By RICK SOLEM
First a blackout, now the weather, that’s all anyone’s talking about.
The weather at Lambeau Field today will be cold.
It will have an effect on how the game’s played, but will it be such a factor that the team that adapts, not the best team, will prevail?
Former coach Tony Dungy stated on the Dan Patrick Show on Friday he’d rather see teams play on an even playing field. With the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., weather could also have an effect on that outcome.
But this is football, and weather is supposed to play a factor. Does the cold give the Green Bay Packers’ offense the advantage because they live and practice here or, as a lot of people are saying, does it give the 49ers the advantage because they’re a run-dominant team?
The latter argument doesn’t make much sense, since San Francisco has outrushed Green Bay by less than 100 yards this season (2,201 to 2,136), and Green Bay has a better per-carry average 4.7 to 4.4.
The cold may give the Packers a slight advantage simply because they go outside to get their mail most days and they practice, to an extent, outdoors.
But the weather and what teams do on offense have no relation. All teams run. All teams pass. No team abandons either completely. It will have little to do with the outcome of this game.
But the difference in this one is as simple as those facts. The difference is San Francisco has an excellent defense and Green Bay does not.
People will automatically look to the season opener when Green Bay had a 28-24 lead in the fourth quarter, before losing 34-28.
Neither team could run in that game. Eddie Lacy – in his NFL debut – ran 14 times for 41 yards (2.9 avg.) and Frank Gore ran 21 times for 44 yards (2.1). Colin Kaepernick, who ran for 181 yards in the NFC semifinal last season, ran just seven times for 22 yards.
Kaepernick hasn’t been the running quarterback he was last year. And he hasn’t been the passing quarterback he was in Week 1, when he threw for 412 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Aaron Rodgers threw all over the 49ers’ defense, as well (333 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT).
But that was Week 1. This week, Green Bay is without Clay Matthews. The Packers only sacked Jay Cutler once last week, and he practically lives on his back. Ben Roethlisberger only went down once, too and he’s been one of the top 3 most-sacked quarterbacks in the last five years. He’s the seventh-most sacked quarterback this year.
Kaepernick was sacked twice in Week 1 – once by Matthews. At least they got Tony Romo three times a few weeks ago, but that’s when Matthews was on the field.
Offensively, both teams are adding pieces recently, but between adding Rodgers vs. adding Michael Crabtree, you’d have to give the 49ers the advantage.
Kaepernick has been humming all season and just added his favorite target – for five games now – along with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis – three guys the Packers can’t stop. Kaepernick is used to everyone by now.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has had one game to get on the same page with his entire offense and get used to new guys playing a lot more snaps – Andrew Quarless and Jarrett Boykin.
Boldin had 200 yards in the season opener. He eclipsed 100 yards once since. Davis had 98 yards and 2 TDs in that game, as well. And now the 49ers add Crabtree, who had 119 yards and 2 TDs against the Pack in the playoffs last year. None of this is good news for the Packers.
The 49ers have beaten on their little brother Packers for three wins in a row in the last two seasons, but they’ve all been close to some extent. Even in the 45-31 win in the playoffs last year, it was 24-24 into the third quarter before it got out of hand.
Prior to those three games, however, Green Bay was big brother – eight wins in a row dating back to 1999, including one playoff win. The 49ers, however, haven’t been good until the last few years.
And the Packers last loss before that stretch: “Owens! Owens! Owens….” Jan. 3, 1999 at Candlestick in the wildcard to end Green Bay’s chances to get to the Super Bowl for a third year in a row.