SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When Aaron Rodgers greeted Jimmy Garoppolo following the least productive start of his sterling career he had a simple message for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback: “We'll see you later on.”
Less than two months after that lopsided loss, the Green Bay Packers quarterback has proven prophetic. For the eighth time in the past 25 seasons Green Bay and San Francisco are squaring off in the postseason, this time with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line.
“We know it will be different,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That game got away from them early. That's definitely not the team we'll see 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. ... That game really holds zero relevance to what's going to happen this Sunday.”
The Packers (14-3) looked nothing like a Super Bowl contender back on Nov. 24 when they were completely overwhelmed by the 49ers (14-3) from the start. Rodgers was strip-sacked by Fred Warner on the opening drive and Nick Bosa returned the fumble to the 2 to set up Tevin Coleman's TD run.
The Niners added a couple of field goals and got a fourth-down stop against Aaron Jones before breaking that game open at the end of the first half with a 42-yard TD pass from Garoppolo to Deebo Samuel and a third field goal from Chase McLaughlin in the final 65 seconds of the half to make it 23-0.
The 37-8 final was the second-most lopsided loss in Rodgers' career in a game he didn't get injured.
“I think there's a lot to learn,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “First of all, I mean, that's a really good football team. We know we are going to have to be at our absolute best in order to compete with them and you know, I think unfortunately last time for whatever reason, we weren't.”
Rodgers finished the game 20 for 33 for 104 yards and had a career-low with only 3.15 yards per attempt. He was also sacked five times for 38 yards, with right tackle Bryan Bulaga leaving early in the first quarter with a knee injury.
“We've got to play a lot better obviously,” Rodgers said. “They're a great football team, have a great front, obviously get after the passer and don't need to rush a lot of guys to do that. (They have an) excellent pass rush, really good on the back end, smart.”
The Packers haven't lost since, winning the final five games of the regular season and then the playoff opener over Seattle 28-23 on Sunday to set up the rematch. San Francisco beat Minnesota 27-10 on Saturday.
Green Bay should have Bulaga back even though he missed Sunday's game with an illness.
But regular-season blowouts don't always repeat when the teams meet again in the playoffs. There have been 23 times in the Super Bowl era that a team lost a regular-season game by at least 28 points to a team it met again in the playoffs.
In nine of those cases, the team that got blown out came back to win in the playoffs, and in six other games the team lost by a touchdown or less.