SANTA CLARA — The 49ers handily defeated the Packers in their last meeting in Week 12, but San Francisco's players know that Sunday’s NFC Championship Game will bring an entirely new set of challenges for the team.
Back in that first meeting, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had his way with the Packers defense, completing 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a passer rating of 145.8. He knows that type of performance won’t automatically happen again.
“Whenever you have to do that, it’s always different the second time,” Garoppolo said. “It’s a lot of the cat-and-mouse game where we think they’re going to do this and they think we’re going to do that. There’s a lot of back-and-forth with it, but at the end of the day you just have to go play and respond to what you see happening on the field.”
Tight end George Kittle also had one of his best games of 2019 against the Packers. He caught all six of his targets for 129 yards. Kittle’s touchdown was the longest play of the game going a total of 61 yards, 29 after the catch.
“You’re more used to the guys you’re going against because you’ve faced them before, but defenses change because they prepare for you differently,” Kittle said. “For example, our scheme from the first Arizona game to the second is completely different.
“You know the players and tendencies but, other that, you still have to show up and play 60 minutes.”
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is also not taking the team’s dominating win in Week 12 to heart. Playing a team twice in a season can be seen as either a blessing or a curse.
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“I don't know,” Saleh said. “I've been on both ends. I think 2013 we beat the brakes off of New Orleans on Monday Night Football in Seattle, and then they came into the division round and it went down to the wires. I've been on teams where we lost badly two times in a row, and vice versa.
“Every game is independent of itself, and you just, you look at stuff, obviously, but you take the approach that every game is independent, and you attack each game as its own championship moment, and you prepare the best you can and you let the chips fall where they may.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday)
Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.