Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Baldinger: 49ers’ improved rushing attack the key to beating Packers

Jan 18, 2022 at 10:43 AM--

The Green Bay Packers are 5.5-point favorites ahead of their playoff bout with the San Francisco 49ers. The game will be played at Lambeau Field, which means some cold weather. Wide receiver Davante Adams' 1,553 receiving yards this season were the third-most in the NFL. Oh, and let's not forget about Aaron Rodgers, who nearly single-handedly crushed the Niners with his late-game heroics at Levi's Stadium in Week 3, a 30-28 win by the Packers.

The 49ers are a different team now. Yes, there are questions to be answered about the team's health. Defensive end Nick Bosa needs to clear the concussion protocol on a short week to play. Linebacker Fred Warner is dealing with an ankle sprain. The good news is that it's not of the "high" variety.

Then you have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who entered this past weekend's playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys with a torn ligament and chipped bone in his right thumb and exited with a right shoulder sprain. How effective will he be?

However, one respected NFL analyst believes the key to a 49ers win lies with their improved rushing attack. That's what the San Francisco offense leaned on in their last playoff victory against the Packers—a 37-20 win in the NFC Championship Game following the 2019 season.

Brian Baldinger believes the 49ers have to open up Saturday's game the same way they did against the Cowboys, when they scored on the opening drive.

"It was huge to go right down the field and execute like that, put seven points on the board," Baldinger said Tuesday morning on 95.7 The Game's The Morning Roast. "That's always a great way to start a game."

Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, the 49ers' leading rusher, did not play in Week 3. In that previous meeting with the Packers, the San Francisco offense mustered just 67 rushing yards, with Trey Sermon being the team's leading rusher with 31 yards. It was the 49ers' second-lowest mark in that category of the season (39 rushing yards vs. the Cardinals in Week 9). Green Bay's defense has allowed 4.7 rushing yards per attempt, tied for No. 29 in the NFL.

"[The 49ers have] got a much better tandem right now, up front," Baldinger continued. "And so, to me, just like when they beat the Packers two years ago in the [NFC] Championship Game, look at how they ran the ball against the Packers. And look at how Aaron Rodgers had to play from behind, and what that looked like. To me, if you're a Forty-Niner fan, just go back and rewatch that game, and that's what it can look like, even if it's at Lambeau. It doesn't matter.

"Lock in. Don't let the noise, the atmosphere, crush you; the weather, the atmosphere, the noise, all that stuff. Lock in, and run the ball the way you're capable of running it. This will be a good football game."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Baldinger below.

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