Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

‘We’re a much better team now’: George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, DeMeco Ryans discuss 49ers-Packers rematch

Jan 19, 2022 at 3:59 PM--

Week 3's matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers was a heartbreaker for The Faithful. The fans at Levi's Stadium watched Jimmy Garoppolo engineer a thrilling comeback touchdown drive to take the lead, only to watch Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers crush their hopes with a game-winning drive in the closing seconds.

A lot has changed since that 30-28 defeat. That kicked off a four-game losing streak for the 49ers. However, San Francisco finished the season strong and made the playoffs in the final week of the regular season.

Green Bay muscled its way to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Now, we get to watch the two teams go head-to-head again, this time for the right to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

"I don't think they look much different," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said before Wednesday's practice. "They're a well-oiled machine. Those guys are very efficient in what they do when it comes to running the ball and also throwing the ball.

"They're just a very efficient offense who takes care of the ball and just present tough challenges at all their spots, at the wide receiver position, the running back position. The O-line is getting back healthy, so definitely a good team we're going against here. A good challenge for us."

Two players feel the 49ers are a much-improved team than the one the Packers beat on that September evening. Since then, the team has grown, pushing through the challenging season and overcoming several injuries.

"I think the biggest thing that's changed about our offense is I think we have kind of a different identity than we did back then," tight end George Kittle said. "Obviously, Deebo's running the ball a lot more. I would say this on top of that: If you go back and watch that game, we were kind of sloppy all over the field, whether it was protections, whether it was the run game, targeting. We were still trying to find our footing. We still made it a really good game there at the end until the last-second field goal.

"I think we're a much better team now than we were then. I think from all the ups and the downs, the wins, the losses, all the adversity that we've faced as an offense, all the game-winning drives we've had to [rely] on, just to give ourselves a chance to get into the playoffs, has allowed us to become a way better team."

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk feels the same way. The difference was evident as he rewatched that Week 3 game. At that point in the season, we were still questioning if Aiyuk was in head coach Kyle Shanahan's doghouse. The Packers are preparing for a much different 49ers squad this week.

"I watched the Dallas game on Sunday, and then I watched the Packers game from Week 3 [on] Monday," Aiyuk shared. "Just everybody across the board, just myself, I feel like I was watching the strides. Everything feels a lot different, looks a lot different. The whole entire offensive unit looks a lot better. We all move as one, and the growth has been crazy just to watch.

"We know that we weren't the team that we are now, in Week 3, but also, we understand that we have to play that way on Saturday."

The 49ers are confident heading into the playoff bout, but they aren't overconfident. They know they'll face a much-improved Packers team too.

"And their defense, I think that they're healthier," Kittle added. "They have more guys back. They have some of their star players back that missed a lot of games, so it's going to be very beneficial to them. But the thing that they do really well—they know how to play together. They're very good at their scheme. They're not out of position very often. And they're a physical defense too.

"And they're used to playing at Lambeau. Whether it's December, January, they're used to playing there. I don't know if that gives them an advantage over us because weather is weather, unless it's like a rainstorm like it was against Indianapolis. I don't know how much the cold's going to affect it that much other than it just being cold. Looking forward to that, but it's going to be a very fun game to go against them."

Facebook Comments

More San Francisco 49ers News

Brandon Aiyuk: I'm trying to maximize my role with the 49ers

By David Bonilla
6 hrs

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samual had a breakout season in 2021, his third year in the league. The receiver drafted a year after Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, hopes to have a similar leap in production. Aiyuk caught 56 passes last season, hauling in five touchdowns and a career-high 826 yards. However, it initially looked like the receiver's second NFL season would be unremarkable. He had just one reception for six yards through Week 2 and appeared to be in head coach Kyle Shanahan's dog house. Aiyuk's production picked up after that and exploded in the second half of the season. He had 10 catches for 201 yards in the 49ers' final two regular-season games. Last season, nearly 50 percent of his receiving yards came in his final six

George Kittle impressed by Trey Lance's progress, says 49ers QB benefitted from Jimmy Garoppolo

By David Bonilla
May 20

It isn't easy to speculate on the development of Trey Lance during practices. Most of those criticizing the young quarterback were not watching him every day. One player who did watch Lance every day is his San Francisco 49ers teammate, George Kittle. The All-Pro tight end loves what he has seen from the now-22-year-old quarterback. Lance is expected to be the 49ers' starter come Week 1 of the upcoming season. However, the starter of the past four-and-a-half seasons, Jimmy Garoppolo, remains on the roster. Garoppolo is recovering from the shoulder surgery he underwent on March 8, so the 49ers can't trade the veteran quarterback until he is medically cleared to throw again. Kittle joined The Pat McAfee Show on Friday and was asked if Garoppolo remaining

George Kittle spoke with Deebo Samuel, says 49ers WR is 'in a good place'

By David Bonilla
May 20

The drama surrounding Deebo Samuel has died down a bit. Much of that is due to the San Francisco 49ers not granting his trade request ahead of the draft. By not doing so, the team declared that they believe the relationship with their do-everything wideout can be mended. George Kittle has been making the media rounds today. Of course, among the questions directed toward the All-Pro tight end involves the status of Samuel. After all, it's a storyline that dominated NFL headlines heading into the draft. "I actually talked to him a few days ago," Kittle said on The Pat McAfee Show. "Yeah, he seemed like he was in a good mood. He was hanging out with his kid, who he just had. ... I didn't ask about his contract, so we were just talking about other things,

George Kittle: 49ers offense will be 'more exciting' with Trey Lance

By David Bonilla
May 20

Trey Lance seems to have a lot of doubters this offseason. Many are questioning his readiness to be the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, the team that drafted him No. 3 overall last year. George Kittle is not one of Lance's doubters. Yes, the All-Pro tight end acknowledges that there could be some growing pains for the young quarterback this season. Lance, after all, started only two games as a rookie and played just 178 snaps. Kittle also realizes the talent level of the 49ers roster. That talent could carry the second-year passer should there be any early struggles. "If that's how it shakes down, and Trey Lance is the


Trending News

Share 49ersWebzone