Packers look to get back to the Super Bowl after nine long years

David Koier, Courier Staff

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I remember it like it was yesterday, as do most fans of the Green Bay Packers. Jan. 18, 2015, the 2014-15 NFC Championship game.

Though there have been many instances throughout history that have made me dislike the Seattle Seahawks franchise, this was the game that led me to despise the birds from the NFC West. Kickoff wasn’t until 3:06 p.m., so I was able to watch the first half at a friend’s house before heading to my job as a cashier at a local fast food restaurant.

The first half was dominated by the Green and Gold. Three field goals by Mason Crosby and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb from Aaron Rodgers put the Pack up 16-0. Pair that with a Packers defense that forced three interceptions off of Seattle QB Russell Wilson and that’s a pretty good first half. So good that ProFootballReference.com had Green Bay’s chances of winning at 94.4 percent.

As a Packers fan, I was hyped. The Super Bowl was in our sights, and all that was needed was the defense to stay dominating and the offense to keep driving. As halftime hit, it was time for me to go to work. Packer Sundays in Wisconsin are basically a national holiday, and with it being the NFC Championship, the roads and restaurants were deserted.

While the Green Bay offense wasn’t able to put anything on the board until the fourth quarter, the Super Bowl was still in the Packers’ sights as their chances of winning with just 3:07 left on the clock jumped to a whopping 99.7 percent. And then, the Seahawks scored. While three minutes may not be a lot of time, especially for a Seattle team down 19-14, Packers fans would learn all too well that day that a lot can happen within three minutes.

Without boring you with all the details, since I assume many of you already know the outcome, I, as well as the rest of the state of Wisconsin, will never forget the day that the Packers blew their shot at the Super Bowl after holding on to a 99 percent chance of winning.

It would take two more years, off of a game winning drive by Aaron Rodgers and a game winning field goal off the foot of Crosby against the Cowboys, for the Packers to return once more to the NFC Championship game; a game that the Atlanta Falcons steamrolled the Packers 44-21.

Now you may be wondering, “Why is he telling me all this? Why should I care about his dumb story?” I bring all this up for one reason: this Sunday, in the NFC Championship game, Packers fans must once again be ready to feel pain and sadness. The San Francisco 49ers have proven all season that they are the dominant team in the NFC and solidified that this past Saturday against the Vikings.

While Jimmy Garoppolo was only held to 131 passing yards (he averaged 248.6 yards per game during the regular season), he was still able to lead the Niners to a 27-10 routing of the Vikings. Running back Tevin Coleman was the one who really shined, however, rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

It was the San Fran defense that really shined on the day. Along with only holding the Vikings to just 10 points, the defense sacked Kirk Cousins six times (led by Nick Bosa’s two), recorded one interception, held the Vikings offense to only 147 total yards and only allowed them into the red zone once. They say defense wins championships, and the 49ers are proving that right.

While the Packers had a strong night both offensively and defensively on Sunday, we have to look back to earlier this season when these two teams met in a Sunday Night Football game in November. The Niners routed the Green and Gold 37-8 in what was a very one-sided game.

Jimmy G threw for 253 yards and two TDs while star tight end George Kittle tore up Green Bay’s defense, going 6-6 on receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay’s defense couldn’t put any pressure on Garoppolo, only recording four tackles for loss, three of those sacks.

On the other end, the 49ers defense did 49ers defense things, forcing Rodgers to fumble on the first drive, which led to a quick San Fran score. In total, Rodgers was sacked five times for 38 yards while only throwing for 104 yards on 33 attempts. Even star running back Aaron Jones was only held to 38 yards on the ground and wasn’t able to find the endzone once.

Based on previous experience, it looks like the San Francisco 49ers will have an easy time punching their tickets to Miami, but it’s the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers and company are 6-0 since their loss to the 49ers all the way back in November, and playoff Rodgers is something else. The NFC road to the Super Bowl goes through San Francisco. Will Packers fans witness one of the biggest upsets in recent years and make their first Super Bowl in nine years, or will the 49ers stomp out their hopes and hand the Pack their third straight NFC Championship loss?

Kickoff is set for 5:40 p.m. this Sunday on FOX.