game with eight points, and lost by 20s or whatever it was, obviously the plan wasn’t good enough,” said Adams. “And you know, that’s not a knock on Matt or anybody. The execution obviously wasn’t good enough too. Those go hand in hand though. The plan so far, what I’ve seen, I really like and I think it’s a better way to attack this defense. Yeah. We’re all jacked up for it.”

On the field post-game after the Week 12 matchup, Rodgers can be seen telling 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that the Packers will see him again. When Rodgers was asked what made him so confident in rematch, he smiled. 

“We had that one really good touchdown drive,” he said. “It’s just I think you realize playing against them how good they are, and at the time they had a two-game lead after that game. Plus obviously the tiebreaker. So just calculating things in my head, I figured you know, if we got to the playoffs and made a run, we’d probably have to beat them in their place at some point. And sure enough, we’re back in the situation where we’ve gotta do it to get to the Super Bowl.”

For the head coach, it’s an especially emotional week competing with his brother Mike LaFleur, passing coordinator for the 49ers, for a Super Bowl berth. 

“Well I know they’re going to the Super Bowl one way or the other,” quipped LaFleur when asked how special it is for his parents to watch this game involving both of their sons. 

“It’s an emotional deal but this is not about us. It’s about the Green Bay Packers versus the San Francisco 49ers. Two great football teams with the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. So it doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

Given the outcome of Week 12, it’s been no surprise to coaches or players that the Packers are considered sizable underdogs going into Sunday’s game. But that doesn’t seem to bother anyone at 1265 Lombardi Ave. 

Despite a 13-3 record, a 6-0 record within the NFC North, and a Divisional Round playoff win at Lambeau Field, the Packers still haven’t been given much of a shot to win on Sunday. Ask the Packers, though, and that’s fine. To them, that just puts more pressure on the 49ers. 

“It’s always fun to be an underdog,” said offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. 

“We’re the underdogs,” said Jones. “We’re playing in California. You know what happened last time. So, we feel like they’re a little confident but we know what we need to do. We’re just gonna be worried about ourselves.”

“We always try to have that underdog approach regardless of what others think. We don’t listen to the outside noise or focus on what other people say,” said Preston Smith. “We gotta work hard and we gotta play our game. We gotta play physical and fast. And we gotta go out there and play together. That’s what’s gotten us this far, and that’s what will continue to get us far in the future.”

To defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the 49ers game was just another opportunity to learn from the past and figure out a new approach to the next matchup, underdogs or not. 

“Every game is different. We’re not behind on the scoreboard going in,” said Pettine. “If you go in there with that mentality then you’re in trouble. But our guys are going to be prepared. They’re going to be confident. And we’ll have taken that game and used it to our benefit. It certainly showed us that we have to play at a very high level to beat that team.” 

For Aaron Rodgers, the significance of getting back to another NFC Championship Game is huge, though he joked it’d be nice to eventually get to play in one at home. As a player who’s won just about every award there is to win, Rodgers also commented that at this point in his career, he’d trade some of those individual awards for a couple more rings. Sunday’s matchup gives him yet another shot to get back to the Super Bowl. Something that’s eluded him since he won it all in the 2010 season as a No. 6 playoff seed. 

With the Packers one game away from the second Super Bowl berth of Rodgers’ storied career, he reflected back on what he said in 2018, when he acknowledged that the team was more in need of a reload than a rebuild. During 2019 free agency, Green Bay did just that. 

“I just feel like the window kind of reopened with those signings,” Rodgers said of the acquisitions Gutekunst made in free agency to bring in Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, and Billy Turner, adding that it felt like the team was “all-in” after those additions. 

He also made sure to highlight the mid-season acquisitions that Gutekunst made, giving praise to B.J. Goodson, Tyler Ervin, and Jared Veldheer specifically. While Rodgers knows players like Za’Darius and Preston get most of the accolades for their impact on the team and its turnaround, players like Veldheer and Ervin truly are the “glue” that helps the team remain successful by stepping in and filling huge roles. 

Something about this 2019 team just feels different, and if you ask the guys in the locker room, they’ll tell you it’s because it’s more of a brotherhood than simply a football team. Two of the guys responsible for building that brotherhood are the same two players that also share a position and a last name, Za’Darius and Preston Smith. Both discussed the impact they wanted to make immediately as free agent acquisitions and team leaders, planning team events to build a sense of brotherhood within the locker room right from training camp. 

“The world calls us brothers so we act like brothers. We bring the best out of each other,” said Za’Darius. “That carries on around the team. Everybody feels the same way.”

“It’s a brotherhood. It really is. It’s as close as I’ve ever been in this league,” Jones said, comparing the team to a college team. “You can just tell we all enjoy being around each other.”

“Guys are spending more time outside of the locker room together. More team events. Things that we really haven’t done in the past, and it’s bringing us closer together,” said Adams. “I mean it just makes you, I feel like the more you connect with a guy off the field, the higher the chances that you’ll want to go out there and lay it on the line for the guy.”

The players were asked how they approached this week of practice, knowing what’s at stake in Santa Clara, and the overall message was to remain level-headed and treat Sunday’s game like any other Sunday. 

“This is really a dream come true for me being in this situation,” said Adams on playing in an NFC Championship Game so close to home. He commented that he probably has about 18 tickets right now for friends and family. “Obviously it’s not me playing in a Super Bowl in the Bay Area, but it’s the next best thing.”

“We’re all excited in here, man,” Adams continued, adding that this is now his third trip to an NFC Championship Game. “This is a great opportunity, we understand what’s in front of us. Nothing to lose but a lot to lose, you know everything at the same time. But the pressure is really on them. They went out there and they dominated us last game and we did not take care of business the way we should’ve, so it’s only up from here as far as how we go about it.”

“This week is really special,” said Jones. “I was actually looking back on my phone, and I started training January second. I was working last year. So to be out there practicing today is special...Gotta take advantage of it.”

Sixty minutes of football stand between the Green Bay Packers and a Super Bowl berth. Whether players are playing in their first Championship Game or their fourth, the significance remains the same. 

“Coach talks about it all the time, going 1-0 each and every week,” said Za’Darius. “If we focus on next week, we probably won’t even make it to next week. So we’re just going to worry about this one game and going 1-0 this week.”

“I think hopefully our guys understand, this moment doesn’t come around very often,” said Pettine. “There are a lot of guys in the room that either a) have never been one game away or b) have been maybe a long time ago. We’re all at different stages of our career, and I know the veterans have been preaching to the young guys too, like this doesn’t happen every year. So the opportunity’s here. Let’s leave no stone unturned, let’s not waste it.”

The NFC Championship Game kicks off at 5:40pm CST on Sunday. It’s a Week 12 rematch, but this time, win and you’re going to the Super Bowl. It’s already been a special season in Green Bay. Let’s see if that special season continues in the Bay Area.

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (18)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
mrj007's picture

January 17, 2020 at 07:14 pm

Hmmmm.... great to hear from the team and I hope they learned a lot from that first game. It felt like 1-15 on 3rd down conversations from memory. I really hope Packers held back some “unscouted looks” for this matchup on offense in particular. (May be wishful thinking but seen a few unexpected wrinkles work would be fun to see). I also hope MLF familiarity w/ 49er offense will give Pettine a better idea how to contain the 49er O. Big start, minimal penalties and a few ST plays could go a long way. Go Pack!

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PatreonBob's picture

January 17, 2020 at 07:19 pm

Green Bay shall triumph!

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GLM's picture

January 17, 2020 at 07:41 pm

Great article, Maggie. If that doesn't inspire us as fans, nothing will. Way to go Packers. That's what I'm looking for...a team that wants to win. One more, and we're in it...Go, Pack, Go!!!

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Lphill's picture

January 17, 2020 at 08:06 pm

I thought the 49 ers won already according to all the ESPN and NFL network analysts?

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Bearmeat's picture

January 17, 2020 at 08:21 pm

I know, right? We're dogs for a reason. But to say that the game is already done? Ridiculous.

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carlos's picture

January 17, 2020 at 09:26 pm

It’s like the Packers aren’t even playing anymore LPHill. No love from the media.

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Samson's picture

January 17, 2020 at 08:30 pm

Maggie...Great in-depth information & analysis. --- The realistic positivity is contagious.. Every PackFan with doubts needs to read your contribution to an already special Packer season.

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CAG123's picture

January 17, 2020 at 09:29 pm

The culture change the Smiths and MLF help bring in has been instrumental in this teams comradery and success the Packers before they got there according to Greg Jennings was more so about the past Packers greats and living up to the legacy of those players which is unfair. MLF came in and said look Packers history is great but lets focus on the guys here and now and make our own then the Smiths came in and just the small suggestion of music during practices and little things like that planted the seed to the Pack being just as much of a brotherhood as they were a team. MLF took down pictures of Packers legends and put up pictures of the guys playing currently setting a tone and sending a positive message now they are one game away from the SB.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

January 18, 2020 at 01:38 am

Not many analysts are giving the Packers much of a chance to win the NFC championship game. I wonder just how many of them predicted the Bears were going to win the NFC North and the Packers would finish last in their division? You have to play the game to find out who moves on and who goes home. Just ask the Titans. What happened in past games is just that, in the past. What happens in the future has yet to be determined. It's a whole new ball game and the Packers earned the right to be there. It may not always have been pretty, but here they are playing for a shot at the Super Bowl. Who would have thought they'd make it this far? The players, coaches, and the loyal Packer fans, that's who!! Go! Pack! Go!

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NickPerry's picture

January 18, 2020 at 05:47 am

"Not many analysts are giving the Packers much of a chance to win the NFC championship game. I wonder just how many of them predicted the Bears were going to win the NFC North and the Packers would finish last in their division?"

EVERY single one of them would be my guess and probably the same guys who picked Seattle last week. What would really be awesome Sunday is to watch that LOUD mouthed Michael Irvin pick the 49ers (Just like he picked the Seahawks) and shut him up. At least until the SB when he would no doubt picks the Titans or Chiefs.

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PackfanNY's picture

January 18, 2020 at 08:10 am

The funniest guys are the ones that have identified some kind of stupid data point like “the Packers have the worst point differential of any team with 13 wins”. They always seem to mask the important word “win”. Of course they are so married to their analytics that they can never reconcile and admit they were just wrong. So week after week they pick against the Packers with the lame “they just aren’t that good”. They are almost out of things to say.

Fortunately for us results count, have meaning and the game continues to be played on the field by real human beings.

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edp1959's picture

January 18, 2020 at 09:00 am

Yeah I saw yesterday Cynthia Frelund show the twitter meme she is going to troll Rodgers with on Monday. She is not giving the Packers a chance because her analytics say so.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 18, 2020 at 04:33 pm

How many NFL games has she played in?

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Houndog's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:59 am

I can't help but imagine what it would be like listening to Joe Buck explaining (with about 45 seconds left) how the Packers won the game.
Priceless!

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ReaganRulz's picture

January 18, 2020 at 08:00 am

Thanks for the insight and something that I hadn’t really thought about. Of the main free agents that we acquired, ALL of their former teams are vacationing on a beach somewhere right now.. Bears, Redskins, and Ravens. You gotta think that the Smith’s and Amos are bringing a little more motivation because this is why they came to the Packers.....to win a Super Bowl!!

My hope is that the Packers can meet the intensity of the 49ers. They kicked our butts from a physical standpoint last time and if they do that again, we will be in trouble. But my gut is giving me positive signs, so lets GO PACK!!

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4thand1's picture

January 18, 2020 at 08:36 am

Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. Only 2 more wins............GOPACKGO

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Since'61's picture

January 18, 2020 at 09:34 am

This game is about the Packers OL. The Packers need to control the LOS on offense. If they can do that and run the ball effectively, they can run play action and the quick passing game. Keep moving the chains and keep the 49ers defense on the field. Utilize 2 TEs sets and/or Veldheer as a 6th OL but keep Rodgers clean and upright and block effectively in the run game. I would also advocate to come up to the LOS and snap the ball rather than running the clock down. Snap the ball and run right at the 49ers DLs. Keep pushing with a mix of A. Jones, J. Williams and Ervin for a change of pace. That would be my approach especially if we can play with a lead.

Again take the ball if we win the toss, don't defer. Drive for a score and take out the home crowd as early in the game as possible. Our defense can carry the day if our OL plays their best game of the season. Go Pack Go! No letups, no prisoners, no excuses!!!
Thanks, Since '61

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mnbadger's picture

January 18, 2020 at 03:06 pm

Reganrulz is right on, but missed three more vacationing teams; Broncos, Jaguars and Patriots. Pack 23-20.

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