"That’s just kind of how I go about my business, how I do things," Crosby said. "I feel accountable to my teammates, to the organization, to myself, to my family. There’s a lot of things that I really put into it. So for me, it’s easy to stay motivated and stay focused. I try not to get too high or too low with stuff and just work hard, work through things and make sure I detail my work so when the time comes you’re going to make that kick.”
And if Saturday night comes down to a last-second kick to win it?
“If that opportunity comes, I’m ready," Crosby replied. "I’m ready for that first one, that last one and my mindset through the playoffs – and toward the end of the playoffs here – is to just finish everything."
Talking turnovers: There may be no more blatantly obvious stat that decides winning and losing more than turnover differential. But when it comes to these two teams, it’s even more profound.
As pointed out in a terrific breakdown at Grantland.com by Bill Barnwell, in five of the Packers’ 16 regular-season games, they failed to get a takeaway. They lost four of those five games, with the only victory coming over New Orleans on Sept. 30. One of those four turnover-less games was their Sept. 9 loss to the 49ers, who had the game’s only takeaway, a Navorro Bowman interception on Rodgers.
Conversely, when the Packers forced at least one turnover, they went 10-1. In those 11 games, they had multiple takeaways in seven, and their only loss was a one-takeaway game at Indianapolis on Oct. 7. Last week in the NFC Wild Card round, the Packers forced three Minnesota turnover and coasted to a 24-3 victory. According to Barnwell, the Packers are just 1-13 when they fail to force at least one takeaway in a game under McCarthy, including 1-10 with Rodgers at quarterback.
The Packers – and Woodson specifically, given his success against young QBs in recent years – are obviously hoping that Kaepernick, making his first postseason start, will turn it over. If he does, their chances of winning increase exponentially.
“I think their scheme helps him,” Capers said. “When you’ve got a solid running game the way he has – and they play-action pass a lot and they run the read-option series, they do a lot of different things – I think they do a nice job of coaching him to where he hasn’t made the critical mistakes that you see a lot of those young guys make.”
On the flip side, the 49ers are plus-37 in turnover differential under Harbaugh (No. 2 in the NFL over that period, behind New England’s plus-42 and ahead of Green Bay’s plus-31) and they were 8-0-1 this season when they won the turnover battle.
“In any game, that’s a key statistic,” Harbaugh said. “Who scores the most points is the biggest indicator of who wins and loses the game. But, turnovers are essential, are a big statistic in who wins and predicts who’s going to win the game. So, taking care of the football, (is important). I think neither one of us, you or I, would be going out on a limb by saying ball security and turnovers will play a big part in the game.”
And that’s where Rodgers comes in. He’s on a 177-attempt streak without an interception, and while he did fumble five times this season (losing four), his turnover-averse nature will be vital.
“I think I have played pretty consistently as far as my style of play and my performance. I’m going to go through my progressions and I’m going to throw it too the open guys, I’m not going to force a ton of throws,” Rodgers said. “I’m going to be aggressive when I need to, but a situation like it was on Saturday (against Minnesota), it was more about taking care of the football than forcing a blind throw.
“We talk about in the quarterback room all the time the no-no’s of playing quarterback. It’s no blind throws; if you can’t see a guy, don’t throw it. Don’t throw it late down the middle. Some of those (against the Vikings) would have been late in the drop back, late on the time clock, late down the middle. And, no premeditated decisions. So if you’re not doing any of those three things, you’re probably playing a pretty good game.
“Sometimes you have to fight against the urge to when you’re thinking, ‘This guy is got to be open here,’ but just continue to stay true to your progression and trust your eyes, knowing that, that guy is going to be in the right spot. But the no blind throws and no late down the middle is something I think is really helped me to not be a guy who’s turning the ball over a lot.”
What a tough call. Both teams have their imperfections but are legit Super Bowl contenders with playmakers on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the 49ers need Justin Smith to tilt the field despite his triceps injury. Offensively, the Packers have to allow the reigning NFL MVP to make the breathtaking plays he can make when given time. The bet here is that this game comes down to whether the Packers’ offensive linemen can protect Rodgers. If they can, Rodgers will be Rodgers and the Packers will win. If they can’t, the 49ers will be back in the NFC Championship Game for the second year in a row. The guess here is that it’s the latter. 49ers 27, Packers 24. (Season record: 10-7)
– Jason Wilde