Matchups to watch: 49ers at Packers


Last season, the San Francisco 49ers knocked the Green Bay Packers out of the postseason on their way to the Super Bowl. The Packers look to return the favor at home in Sunday’s wild-card game. A few matchups to keep an eye on:

Colin Kaepernick versus Dom Capers

The talk heading into their Week 1 matchup this season was how Dom Capers would scheme against Colin Kaepernick after he ran for an NFL-quarterback record 181 yards against the Packers' defense last postseason.

The Packers held the 49ers to 10 yards on seven zone-read rushes in Week 1, but Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards. That included 350 from inside the pocket, which by itself would stand up as his career high.

Colin Kaepernick starts vs. Packers

Kaepernick has two of the four highest Total QBR games against the Packers in the last four seasons.

Kaepernick has been even better with his full complement of healthy receiving options.

Since Michael Crabtree returned in Week 13, Kaepernick has averaged nearly 50 more passing yards per game compared with his first 11 games, and his Total QBR of 73.3 ranks fourth in the NFL over the last five games.

Also, Capers will have to plan without Clay Matthews. Matthews had a season-high eight tackles, including three for a loss and a sack against the 49ers earlier this season.

Anquan Boldin vs. Packers' secondary

Anquan Boldin had 208 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions against the Packers in Week 1, his most receiving yards since recording 217 in his NFL debut in 2003.

He was specifically a headache for the Packers out of bunch formations (three skill players clustered together, stacked on one side of the center). Boldin caught all five of his targets for 92 yards in those sets.

He also caught 4 of 5 third-down targets for 63 yards and a touchdown in Week 1.

That third-down success wasn't an aberration; Boldin ranked first in the NFL this season in third-down receptions (33), receiving yards (529) and first downs (27). Additionally, he caught 75 percent of his third-down targets, tied for the best catch percentage in the NFL among wide receivers (minimum 20 targets).

The bright lights won't intimidate Boldin. His 380 receiving yards in last year's postseason were the fourth most by a player in a single postseason under the current playoff format (since 1990).

Aaron Rodgers/Randall Cobb vs. 49ers’ secondary

Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb returned to the field against the Bears in a big way, hooking up for two touchdowns, including the game-winning score on fourth down with 46 seconds left.

Best completion percentage
QB-WR duos 2011-2013

Cobb played 37 of the Packers' 76 offensive snaps (48.7 percent) in that game, but made his only two targets of the game count. In fact, no quarterback and wide receiver combo has connected on a higher percentage of passes the last three seasons (minimum 150 attempts).

Rodgers was 7-of-9 passing with 108 yards and a touchdown targeting Cobb against the 49ers in Week 1, including 3-of-4 for 74 yards when he targeted Cobb at least 15 yards downfield.

The 49ers’ secondary has allowed a touchdown on such throws in four straight games, after allowing a total of two in their first 12 games this season.

This was also a weakness exposed last postseason when the 49ers allowed more touchdowns on throws at least 15 yards downfield (four) than in the entire 2012 regular season (two).

Did you know?

Temperatures are expected to be in the single digits. Since the start of 2008, his first year as a starter, Rodgers is 12-4 with the temperature at or below freezing and has the highest Total QBR (73.7) of any player to make at least three starts in such conditions.