49ers-Packers playoff preview: What to expect with Jordan Love replacing Aaron Rodgers

49ers-Packers playoff preview: What to expect with Jordan Love replacing Aaron Rodgers

SANTA CLARA — The last time the 49ers played the Green Bay Packers, they went in as 5 1/2-point underdogs and stole a 13-10 divisional-round playoff game at frigid Lambeau Field.

The Packers were NFC North champions with a 13-4 record, had the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in Aaron Rodgers, were the No. 1 seed and conference favorites to advance to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. They hadn’t lost a game all season at home.

The 49ers clawed their way into the playoffs after a 3-5 start with a Week 18 overtime win over the NFC West champion Rams and made it to Lambeau with a 23-17 road win against the Dallas Cowboys.

The roles are reversed this time, with Green Bay, 10-8 after a 48-32 upset road win over Dallas Sunday in the wild card round, coming to Levi’s Stadium on Saturday or Sunday as underdogs against the top-seeded 49ers.

Green Bay was the only one of four potential first-round opponents the 49ers haven’t played as they own wins over the Rams, Eagles and Buccaneers. But that doesn’t mean the Packers are unfamiliar even if Rodgers has been replaced rather remarkably by third-year quarterback Jordan Love.

Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur worked closely with Kyle Shanahan from 2010 through 2013 with Washington under Mike Shanahan. The passing concepts are similar, as are the use of extra tight ends as well as an outside zone scheme-based running game where it’s difficult for defenders to determine run from pass.

Back on Nov. 12, the Packers found themselves in an even deeper hole than the 49ers had been in 2021, falling to 3-6 after a 23-19 road loss in Pittsburgh. Green Bay, however, got running back Aaron Jones healthy to balance the offense and won five of its last seven games, including the last three in a row over Carolina, Minnesota and Chicago, to earn the No. 7 seed.

The Packers are the first No. 7 seed to win a playoff game since an extra team was added four years ago.

Here are this week’s top storylines:

1. First sight at Love

In his playoff debut, Love completed 16 of 21 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns against Dallas. In the 2020 NFL Draft, one selection after the 49ers took wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, Green Bay traded up to select Love out of Utah State. Rodgers was about as happy to see Love as Brett Favre was when Rodgers arrived after being taken No. 24 in 2005. The 49ers shut down Rodgers in each of their last two playoff matchups, but this is the first time they’ll see Love. It’s not a stretch to suggest it won’t be the last time Love and Brock Purdy meet in the postseason. In his last nine games, Love has been off the charts, competing 70.9. percent of his passes for 2,422 yards, 21 touchdowns and just one interception for a 116.6 passer rating.

2. The Moody-Gould factor

Robbie Gould won the 49ers’ divisional playoff game in Green Bay with a 45-yard field goal at the gun amid snow flurries. It was his 20th consecutive field goal conversion and when Gould was replaced by third-round draft pick Jake Moody this season, he ended his career 29-for-29 on field goal attempts and 39-for-39 on extra points. Which brings us to Moody, who in Week 18 missed a field-goal attempt from 38 yards and an extra-point attempt as well. It was a solid season for Moody overall and his leg is far superior to that of Gould, but rest assured 49ers fans will be nervous when he lines up for a postseason kick knowing what they used to have in Gould.

3. How is Christian McCaffrey?

Christian McCaffrey left a Week 17 win over Washington with a calf strain and didn’t participate in the regular-season finale against the Rams or in two bye week practices. The company line is that McCaffrey is fine, and maybe he is. Although Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason looked solid picking up the slack for McCaffrey, the 49ers are not the same offense when their multi-talented runner/receiver is not on the field. Everyone will breathe a little easier this week if McCaffrey takes his usual place with the offense for practice. He’s the first 49er to win an NFL rushing title since 1954 with 1,459 yards. The 49ers could be in trouble if he is out-rushed by a resurgent Jones, who has 476 yards rushing in his last four games, including 118 on 21 attempts with three touchdowns Sunday against the Cowboys.

4. Brock Purdy’s layoff

Former 49ers quarterback and Hall of Famer Steve Young wasn’t too sure about the plan to sit Purdy in Week 18, keeping him out of game action for three weeks. Yet Purdy was on a training camp pitch count and was fine in the season opener against Pittsburgh, and he was even better in the 49ers’ post-bye win over Jacksonville. “It’s not like I’m going to be sitting on the couch for the next couple weeks doing absolutely nothing. We’re going to be out here still getting good reps against our defense, working on the little things I need to work with my footwork and my reads at practice. Whoever we end up playing in our first round, we’ll be ready for it,” Purdy said.

5. Getting four-man pressure

The 49ers were able to get to Rodgers with a four-man rush, sacking him eight times in 2019 with wins in the regular season and the NFC Championship Game. They got him five more times in the divisional win at Green Bay following the 2021 season. Part of the reason the 49ers stabilized themselves on defense was the realization by defensive coordinator Steve Wilks that adding new wrinkles to an already solid system wasn’t necessary. “At the end of the day, we do what we do since I’ve been here. Zone coverage and rushing four and there’s tons of different levels to doing it and we need to be at the highest level possible of doing that and if we are, we’re going to be a really good defense,” edge rusher Nick Bosa said.



The Packers drove 69 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown the first time they had the ball with Rodgers going 4-for-5 for 54 yards. It looked so easy. All they got the rest of the game was a single Mason Crosby field goal. The 49ers couldn’t do much of anything either in the snow flurries, with Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. getting just a pair of Gould field goals. The touchdown came on a blocked punt by Jordan Willis with 4:14 to go and safety Talanoa Hufanga scooping it up and scoring from the 6-yard line.

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Green Bay leads the all-time series 38-33-1. The 49ers are 20-14-1 at home and 2-3 at Levi’s Stadium. Both wins were in 2019, 37-8 in the regular season and 37-20 in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns with Raheem Mostert gaining 220 and scoring four times as Garoppolo attempted only eight passes, completing six for 77 yards.



RB Christian McCaffrey (calf)

DT Arik Armstead (foot, knee)

DE Clelin Ferrell (knee)

TE George Kittle (back)

LB Dre Greenlaw (Achilles)

S Tashaun Gipson Sr. (quadriceps)

S Ji’Ayir Brown (knee)

S George Odum (biceps)

G Jon Feliciano (back)

CB Ambry Thomas (hand)

WR Jauan Jennings (out of concussion protocol)

WR Danny Gray (shoulder)


CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder/ankle)

RB A.J. Dillon (neck/thumb)

WR Christian Watson (hamstring)

OLB Preston Smith (ankle)

WR Romeo Doubs (chest)

RB Aaron Jones (knee/finger)

DB Jonathan Owens (knee)