For as dominant as the 49ers are against the run, they’re just as proficient in pass defense, at least in terms of statistical ranking. Vic Fangio’s unit finished the 2012 regular season at No. 4 in both rushing and passing defense, despite the fact their opponents were often trailing and tested the secondary, forced to air it out playing catchup.
In their 45-31 thrashing of Green Bay in the divisional round, the 49ers held Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s top-rated passer at 108.0, to less than 200 yards passing and one touchdown until the final garbage-time drive in the 4th quarter. They also limited the All-World quarterback to only three first downs via the pass on third down.
That included All-Pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis’ sack of Rodgers for a nine-yard loss and cornerback Tarell Brown’s interception in the second quarter. Brown also had another interception negated by a controversial penalty on a late drive that resulted instead in a Green Bay touchdown.
San Francisco now moves on to the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons. It’s a matchup that will pose similar winnable battles for the 49ers on both sides of the ball, most notably with regards to Atlanta’s pass-first tendencies on offense.
Let’s analyze that matchup and the five overall reasons why the 49ers’ win over the Packers bodes well for their upcoming game against the pass-happy Falcons.