Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers facing familiar foe for Super Bowl LIV berth

Jan 16, 2020 at 10:41 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers will play the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game for the right to face the winner of the AFC Championship Game in Super Bowl LIV.

These two historic franchises, who have nine Super Bowl Championships between them, have playoff history like the 49ers and Cowboys of the '90s, Steelers and Raiders of the '70s, and Patriots and Colts of the 2000s.

This will be the eighth time the 49ers and Packers will meet in the playoffs since the 1995 season. The series features losses to the Packers in the playoffs four out of seven games, including a home loss to the defending Super Bowl champions in the 1997 NFC Championship Game at then-3Com Park (Candlestick Park).

During the 1997 season, the 49ers would be two years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance, and were coming off of a 38-22 victory against the Minnesota Vikings.

Though they also had a 13-3 record, the Packers would have a bye week and a 21-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Packers were led to a 13-3 record that season by Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who threw 35 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and 3,867 yards, and was named the league Co-MVP with Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders.

During the game, the 49ers rushing attack was held to a total of 33 yards. Quarterback Steve Young threw for 250 yards, but was sacked four times, threw an interception, and was held out of the end zone.

The 49ers lost 23-10 to the Packers, who eventually lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.

In a Week 12 Sunday-night game this season, the 49ers dominated the Packers with a 37-8 victory.

"That game got away from them early, and that's definitely not the team we're going to see this week," head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. "Everyone knows how good Green Bay is, how good their coaching staff is, how good their players are, how good their quarterback is. I don't think they've lost a game since then. I think that game really holds zero relevance to what's going to happen this Sunday."

Shanahan, who was the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator in 2015, said the NFC Championship Game is about Sunday's game.

"I could give a thousand stories of things like that, parts and plenty of games from my history that I've been a part of," Shanahan said. "I remember losing to Carolina 37-0 (38-0) when they were 13-0. We (Atlanta Falcons) had to play them two weeks later, and then we beat them at Atlanta (20-13). They ended up being 15-1 that year. There's so many stories like that, and this is the NFL. The game before never matters like that."

Despite the Packers dominating in the playoffs, the 49ers would have their own dominant victories against the NFC North division winners, such as the "Catch II" 30-27 Wild Card victory in 1998, Colin Kaepernick passing for 263 yards, two touchdown passes, 181 rushing yards, and two scores on the ground in a 45-31 win in 2012, and a last-second Phil Dawson field goal which would give them a 23-20 victory in 2013.

The 49ers are coming off of a 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers held on to beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-23 in the Divisional Round, setting up another possible classic matchup between the two franchises.

49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley, who is playing in his fourth NFC Championship Game, said this week is like any other week.

"You know, the playoffs might seem like it's a bigger deal and there's more eyes on you, and a lot of this stuff creates maybe some anxiety in the younger players that haven't been there, but it's the same exact game," Staley said. "It's the same exact thing. We're a special team, and we just go out there and execute the game plan and have a great week of practice and all that other stuff we'll handle."

The last time the 49ers hosted an NFC Championship Game was during the 2011 season. They lost to the New York Giants 20-17 in overtime.

In the words of ESPN's Chris Berman, "That's why you play the game."

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