GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Chances are, the San Francisco 49ers are plotting to pound the Green Bay Packers on the ground.
The weather forecast is scary. The Packers' run defense has been scary at times, too.
More than 2,000 carries into his career, Frank Gore remains fine wine.
"I don't really care what they think, what their game plan is," nose tackle Ryan Pickett said. "We're just worried about what we're going to do and how we're going to execute. So we feel like if they want to pound it, it's to our advantage."
So Sunday's NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field will feature a clash in tempos. The Packers want to speed it up with the no-huddle offense. The 49ers probably will try to grind out with sustained drives to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Weather is the wild card. But these two offenses are built differently. Which team asserts its style, its pace will probably advance.
The Packers should be optimistic.
In his first game back, Rodgers steered a hurry-up at Chicago. And in Week 1 at San Francisco, the no-huddle was at its best.
"Just when you're able to get a couple first downs and get rolling, it obviously builds our confidence" offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "And as far as what they do, the longer the drives go, it's to our benefit. We just try to move the ball and score points."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy indicated Thursday that weather can "absolutely" affect how you call a game. But overall, assistants didn't seem to think the arctic chill would dull their no-huddle offense at all.
All preseason, the master plan in Green Bay was to go fast. The team studied the hurry-up more and even watched some film of Chip Kelly's Oregon offense. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith said then the officials needed to spot the ball more quickly. And in the opener -- against San Francisco, one of the NFL's best defenses -- the Packers' had touchdown drives of 80, 62, 69 and 76 yards.
None of those drives lasted longer than 2 minutes, 48 seconds. Rodgers and Co. were in the zone.
Then injuries began to decimate the Packers' offense. With weapons back, Green Bay is starting to speed it up again.
Often using a muddle huddle at Chicago -- receivers staying wide between plays as others conversed -- Green Bay ran 25 more plays than the Bears. The Packers finished with 25 first downs, 473 total yards and 33 points.
Running the no-huddle, the Packers can keep the 49ers in one personnel grouping. With the Jordy Nelson/James Jones/Randall Cobb receiving trio back, the Packers may uncover mismatches in the passing game. The 49ers were afraid to stick linebackers on the Packers' slot receivers in the opener.
And if they do decide to use an extra defensive back for a series, running back Eddie Lacy should have opportunities.
So then the question becomes how much the North Pole conditions affect the Green Bay attack.
Running backs coach Alex Van Pelt had the first-row seat to the Buffalo Bills' "K-Gun" offense in the 1990's. Playing along the unfriendly shore of Lake Erie, Jim Kelly never had much trouble. Van Pelt pointed to the 1990 AFC Championship when the Bills won, 51-3, over the Los Angeles Raiders in the cold. Then in 1993, with the wind chill at minus-32, the Bills beat the Raiders again in the playoffs.
From the no-huddle that second game, Jim Kelly threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Snow can be a factor, Van Pelt said; the cold, not so much. With Kelly, a quarterback who despised the Buffalo cold out of college, there was almost no difference between September Sundays and January Sundays.
"He played well in it for a lot of years up there," Van Pelt said. "I think as a quarterback it's something that has an effect on you early. Once you get used to it and understand it's just another part of the game, you kind of put it in the back of your mind, forget about it and go on."
Clements added that Rodgers has big hands to handle the ball in the cold. The ball is slicker in the cold. At the NFL scouting combine, Rodgers' hands measured at 9 3/8 inches. The Packers hope practicing outside these last few weeks helps.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are a team that ran the ball 55 percent of the time this season. They employ a complex rushing attack that hits in defense with a mix of both zone and power plays. Gore is fed the ball up the middle often. In the cold, they may look to take it right at the Packers' defense.
Pickett didn't seem worried Thursday.
"We feel like we're a physical team," he said, "and we like our matchup with our defensive line and their offensive line."
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