Niners Pack Powerful Punch in Week 1 Rematch

Gore (Michael Zagaris - Getty Images)

On both sides of the ball, San Francisco will challenge Green Bay when the two NFC heavyweights slug it out in a divisional playoff game on Saturday night. While the teams have had some drastic changes, the 49ers' template is well-established.

The Green Bay Packers postseason run, otherwise known as the Revenge Tour, got off to a strong start on Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

Adrian Peterson rushed for 409 yards in two regular-season matchups against Green Bay, including 199 in the Vikings' victory last Sunday. On Saturday night, the Packers got the last laugh by holding him to 99 yards in a 24-10 victory.

"I believe Adrian's the best back in the league and to finally have him out of our hair is a relief," defensive lineman B.J. Raji said.

Up next, a Saturday night matchup at San Francisco, which beat the Packers 30-22 way back in Week 1.

"We're a little thankful that we get the chance to play San Francisco again," fullback John Kuhn said after scoring a pair of touchdowns against the Vikings. "They really whooped up on us first game of the season. So, we're looking forward to going out there and playing a better game."

Both teams have evolved over the course of the season. Green Bay's offense has found a running game, which has been fueled by two players not on the roster until the start of December, DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant. San Francisco's offense made a bold and risky move by benching Alex Smith in favor of the upside offered by second-year pro Colin Kaepernick.

The more things change, however, the more they stay the same.

For San Francisco, the offense is powered on the churning legs of Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore and the defense includes six players selected to this year's Pro Bowl.

Gore finished 10th in the league with 1,214 rushing yards, leading the charge as the 49ers finished fourth with 2,491 rushing yards, third with 5.1 yards per carry and sixth with 17 rushing touchdowns.

Gore isn't Peterson — nobody is — but he's got the Packers' respect as a runner who's hard to tackle and moves piles for additional yardage. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Gore finished ninth with 682 yards after contact and 10th with 30 missed tackles. Among backs with at least 120 carries, Gore finished sixth with 4.6 yards per attempt.

"The think about the NFL, it seems like every team has a couple of stud running backs," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "They're no different in San Francisco. (Gore) definitely brings a lot to the table. He's a super physical back, which I have a lot of respect."

It's not just Gore, like it wasn't just Peterson. For Minnesota, it's starting offensive line started all 16 games together. For San Francisco, guard Mike Iupati and tackle Joe Staley are in the Pro Bowl. The unit started all 16 games together. Another lineman, Will Tukuafu, frequently is used as an extra blocker, tight ends Vernon Davis and Dalanie Walker are frequently used in tandem and Bruce Miller is a hard-charging fullback.

"I think it was a combination," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Sunday of Gore's 16-carries, 112-yards performance in Week 1. "Their style, you're going to see them in more big people, multiple tight end sets. They'll bring in multiple linemen. They'll run personnel groups that most teams only run in goal-line situations and they'll run them first-and-10 out in the field, so you have to be prepared for that."

Kaepernick has added a new dimension to the offense with his strong arm and athleticism. While he's not as efficient or consistent in the passing game, he's rushed for 415 yards (6.6 average) and five touchdowns.

"It's just going to be a tough, hard-fought game," defensive back Charles Woodson said on Saturday night. "We know what they're capable of. We know their roster. We know what kind of guys they have over there. So, it's going to be a tough game. The run game's going to be tough. They have a great running back in Gore. They've got a mobile quarterback, as well. They like to get those linemen in the perimeter to get him out there in space. So, it'll be a tough game. It'll be a smashmouth-type of football game, and we'll be up for the challenge."

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers finished second with 17.1 points allowed per game, third with 294.4 yards per game and third with 3.7 yards allowed per carry. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 303 yards but the 49ers dictated the matchup. Green Bay had just 176 yards and seven points in the first three quarters, and it took Randall Cobb's touchdown on a punt return to make it close.

"They might tweak things a little bit," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said of the Niners' plans following a bye week. "By and large, at this point in the year, the vast majority of things they do and we do are things that have been on film that they have a chance to study."

The Niners are loaded. Defensive end Justin Smith, linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, and safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner all made it to the Pro Bowl. It is a physical, punishing defense.

"We'll look at it, but they're a different team," Rodgers said of the Week 1 film. "Teams find their identity throughout the season. We'll look at more of their past games, more recent. But it'll be interesting to go back and look at that and see who was playing at that point. Cedric (Benson) was our main back and now we're a few down the line here to get to DuJuan (Harris), so we're going to have to find ways to block up their Pro Bowlers inside and try to make some plays on the perimeter, as well."

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