Exorcising the 49ers Demon

The Packers have to get past the 49ers finally if they want to go anywhere  

Since winning the Super Bowl in the 2010 season, the Green Bay Packers have earned a playoff berth 10 times since. Unfortunately, they have not returned to the Super Bowl in either of those runs. What's even more unfortunate, and probably a bit embarrassing, is that the same team has eliminated the Packers in half of those appearances. That team is the San Francisco 49ers. After dominating the 49ers in the playoffs, winning 4/5 of their playoff match-ups in the 90s and early 2000s, suddenly the tables had turned and the 49ers had the upper hand. After three of these losses, the 49ers would go on to play in the Super Bowl. However, they would lose each time. While the 49ers try to figure out how to finally hoist the Lombardi for the first time in 30 years, the Packers will be trying to figure out how to beat them to it. 

The Packers of today are very young and very exciting. The future seems to be very bright in Green Bay despite the departure of many players who got us to those past 10 playoff appearances. However, despite this excitement, I wish there were a way we could send someone into the future to see how this upcoming 2024 season ends. Because, if it ends in the Packers making the playoffs again, only to lose to the 49ers a sixth time, I might be so inclined to sit this season out. It would be like watching a movie that you hate the ending to, again, and again, and again. The fourth and fifth times were torture enough, a sixth time? No, thank you. So, how do the Packers prevent it?

When we look at the past five losses to the 49ers, we see flat out, a lot of failure to execute. In the 2012 playoffs, the Packers' defense let Quarterback Colin Kaepernick gash them for 181 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The following year, the Packers claimed to be ready, only to let Kaepernick run and pass all over them once more. The two teams wouldn't meet again in the playoffs for six years before the Niners would embarrass the Packers by running for over 285 yards and four touchdowns. The next game would show a complete special teams and offensive breakdown by the Packers. Then, most recently, in 2023 the turnover battle and a missed field goal kick resulted in yet another 49ers victory. No matter how the Packers tried to fix what ruined their chances before, the 49ers seemed to just exploit something else. 

No more excuses, no more failed attempts, it's time for the Packers to get past them.

Getting it done

One of the benefits of having such a young team is that if you had past failures, those players weren't around for them. It's like having a clean slate. The players of the past weren't able to get over the hump, but maybe this new crop will. And that same idea goes for coaches too. When you look at those Packers teams of the past that failed to overcome San Francisco, you see a lot of failure to acknowledge self-weakness. In the early 2010s, QBs running the read option became a craze and the 49ers destroyed the Packers with it not once, but twice. Failure the first time may be excusable, but the second time? Inexcusable. It was as if the defensive coaching staff thought all they had to do was say "Hey, don't get beat by it" and it would be fixed. Two more times there were defensive breakdowns and then special teams assisted in the failure. There were a few other offensive debacles sprinkled in as well. I think though, if the two teams meet again in the playoffs in 2024, the tables will be turned. 

First, I'm going to start with the offense. The Packers could've put this game away on offense in 2023 if they executed just a little bit better. The first three possessions got in the red zone but only resulted in 6 points. After that, they scored two touchdowns but then failed to score in the fourth quarter with a missed field goal sprinkled in. The Packers had a very good red zone offense in 2023. Four trips inside San Francisco's 25 resulted in only six points. If even one of those possessions resulted in a touchdown instead, that's the game, and the Packers are moving on to the conference championship. In 2024, I believe this is different even if only for the added experience. You'll have Jordan Love with some more experience under his belt finding the open man and turning it loose and also much more experience in the receiver room with players building off good rookie and sophomore seasons. The Packers get in the endzone at least one more time if this game is played a year later.

Second, I'm hitting special teams. The biggest question this offseason is whether or not Anders Carlson will be the kicker in 2024. My guess is yes. I think Carlson is going to rise to the occasion overcoming the competition and have a better 2024. I'm calling a year later he goes 3/3 in this game if it's re-played. Even more special team's success could help the Packers. With the new kickoff rules, Keisean Nixon's return abilities could make a much bigger difference in this game, either scoring or providing a shorter field for Jordan Love and company. 

Lastly, the defense. After the 2023 season, you'd have to comb the desert to find a Packer fan alive who wanted Joe Barry back as defensive coordinator in 2024. I felt the defense always lacked aggression. Sure, you'd have individual players that brought the heat, but the defense as a whole lacked it. I won't even go after stopping the 49ers in general in this one, I'm just going to say that if you get a much more aggressive Green Bay defense, the Packers win this one. There were moments when I felt the Packers just let the 49ers walk to the endzone. I don't see that happening under Jeff Hafley. The new defensive staff I believe can not only plan efficiently, but know how to properly motivate a team as well. I don't feel Joe Barry planned to his defense's strengths. I think he just planned to play the same game he did week in and week out, and it failed. Hopefully this change, possibly even just this change alone can help the Packers overcome that hump.

We don't want to see the Packers lose to the 49ers in the playoffs again. It's time to exorcise that demon and defeat San Francisco to move on. 

 

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Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to CheeseheadTV as well as PackersTalk. Follow him on Twitter @gmeinholz for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.

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Comments (17)

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Leatherhead's picture

July 10, 2024 at 12:31 pm

A pretty good article. I have a little different perspective on some of the statements, and I think the Sub-Head should be changed to "if the Packers want to go to the Super Bowl", instead of "......"go anywhere". But the bottom line is the same.....the 49ers have been our main nemesis now for quite a while. They beat us when it counts. Sometimes it's close and sometimes it isn't. I hate to say this, but if you look at the 16 teams in the NFC, the 49ers have one of the very best organizations When things go wrong, or they have bad luck, or they make a mistake with a high first round pick, they adapt and overcome and I have to give them credit for that.

I think the 49ers are in for a rough year, frankly, because of the Curse of the Super Bowl Loser. The SuperBowl Loser rarely has as good of a season the next year, because by definition, that would involve repeating as Conference Champion. They usually have a worse regular season record, and frequently don't even make the playoffs.

In every division, you have the Haves and the Havenots, and when I look at Seattle (another well-run organization), and the Rams, it does make me wonder if they're a 3rd place team in their own division this year.

We get to play them in Lambeau this year, but until we beat them in the playoffs they still have our number as far as I'm concerned. More important to me is that we win our division, so we can make the playoffs, so we can beat them when it counts.

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dobber's picture

July 10, 2024 at 12:43 pm

Remember how Lovie Smith took the job in Chicago and said, "we want to beat the Packers." Not, we want to win division titles, or NFC championships, or Super Bowls--the Packers. Sure, he was trying to rev up the fanbase by picking out a hated rival, but he also provided his own measuring stick--and a low bar at that--for dismissal.

Remember how SF beat on the Packers in 2019, then floundered through an injury-plagued 2020 and the Packers thumped them? Right now, the 49ers are on the schedule for 11/24. That's the only 49ers game the Packers should be concerned with, and probably not until after the Bears game--a more important matchup--on 11/17. There's no guarantee that the 9ers will show up past that. The league is fluid and changes dramatically year-to-year, even week-to-week. Focus on putting your best team out there week after week. Don't focus on a particular opponent except the one who's on the schedule next.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 10, 2024 at 01:07 pm

dobber, I think the two most recent playoff losses to them....in 2021 and 2023...are especially bitter because I think the Packers were a better team and could/should have won. 2019 was LaFleur's first season and we were not as good as SF on their homefield. We didn't play well and it wasn't close.

I'd damn sure like to beat them in the playoffs.

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T7Steve's picture

July 10, 2024 at 01:29 pm

How about we beat them during the season and keep them out of the playoffs all together?

That would be a good goal, wouldn't it?

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GregC's picture

July 10, 2024 at 09:26 pm

The Packers should've beaten the Niners at the end of the 2019 season, but last year the Niners were the better team. The Packers were lucky to play them when they were coming off a bye and were a little flat, plus Deebo Samuel got knocked out the game early. The Niners started slow in that game and finished strong, which was not a surprise. I'm hoping it's a different story this year, but who knows, they may not meet in the playoffs anyway.

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splitpea1's picture

July 10, 2024 at 12:49 pm

We have enough offensive weapons to beat them. With such a young team, all they need is a little more experience and the execution should take care of itself.

We may be getting a little ahead of ourselves on the defense here. Everyone is optimistic at the possibilities and change in direction, but we still have to see it first and watch the players grow into their respective roles, which is likely a season-long process.

Special Teams: As usual, hope and pray they rise from the abyss and help us more than they hurt us.

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T7Steve's picture

July 10, 2024 at 01:32 pm

Both the D and STs are likely to be on the uptick since their base line from the past starts so low.

All you can hope for.

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dobber's picture

July 12, 2024 at 08:46 am

That sounds vaguely like, "could it really get any worse?"

...yeah. It could.

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 10, 2024 at 03:48 pm

This kind of reminds me of the early to mid 90's when we just couldn't get past the Cowboys. Then the Packers finally grew up and put it all together while the Cowboys started to fade, and GB went on to consecutive SB's, while Dallas got old and irrelevant.

I see a similar scenario unfolding. Green Bay is young and ascending at the same time SF is having to deal with older players and bloated contracts. Still a very talented team, but I think 2023 was their year and they blew it.

I see 2024 as the year that SF starts regressing and GB passing them by. I see GB's SB window growing over the next 2-3 years, while the '9ers will be getting smaller.

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erikgj's picture

July 11, 2024 at 04:30 pm

I had the same thought and I absolutely agree. Getting older and expensive NFL is the start of the end. I also hope NFC championship is played in Green Bay next year.

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Gman1976's picture

July 10, 2024 at 04:35 pm

As much as I like our head coach, a number of the loses an be traced back to him for not replacing failing coaches and/or players long before the 49er losses. Enough has been written about these mistakes. Hopefully, it's not a wash, rinse, repat year.

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Ya_tittle's picture

July 10, 2024 at 11:42 pm

Well said, especially that ST coach who COMPLETLEY cost us that home playoff game. Ridiculous.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 11, 2024 at 11:52 am

One bad play by a long snapper somehow stands taller in your memory than dozens of bad plays by the offense that resulted in a HISTORICALLY BAD PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE.

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Ya_tittle's picture

July 12, 2024 at 06:26 pm

More than the blocked punt. Poor coverage. Missed field goal. Incompetent all year that ST coach was.

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TXCHEESE's picture

July 11, 2024 at 10:50 am

Wow! We are soooo far away from the post season, I can't even begin to think about it. Here's hoping GB stays healthy, wins and builds momentum and continues to improve towards season's end. THEN, I will begin dreaming of post season domination!

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WorseWisconsin's picture

July 12, 2024 at 02:39 pm

I agree that the 49ers are the Packers biggest nemesis. Even the most die-hard packer fan would have to concede that the 49ers own the packers until the packers prove otherwise.

However, the 49ers are not the only issue here. Part of the problem is that the Packers are a poor-man's Dallas Cowboys: frequently good-to-great in the regular season, but under performing in the post-season. The reason the packers got to play the 49ers in the playoffs is because the packers got to play someone that's a worse version of themselves.

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WorseWisconsin's picture

July 12, 2024 at 05:09 pm

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