Aaron Rodgers can get ultimate revenge on the 49ers

Green Bay Packers, NFL Playoffs, San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers passed on Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL Draft. He has the opportunity to make them regret it this Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers is widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of the past decade. Despite that, he still has a chip on his shoulder pertaining to one thing: the San Francisco 49ers.

Growing up a Niners fan in Chico, Ca., Rodgers built an impressive resume at Cal and thought going to San Francisco, who had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, would be an ideal fit for both sides. It seemed like a no-brainer and a match made in heaven. When draft night came, the organization instead chose then-Utah quarterback Alex Smith. Rodgers immediately indicated regret:

Ever since, Rodgers and the 49ers franchise have been thrown into the same sentence countless times. For better or worse, the story of how an all-time great talent fell to the 24th pick in the draft circles back around every season. The two-time MVP  has put together a Hall of Fame career, but he has the opportunity to achieve the ultimate form of revenge this Sunday.

In his career vs. San Francisco, including two playoff games, Rodgers holds a 4-5 record. He has yet to win a postseason game against the 49ers, losing in back-to-back years (2013 and 2014).

In Week 12 of this season, Rodgers and the Packers squared off against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers in a highly-anticipated NFC battle. It turned out to be anything but, as Kyle Shanahan’s squad dominated en route to a 37-8 victory. Rodgers completed 20-of-33 passes for 104 yards (3.15 yards per attempt) and tossed just one touchdown. It was one of the worst performances of his career. Following the game, he preached a sense of urgency:

“Offensively, I’ve got to take the lead and get hot in December here, and we’ve got to start finding ways to get the ball to our guys all the time.”

Green Bay hasn’t lost a game since. First-year head coach Matt LaFleur guided the team to a 13-3 regular season record and while Rodgers’ play has been a mixed bag, he showed up big-time in a 28-23 Divisional Round win over the Seattle Seahawks. A 16-of-27, 243-yard, two-touchdown stat line doesn’t jump off the page, but Rodgers connected on several throws that caused many to drop the “vintage” tag on social media Sunday night.

As for San Francisco it’s playing some great football in its own right. Ranking in the top 10 in both yards allowed and points surrendered per game this season, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has done a tremendous job coaching his unit. That was on full display in the 49ers’ 27-10 clinic against the Minnesota Vikings — the team’s first playoff game of the year. Minnesota managed seven first downs all game, while star running back Dalvin Cook was held under 20 yards rushing.

With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, there is far more pressure on LaFleur and Rodgers than on Shanahan and Garoppolo. The latter duo features a 28-year-old quarterback and one of the better defenses the league has seen in recent years. The former features a young, dynamic head coach paired with a 36-year-old field general who is desperate for a Super Bowl victory. The time for a Packers championship is now.

Rodgers last played in a Super Bowl nine years ago. Defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in 2011, he appeared to be on his way to an illustrious, championship-filled career. Instead, although the illustrious box has been checked, he’s about to make his fourth NFC Championship appearance — with a 1-2 record heading into the game. Plenty of critics have claimed he’s lost a step and is no longer capable of putting the team on his back. At this age, he’s got a finite amount of chances left to win another ring.

This time, it should be personal for Rodgers. Fifteen years ago, the 49ers didn’t think he was the guy for them. Although Alex Smith went on to have a solid career in the league (that hopefully may resume one day), he didn’t come close to matching Rodgers’ achievements.

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Facing a stacked 49ers team, Rodgers has his chance to dish out the coldest revenge against the team which once considered him not good enough for them.

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