Having to tangle with division rival Minnesota twice in a span of seven days wasn’t a preferred scenario for the Packers.
That they survived the rematch Saturday night with a 24-10 victory over the Vikings in Green Bay to start the playoffs six days after losing 37-34 at Minnesota to end the regular season afforded the Packers a welcomed respite.
Green Bay has a full week before playing again, and head coach Mike McCarthy is making sure his players are properly prepared for the tussle ahead this weekend.
The players were off Sunday and Monday, giving their bodies adequate recovery time, before they jump back into practice Tuesday in advance of the divisional-round game at San Francisco on Saturday night.
“This is a great win, a big win for us, but we have to shift gears and be ready for San Francisco now,” receiver/returner Randall Cobb said after Saturday’s win. “We know what they’re going to bring, and it’s going to be a tough game.”
Toughness is a word that will be thrown around freely by the Green Bay players and coaches in the coming days as they discuss playing the 49ers again. The teams met in the season opener Sept. 9 at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, and San Francisco knocked the Packers around from the outset en route to a 30-22 victory in a game it never trailed.
The 49ers’ tenacious defense sacked Aaron Rodgers three times, intercepted one of his passes and held Green Bay to a season-low 45 rushing yards.
Their offense controlled the football for 33 minutes, in large part because of a rugged offensive line that paved the way for 186 rushing yards, 112 by Frank Gore.
“It’ll be a smash-mouth type of football game,” Packers veteran safety Charles Woodson predicted about the rematch.
With that in mind, McCarthy isn’t planning to go overboard with the contact in practice this week. The Packers will have their one allowed practice in pads for the week Wednesday, sandwiched by workouts in shells Tuesday and Thursday before the team departs Friday for the West Coast.
“The reality of it is we’re about 17, 18 games into (the season), and we played two games in (seven) days against a division opponent, and those are always physical football games,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to go in pads particularly at some point (Wednesday). How and when, the injury part will play into that because we’ve been down there too many weeks this year where you have 46, 47 healthy players and when you do pad it up your risk for injury does go up on the practice field, and that’s just stating the obvious. You have to factor all those things in.
“Fundamentals will be key to our victory Saturday,” he added. “That part won’t change and … the most important part for me will be that early part of practice (Wednesday) where we’re getting the fundamentals, and that’s the part we’ll probably, I know for sure will potentially be in pads.”