Green Bay Packers – San Francisco 49ers Preview: NFL Week 13: A Running Start? All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Last week the Green Bay Packers fell on a last second field goal, losing to the Atlanta Falcons 20-17 and snapping the Packers’ four-game winning streak. Now the San Francisco 49ers, fresh off of a Monday Night win, come to Lambeau hoping to pull an upset.

While the Atlanta game was by no means a devastating loss, the Packers now likely will not get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs although they still can get the number two seed and a first round bye should they be able to wrestle the NFC North from the Chicago Bears.

This week, the Packers return home for the first time in four weeks to face the “underachieving” San Francisco 49ers.

I use quotation marks there because somehow the 49ers are only a game out of first place in their division despite their record of 4-7.  That’s how bad the NFC West is this year. A 7-9 record could be enough to make the playoffs.

If the Packers want any motivation, it’s that. They could end up sitting at home for the playoffs with a 10-6 record while a team at 7-9 gets in.

There’s a major problem with that logic, but that’s a debate for another day.

Breaking down the 49ers

For the first time since Week 1, the Packers face a dual threat quarterback in 49ers starter Troy Smith.  Since taking over for Alex Smith (no relation), Troy has provided a spark to an offense that badly needed one.  Troy Smith’s running ability added a whole other dimension to an offense that already featured two talented pass catchers.

Those pass catchers are wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis.  Davis is one of the best tight ends in football who plays in a style similar to the Packers’ Jermichael Finley. He’s fast, physical, and not afraid to go up and over defenders to make the catch.

Crabtree is just as big a threat. His speed and soft hands make him a dangerous perimeter receiver. The Packers’ corners will have their hands full with him.

The 49ers rushing attack should have died when Frank Gore was lost for the season this week with a hip injury. However, the suddenly revived Michael Westbrook picked right up where Gore left off. When he’s healthy, Westbrook is one of the best and most versatile backs in the league as he was a favorite target of Donovan McNabb during their time with the Eagles.  He should see plenty of carries as well as passes on Sunday.

On defense, the star is linebacker Patrick Willis. The Pro Bowler can cover sideline-to-sideline and can play the pass as well as the run. He is definitely the renaissance man of the 49ers defense.

Corner Nate Clements leads the 49ers secondary. Now a 10th year veteran, Clements still remains a disruptive force.  He will have a challenge this week with Greg Jennings, but that will still be one of the more intriguing matchups this Sunday.

When the Packers have the ball….

December is here as is the cold weather. Usually in the NFL that’s a sign to get the running game going.

Uh oh.

It’s no secret that the Packers have struggled to run the ball this season but if there ever was a time to get Brandon Jackson going now would be a good one. Even though Aaron Rodgers is playing very well right now, Mike McCarthy can’t expect the Packers to be so one dimensional and make a Super Bowl run.

Look for heavy doses of Jackson with Rodgers still playing lights out.  While the saying goes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (ie the Packers’ passing attack), the rushing attack has got to get going. NOW.

When the 49ers have the ball….

San Francisco knows the Packers struggled at times against Michael Vick in Week 1 at Philadelphia so they will likely try and use Troy Smith’s rushing ability as much as his passing ability.

To stop him, the Packers will likely have to bring two linebackers around in hopes to block him in. Keeping Smith in the pocket is key to the Packers being successful on defense.

Shutting down Davis, Crabtree, and Westbrook is also crucial. Tramon Williams will likely draw Crabtree and Charles Woodson will have his hands full with Davis.

Three keys to the game

1. Don’t fall into the trap

On paper, the Packers should win this game easily.  The same was said against the Redskins and Dolphins.

The Packers can’t overlook this team.  McCarthy preaches “one game at a time” and the players would be wise to listen. Don’t pay attention to the Bears. Do your job and let the rest fall into place.

2. Run, Brandon, Run!

It bears repeating. You have to be able to run the ball to make a playoff run. Jackson has to get going soon or the Packers will have trouble when they reach the playoffs.

That said, there is hope. Dimitri Nance has shown flashes and if he can’t go this week, we could finally get our long awaited look at James Starks.

The question for this game is how much of an impact can Starks make if Nance can’t go? It’s his first game so everything is on the table.

3. The Claymaker Returns?

After being neutralized by the Falcons last week, Clay Matthews is key to the Packers stopping the versatile Westbrook and Smith.

With a motor that never quits, and with the raucous Lambeau crowd behind him, look for Matthews to have a big game and expand his NFL-leading sack total.


Packers 28, 49ers 17

This game shouldn’t be this close, but I will never underestimate a team coached by a man who will drop his pants in front of his players to prove a point.

Jackson could have a big game and with Rodgers being in the groove he is, the Packers offense will be too much for the 49ers to handle.

The Packers defense struggles a bit with the versatile weapons of the 49ers, but they make enough plays for the Packers to win somewhat comfortably.

Oh, and NO I don’t think Mike Singletary gets fired this week after losing to the Packers.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and


14 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers – San Francisco 49ers Preview: NFL Week 13: A Running Start?

  1. This is going to be a good test for the Packers. Can they get back up after a big loss last week and make the statement they need to make. After losing to some mediocre teams early in the year, the team looked destined for failure. Of course, they followed up that performance by routing teams and going on a nice 4 game winning streak where they outscored their opponents 113 – 34.The Packers need a decisive win tomorrow against the struggling 49ers.

    Looking for Clay Matthews to have a huge impact against Troy Smith who is holding on to the ball too long.

    Also, looking towards Bishop, Hawk, Peprah and Woodson to help stuff the run and contain Westbrook who is still dangerous in open space.

    Interested to see who is on V. Davis this game – suspect it will be Woodson, while Tramon sticks to Crabtree.

    If the Packers play this game the way they can and should, I think 35-6 is not out of the question.

    Great article! Go Packers!

    1. something else I forgot to mention was the weather. It ain’t California in Wisconsin right now

  2. AL equitable and fair eye to the entire situation pre-game as it stands in your article. Bottom line our defense has to stand in current high standards- even if high and/or further improved but the GREEN BAY PACKER OFFENSE needs to be on fire with productivity that equals POINTS. I don’t know that HC is gonna allow them to further open their current playbook either.

    1. Well, this is kris’ article so credit goes to him…

      I agree with you that the O needs to put up more points, converting more of their opportunities

      1. Well it’s not going to take 30 or more points to beat the 49ers. A modest output of 21 to 28 points should suffice. A bruising rushing attack would help but let’s not go there

  3. My question “How do we start this game”?

    The coin toss if won by the Packers,go on offense and score quickly(no huddle)and show the Niners we mean to run it up,or go on defense and let them make an early and much needed statement to amend for the misstep last week against Atl.

    I’m torn with this thought as the defense and SPTs play too often get”lackadaisical”when ahead and give chances to teams,and when the defense and SPTs play tough,it’s seems the offense goes off kilter and misses out on opportunities.

    This game is so much more IMO, “the one that will decide the season”.A lost here will raise the possibility level of watching others play on TV.

    Both sides of the ball need to play equally to each other from now on as time is ticking off the clock to get synchronized.

    1. I think the Packers have shown they are better off getting out to big leads, so that’s what I’m hoping for… 14-0 first quarter, 21-3 at half…

      1. If that happens McCarthy has to keep his foot on the gas like he did against the Vikings. Don’t get too conservative too early.

  4. I don’t think we’ll get the running game started this week. Nor do I think we need to.

    Rodgers goes for 300+ yards, 3+ total TDs, and the final score is Packers 38 49ers 10.

    1. A lot was said before last year’s game about how good the 49ers were against the run. And then the Packers ran 32 times and gained 158 yards. Of course, that was with Ryan Grant.

      I expect some more Air McCarthy this week. 49ers don’t have much of a pass rush and a weak secondary.

    2. Yes we do need to get the running game going. Waiting much longer would be an incredible risk. It will take the Packers more than one game to get the running game out of its funk and they are running out of time, no pun intended.

  5. The offense has played 3 decent games out of eleven this year (maybe four is you count the first Queen game – I don’t). Not good enough MM. Score early and score often. No more crappy play calling MM or Rodgers or whoever is calling what we are seeing. They must not lose this one.

  6. As much as Air McCarthy drives me crazy at times, I think it’s out in full force today. I see a big early lead for the Packers today. With no Frank Gore, I just dont see how they are going to be able to move the ball. Westbrook was a nice story last week, but can he do it a second week in a row? I don’t think so. And how much pressure is Capers going to send at Smith-probably a ton to rattle him. It’s going to be a blowout me thinks.

    31-6, Packers

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