No one has won at Lambeau Field since Miami on Oct. 17, 2010. The Giants were blown out 45-17 in Game 15 of that season when they were in position to make the playoffs.
But New York shocked the Packers in the 2007 NFC championship game, then pulled off an even bigger upset by taking down the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Green Bay is wary _ as wary as a 15-1 team needs to be.
“There is a reason why we are both playing in this game. We are two of the last four teams in the NFC,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They are playing well and they wouldn’t be here if they were not, so to me, that is to be expected. I think they are playing better than when they played us and earlier in the season they had some tough defeats also. It is playoff football and they are a very good football team.”
San Francisco makes its return to the postseason after an eight-year absence and gets quite a challenge: the potent Saints and record-setting quarterback Drew Brees. New Orleans was unstoppable in the second half against Detroit in the wild-card round, but the 49ers’ defense is immensely better than the Lions’ unit.
“They’ve got everything going for them right now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Brees and company. “They’ve got a great quarterback who’s got great weapons to throw to. He’s got a great offensive line in front of him. The guy’s only been sacked 24 times in the regular season, and that’s off of 700 times they’ve thrown the ball, dropped back to pass. So, that’s impressive in and of itself, and to top it off, they’ve got a great scheme. They really give you a lot of offense to prepare for.”
The 49ers offense did just enough all season, thanks to the running of Frank Gore and the overall offensive efficiency: just 10 turnovers all season. San Francisco also led the league with 38 takeaways and a plus-28 turnover differential.
New England has been maligned for a defense that gives up tons of yards, ranking 31st, ahead of only _ get this _ the Packers. It hasn’t mattered much as the Patriots (13-3) won their final eight games, including a 41-23 victory at Denver last month.
While much of America is marveling over Tim Tebow’s heroics for the Broncos (9-8), the response in New England isn’t quite so awe-filled.
“You know they had some good things and some bad things,” defensive back Sterling Moore said, “so you kind of just want to take the good things that they did and kind of avoid the bad things that they did. But it’s one of those games where you’re going to have to be mentally sharp and know your assignment and do your assignment only.”