HomeFootball Dirt49ers face unique challenge with Packers' QB Jordan Love in playoffs

49ers face unique challenge with Packers’ QB Jordan Love in playoffs

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers had plenty of success going up against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs when Aaron Rodgers was running the show.

The Niners knocked Rodgers and the Packers out of the playoffs four times, including twice in the previous four seasons.

While first-year starter Jordan Love lacks the pedigree of the four-time MVP, his performance in the last half of the season has caught the attention of the 49ers (12-5) headed into their divisional round game against the Packers (10-8) on Saturday night.

“He’s really good at going through his reads and playing the offense to a T,” defensive end Nick Bosa said.

After a shaky start to his first season as a starter, Love has been playing at a high level the past two months. He has thrown 21 touchdown passes with only one interception the past nine games and is coming off one of the best playoff debuts ever.

Love went 16 for 21 for 272 yards, three TDs and no interceptions in a 48-32 win over Dallas on Sunday.

“I thought he played a really, really good football game,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “It’s never going to be perfect. There’s going to be little details here and there, whether it’s hanging in the pocket, some decisions, but I’ll tell you what, the guy made some massive plays in that game that kind of go off script, so to speak, and to me that’s where you see so much value in him.”

With Love playing as well as he has and a group of young pass-catchers emerging as big threats, the Packers once again look like a top offensive team after taking a step back in Rodgers’ last season in Green Bay in 2022.

The Niners see a similar look to those high-powered offenses they faced early in LaFleur’s tenure but see more of the coach’s influence on the scheme now that he has a young quarterback he can mold.

“They have a lot of the same guys from the past really good teams they have had and a quarterback who does exactly what he’s coached to do,” Bosa said. “Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Famer and unbelievable, but he kind of went outside of the realm of coaching and sometimes it’s good when you have a guy who does what he’s coached to do.”

CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN

After losing in the NFC title game the past two seasons, the 49ers came into 2023 looking to get over that hump and back to the Super Bowl. But first they had to get through the regular season, which they did with 12 wins and a first-round bye.

Now the focus can really turn to getting rid of the bad taste from those season-ending losses.

“We’re excited,” All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams said. “This is what you wait all year for, especially after the way last year ended. The regular season is fun and it has its own challenges. But when you get that close, like we did last year, you just want to fast forward to the regular season and get back to this tournament.”

SURGING JONES

Green Bay’s Aaron Jones has rushed for more than 110 yards in each of his past four games. He ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers’ victory over the Cowboys.

It’s worth noting that Jones has rushed for more than 100 yards every time he’s faced the Cowboys in his career. Jones has never rushed for 100 yards in six previous meetings with San Francisco, though he had nine catches for 129 yards as well as 12 carries for 41 yards in the Packers’ 2021 divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.

RECEIVING DEPTH

Love has thrown 21 touchdown passes with only one interception over his past nine games, and it seems as if a different receiver emerges as his favorite target each week.

The Packers have produced a different 100-yard receiver in each of their past three games. Romeo Doubs had six catches for 151 yards against the Cowboys. Jayden Reed didn’t catch a single pass against Dallas, but he had four receptions for 112 yards when the Packers closed the regular season with a 17-9 victory over the Chicago Bears. One week earlier, Bo Melton caught six passes for 105 yards in a 33-10 triumph at Minnesota.

“You never really know who’s going to have the big game for us in the receiver room,” Love said. “You have plays dialed up for some guys, and other times it’s just kind of the looks we get defensively, who might be catching the ball. But I think the mindset, they all want the ball, they all expect the ball on every play, and that’s what’s helping them be successful.”

JUST FOR KICKS

Both teams come into the game with rookie kickers in a bit of a rut.

Third-round pick Jake Moody missed his first extra point of the season and a 38-yard field goal in San Francisco’s Week 18 loss to the Rams.

Sixth-round pick Anders Carlson has missed an extra-point attempt in three of the Packers’ past four games. He also missed a 41-yard field goal against Chicago and is just 7 of 13 this season on field-goal attempts of at least 40 yards.

“A lot of young (players) — especially kickers –— go through some trials and tribulations, unfortunately,” LaFleur said. “And the one thing that’s been so great that you cannot coach is just the resiliency he’s shown, because every time he misses one, he comes back and he’s made them.”

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AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin, contributed to this report

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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