Hubris is all that stands between the 49ers and the Super Bowl

Less than two months ago, the Packers came to Santa Clara and
were eviscerated by the 49ers, 37-8.

Next Sunday, Green Bay will make a return trip to Levi’s
Stadium with a berth on the Super Bowl on the line.

I expect the second matchup to have a highly similar
outcome.

Given the lopsided nature of these teams’ last showdown, the
argument will no doubt be made throughout this week— for the sake
of creating narrative and drama — that things have changed since
that Week 12 contest.

But they really haven’t. At least not in any manner to where
the outcome Sunday should be dramatically different than the one in
November.

We really don’t need to overthink this:

Hubris is the only thing that stands between the 49ers and a
trip to the Super Bowl.

The 49ers and Packers might have the same record this season,
but these two teams are worlds apart. The 49ers’ 13-3
regular-season mark was battle-tested, while the case can be made
that the Packers, who lack a marquee road win this season, were the
worst 13-3 team in league history.

The 49ers are better at running the ball than the Packers.
They’re better at throwing the ball than the Packers. They are
better at stopping the run than the Packers and better at stopping
the pass too. San Francisco’s special teams and coaching are
better, too.

You might be picking up what I’m laying down, here.

That said, it’s hard to beat a team that you roundly
outclassed once before a second time.

A full-contact sport like football requires unfettered
commitment and unbridled energy. The 49ers could take a page out of
the dynastic Golden State Warriors’ book and think they might be
able to half-effort their way to a win. That would be a fatal
mistake.

But if the 49ers show up at Levi’s Stadium with the same
hunger and juice they showed against the Vikings Saturday, another
win is in the cards. Another big win.

Now, you might be saying “Hey, Dieter, the Packers have a
great quarterback Aaron Rodgers — anything can happen.”

Indeed, anything can happen — any given Sunday and all that
— but I would update your scouting report.

Rodgers is unquestionably an all-time great and a future Hall
for Fame player, but — much like Tom Brady in New England — he
has looked nothing like his former self this season.

Don’t let Sunday’s game against a tired and depleted Seattle
Seahawks defense fool you — Rodgers is no longer a transcendent
player. His Pro Bowl selection at age 36 was one of reputation and
voter inattentiveness.

Consider the fact that no one in the NFL threw the ball away
more than Rodgers this year. In turn, he completed only 62 percent
of his passes, 22nd in the NFL. His Total QBR (ESPN’s proprietary
quarterback rating system) was on-par with Brady and rookie
quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones. He had 10 games with a
Total QBR under 50 in the regular season, the second-worst mark in
the league (behind only Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky).

Yes, Rodgers made a great throw late in Sunday’s game against
the Seahawks — a game-winning throw — but do not be fooled. We
just went through a scenario like this.

Last week, the mental contortions that were made to validate
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins were truly incredible to watch.
Cousins had been a milquetoast quarterback for 16-plus games this
season, but he made an outstanding throw late in the Vikings’
first-round win over the Saints, so apparently every throw that
preceded it was deemed moot.

Almost as moot as the Vikings’ offense in Saturday’s game
against the Niners…

The same gaslighting effort is coming with Rodgers this week,
except it will be stronger because he was — once upon a time —
a truly great quarterback.

What Rodgers did in the clutch Sunday night was no doubt
impressive. For San Francisco’s sake, you’d hope it’s
impressive enough to scare them a bit.

But context is important. The Seahawks defense was gassed and
injured to high heavens — not to mention that their pass defense
hasn’t been all that impressive for a while now (did you see what
San Francisco did to them in Week 17?) Rodgers was operating in
clean pockets for most of the contest, and yet he only attempted
six passes that traveled further than 10 yards down the field. He
had one “wow” throw in a contest of dinks and dunks.

That because the truth of the matter is that, these days,
Rodgers is far closer to Cousins than he is to Russell Wilson, the
quarterback he “outdueled” Sunday.

Cousins can only effectively operate in a clean pocket, same
with Rodgers. Cousins doesn’t move around all that much. Neither
does Rodgers. Cousins held onto the ball for an NFL-leading three
seconds per throw. Rodgers holds the ball for 2.8 seconds per
throw. Both are in offenses that require a potent run game to put
points on the board and with questionable offensive lines in front
of them.

This might come across as blasphemous, but the same truth from
Saturday’s game against Minnesota applies to Sunday’s game
against the Packers: if the 49ers’ defense can stop the run, the
quarterback simply won’t be able to beat them.

On the flip side, the Vikings defense the 49ers just saw — the
defense that the Niners ran all over — was markedly better than
the one they’ll see from Green Bay on Sunday. Yes, the Packers
have two excellent edge pass rushers in Preston and Za’Darius
Smith, but their secondary is a mess and their linebackers are
sitting ducks in pass coverage. After a strong start to the season
(one that will have folks claiming they’re elite in the run-up to
this game), the Packers finished 15th in defensive DVOA this
season.

The 49ers’ offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders against
Minnesota. There are reasons for concern there. But if Jimmy
Garoppolo can avoid turning the ball over more than once, San
Francisco’s offense — which finished with the second-most
points in the NFL this past regular season — should roll over
these Packers.

Again, better offense, better defense, and oh, yeah, a better
coach (more on that this week).

So long as the 49ers show up to Levi’s Stadium correct,
they’ll be heading to Miami on the team jet.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Hubris is all that stands between the 49ers and the Super Bowl