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Article Title: Playing on the Frozen Tundra
Article Date: Nov 20 2003
By Bryan Hersh

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Tim Rattay will make his third consecutive start as the 49ers head up to Green Bay and the infamous Lambeau field. Funny thing is though, since the team updated its stadium this off-season, some of the nostalgia seems to be gone. Playing at the frozen tundra just is not as bad as it used to be. To take this game lightly though would be a severe mistake. At 5-5 the 49ers have finally reached the .500 mark again, and this time, if they have a hope and dream of making the playoffs – they can not afford to slip down below the even mark again. You want to talk about a ‘must win game’? For the 49ers that’s ever game from here on out if they want to be playing in January and February.

Beating the Packers on their worst day is never easy. Quarterback Brett Favre is always the x factor that can make or break a game for them. Favre is playing with a bad thumb on his throwing had, but that is not expected be a big factor in this game. Stopping Favre is one key, containing the Packer running game is clearly the other. The Packers have run for well over 600 yards in their past three performances. It is not easy to run against this 49es defence, but it will take the “A” game to stop the Packers. Holding containment on the cut back lanes and tackling on the first hit will be crucial to this game.

The weather is never pretty in Green Bay. Right now, they are calling for rain on Sunday. With Tim Rattay making his first road start, the 49ers will depend on their running game to help get things started. Year after year the 49ers have a hard time running against the Packers though. As such the 49ers may look to implement the pitch out of the backfield so that they can get around a big defensive line. When running wide right or left the 49ers average the most yards. The play of Tim Rattay is as important in this game as the play of Brett Favre. The 49ers have not had much luck playing in Green Bay, a win would make Rattay the first 49ers quarterback since Joe Montana to win on the frozen tundra.

With so much emphasis on the running game, and the importance of giving Rattay time to throw (especially if the weather is bad), the play of the trenches becomes absolutely huge. The 49ers have to find a way to get the protection for the passing game, open up holes for the running game, and on defense they also have to control the line of scrimmage. The team remains with Eric Heitmann on offense, so this task will not be easy, but it is likely the key to winning this week.

Defensively there is no doubt the team needs its stars to shine. Confusing Brett Favre is no easy task, but Julian Peterson will likely try as he lines up all over the field. Still without Jamie Winborn the 49ers will have to count on their starting three linebackers or the emergence of Saleem Rasheed to provide the variety of schemes on defense. Guys Andre Carter and Bryant Young need to bring their best games in this key match up. In the defensive backfield the return of free safety Zack Bronson should help close some of the holes that lead to the near exploitation of Ahmed Plummer on Monday night, but Plummer will have to pick up his game too.

With only six days between games, the 49ers have had a shortened week. They are riding quite high off their first two game win streak of the season. If Tim Rattay can get it done in Green Bay, it will be time for Jeff Garcia to really start sweating, and it could spell the end of his chances to return to the starting line up. This game is as big for Rattay who will be trying to prove himself, as it is for the 49ers who are looking to revive a season that came so close to ending weeks ago.