Both the 49ers and Packers will see each other for the first time since September in Week 1, which was four months ago. This will be the fourth time both teams face off in a span of 16 months.
One of the bigger changes since the 49ers played the Packers was the emergence of rookie RB Eddie Lacy. In Week 1's contest, he had only 41 yards rushing on 14 carries to go with his first career NFL touchdown. Since that game, Lacy went on to rush for 1,137 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio gave credit to the Packers for handling adversity throughout the second half of the regular season. He said the team didn't have to over adjust after losing several players on offense.
"Credit [goes] to their coaches and the system that they have installed there," Fangio said on Thursday. "It’s a flexible system. And when they had lost their quarterback for that extended period of time, they lost one of their top receivers. They lost their top tight end. They were able to just trudge along and run their same offense that they’ve always run, highlighting different areas of it and relying more on the running game."
Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9 in a game against the Chicago Bears with a broken collarbone on Monday Night Football. Including the loss versus Chicago, Green Bay lost the three out of the next four games with all of their losses by double digits. In the only game they didn't lose, it ended up being a tie game as both the Minnesota Vikings and Packers had 26 points each. Both teams kicked a field goal before ending up in a stalemate.
Green Bay had to operate under three different backup quarterbacks, including two who spent time with the 49ers. Seneca Wallace and later Scott Tolzien both stepped in before being injured as the latter was hurt in Week 12. After bring pressed into a game for Tolzien, Matt Flynn guided the Packers to a 2-2-1 record which included an incredible comeback win over the Cowboys in Week 15.
In the 37-36 comeback win over the Cowboys, Eddie Lacy had his best game as an NFL running back with 141 rushing yards and one touchdown which helped spark the offense. When the quarterback situation became a revolving door, the Packers depended on Lacy to churn yardage on the ground. The rookie running back rushed for 356 yards and scored five touchdowns in the final four games where the Packers went 3-1.
San Francisco has done well against the run as they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Expectations are that they will continue this trend against the Packers as they tend to be a more pass happy team.
One of the biggest keys on defense? Defending the run while in nickel defense as Green Bay will play three wide receivers more often than not. Fangio expects a tough challenge in stopping Lacy.
"[Eddie Lacy] is running against a lot of nickel defenses," Fangio said. "A lot of teams it’s nickel, but they still have the extra guy up there some because they’ve run it so well. They’ve just done a good job of blocking and he’s developed into a very good runner.”