Sunday, January 5, 2014
Weekend wrap: Cold-weather QB and more
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Emptying out the notebook from the week that was with the Green Bay Packers heading into Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field:
Cold-weather QB: Sunday’s game may challenge the Ice Bowl for the coldest game ever played in Green Bay, but history suggests the weather won’t bother Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Since he took over as a starter in 2008, he is 12-4 in freezing temperatures (32 degrees or below) and has the highest total QBR (73.7) out of any player who has made at least three starts in such conditions over the that time period.
Run by design: The Packers shut down the 49ers rushing attack in their Week 1 meeting at Candlestick Park, but don’t expect coach Jim Harbaugh to shy away from the run just because his team managed only 90 yards on 34 attempts in the opener. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 49ers ran designed runs on 46.8 percent of their plays this season, the highest total in the NFL. What’s more, the 49ers use a wide variety of running plays and formations, including the read-option. “Against this team, you have to let your instincts take over because they give you a lot of different stuff,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “They’re a power team, they’re an option team, they run misdirections.” At times, the 49ers bring in one or two extra offensive linemen.
No line dancing: The Packers go into the playoffs with the same five starting offensive linemen they opened the season with in San Francisco. Of the five, only right tackle Don Barclay missed any starts this season. He missed the Weeks 11-12 games against the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles because of a knee injury. “Any time you have five guys playing together, you don’t have to call out every call and you just know what the other guy’s doing and you build that cohesiveness with each other, it certainly helps to do that,” offensive line coach James Campen said.
Punt return possibilities: As productive as rookie Micah Hyde has been as a punt returner (he finished the regular season 5th in the NFL with a 12.3-yard average), it’s worth wondering if the Packers will go back to Randall Cobb in that role now that he has returned from his Oct. 13 fractured tibia. Cobb has two career punt returns for touchdowns. Last year’s playoff loss to the 49ers turned on a muffed punt return by Jeremy Ross. Hyde’s ball security had been perfect until he muffed a punt that the Packers recovered last Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
Final numbers: Despite not having Rodgers at quarterback for seven-plus games because of his collarbone injury, the Packers finished third in the NFL in total yards per game (400.3), seventh in rushing yards (133.5) and sixth in passing yards (266.8). Last season, the Packers were 13th, 20th and ninth in those respective categories. On defense, they finished 25th in yards allowed per game (372.3), 25th in rushing yards allowed (125.0) and 24th in passing yards allowed (247.3). Last season, they were 11th, 17th and 11th, respectively.
Wild, wild-card games: The matchup of the Packers (8-7-1) and the 49ers (12-4) is the fifth time in wild-card history that one team has had at least four fewer regular-season wins than its opponent. It may come as a surprise that in the previous four games, the team with the fewer regular-season wins has won every time. It last happened in 2011, when the Denver Broncos (8-8) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4).
Home-field history: The Packers were once unbeatable in home playoff games. From 1939-2001, they were 13-0, the longest postseason home winning streak in NFL history. Since then, they have gone 3-4 in home playoff games (including 2-2 under current coach Mike McCarthy).