“Quest For Six” - The 49ers Visit a Frozen Lambeau Field on Wildcard Weekend

Frank "The Bell Cow" Gore will be called upon to carry a heavy load Sunday at Lambeau

By Connor Buestad (connorbuestad@gmail.com)

Jim Harbaugh thrives on this type of stuff. Lives for it. The feature game on Wildcard Weekend, going on the road to Green Bay, the expected freezing cold temperatures (high of 3 degrees, low of -24), Seattle with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Secretly, I think this is exactly how Harbaugh would draw it up if he had the choice. The four game Super Bowl mountain is there to be climbed, and Jim and the Niners are ready and willing to fight their way up it regardless of who or what gets in their way.

Even though the New York Football Giants have recently proven otherwise, conventional wisdom suggests it is extremely difficult to go on the road, in below zero temperatures, before a loud and passionate fanbase, and beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Fortunately, the 2013 version of the San Francisco 49ers turns out to be a pretty darn good football team.

Owners of the third best record in the NFL, the 12-4 Niners will be the only road team to be favored this weekend (-3). Riding an impressive six game winning streak to close out the regular season, San Francisco seems to be hitting their stride at exactly the right time. Better yet, SF has had Green Bay’s number as of late, beating the Packers three times in the last 16 months. This includes last year’s 45-31 Divisional Playoff win versus the Pack inside the late Candlestick Park, not to mention this year’s home opener in which Colin Kaepernick had his best game of the season against Green Bay.

Marquez Pope and the Niners came up short at Green Bay in the '96 Playoffs

For better or worse, the sunny California skies of early September in which the Niner offense operated so masterfully under will not be present this Sunday. Far from it. It remains to be seen how the speed of Kap’s passes will be received in the frigid conditions inside Lambeau. No word on whether there’s a “broken finger” prop bet in place for Sunday, but Boldin, Crabtree and Davis will be tasked with the unenviable duty of catching icy bullets from Kap all evening long.

Even coming off a lackluster performance in Arizona last weekend, it is safe to assume Frank Gore will shoulder much of the Niner’s offensive load come Sunday. Facing what is a relatively bad Packers defense, it should come as no surprise if the Niners O-Line is able to open up nice holes for Frank to run through all game long.

From the opening kick, the chess match between Jim Harbaugh and Mike McCarthy should be interesting to watch. Will Green Bay, without an injured Clay Matthews, try to stuff the box and force San Francisco to pass? Or will McCarthy decide to play it straight up, honoring the exploits of SF’s proven aerial attack of Kap, Crabs, VD, and Boldin? How hard headed will Jim Harbaugh be in said chess match? How much will the weather really become a factor?

Colin Kaepernick's legs were too much for Green Bay to handle in last year's Playoffs

On the other side of the ball you have the Lambeau legend in the making that is Aaron Rodgers. Beyond being athletic enough to “make every throw on the field," Rodgers' leadership, experience and overall competitiveness is what has kept Niner Faithful awake at night all week long leading up to Sunday. From his days as a high schooler in Chico without a college scholarship offer, to being passed up by San Francisco in the draft, to his years tucked in the shadows of the infamous Brett Favre, Rodgers has always seemed to play with something extra to prove. No matter how often the Niners’ D-Line gets to Rodgers, Number 12 won’t fade. It is almost assured that he will put up a considerable amount of points on the board on Sunday. The question is whether or not Kaepernick and co will be able to consistently counter with points of their own.

It is no secret that the Super Bowl champion often emerges out of Wildcard Weekend. You’d certainly have to like the Niners chances in the Divisional Round, riding what would be a seven game winning streak, playing a team fighting off a week of rust. But first, the Niners must prove to its Faithful that they can go into an icy Lambeau and steal the cheese from one of the most passionate fan bases in the history of sports. The sellout controversy aside, the Packers fans that do show up will be shirtless, inebriated and hungry to defend their frozen turf.

We all remember the two times the Niners have ventured out to Wisconsin to play the Pack in the playoffs. The 1996 contest was a mudbowl featuring Elvis Grbac, Dorsey Levins and Desmond Howard, while the 2001 tilt gave us a steady dose of Brett Favre and Ahman Green. Both resulted in gutwrenching defeats and long plane rides back to the Bay. Sunday will feature Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin and Boobie Dixon, versus the likes of Aaron Rodgrs and Eddie Lacy, and a frozen playing surface. Let the chess match begin, we’ll see if the third time is indeed the charm.

"The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field"

"The Stick" - A Lifelong Niner Fan Takes a Moment to Look Back

"The naked bootleg" (photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Josh Hunsucker (@JPhunsucker)

Today is more likely than not the last 49ers game at Candlestick Park (although Seattle and New Orleans losses next week and a backdoor number one seed would be nice). For the past week, it seems as though everyone is providing their memories of the reinforced concrete, wind vortex, traffic deathtrap, bog of a stadium the 49ers (and Giants) played inside of before concussions “existed.” The 49ers did a nice job of listing the Top 10 Candlestick moments and countless other pundits have recapped The Catch, T.O.’s TD catch against Green Bay (I refuse to call it Catch II), and the Vernon Post.

In some ways what I am writing is no different, even though as you will see it is clearly not the same. I was barely alive for The Catch, I still lived in Texas/Oklahoma during Steve Young’s scramble against the Vikes, and I never witnessed anything at Candlestick Park live (football-wise) until after Y2K didn't happen. So if you were expecting some “classic” moments you probably won't get them here unless you love Kurt Manwaring and Jeff Garcia.

The first time I remember being at Candlestick was to watch the Giants final home game in 1993 with my buddy JB and the TJB Cat. For those who don’t remember they had a murders row that year: Bonds (his first year in the Bay), Matt Williams, Willie McGeee, and Will “The Thrill” Clark. The final home game at Candlestick that year came before a crucial four game series in L.A. that would determine the Giants' playoff lives. During the September pennant race the Giants were in a dead heat with the Atlanta Braves. The Giants PA announcer kept giving in-game updates on the Braves game and we were constantly watching the scoreboard to see if the Art Howe led Astros could upset 20-game winner Tommy Glavine. That day, Salomon Torres lasted 2 and 2/3s, gave up two bombs, and left the Giants fans biting their nails in vain as the Braves got the win. The Giants went on to lose 12-1 to the Dodgers on the last game of the season, sealing their fate as the best team of all-time to miss the playoffs (103 wins).

In 2000, I went to my first Niners game at Candlestick. Miramonte High School booster, Orinda legend, and namesake of the Stockholm Store, Jim Stockhom, took me and another player from the football team to the game. That day marked the first and only time I would ever be put in a position that would have violated NCAA regulations, which was awesome in its own right. The Niners, sitting at 2-8 and slogging through a dismal season, met the Chiefs and the most under-utilized Golden Bear in history, Tony Gonzales. It was a 1:05 kickoff, sunny skies, no wind. As we got to our seats at the end of warm-ups and the stadium was buzzing. My eyes immediately locked into Flash-80 and fixed on him as he seemingly floated across the field catching easy- ups. The game itself was ugly. I remember T.O. only having one catch for maybe five or six yards. Jerry didn’t do much either. But El Jefe found a way and Chalie Garner chipped in 100-yards for a Niners 21-7 win.


When you are dating someone, very rarely do you get put into the position where the signs are so clear that you couldn’t miss them. In the infancy of my wife and I’s dating circa 2003, she called me up over the winter break and asked if I wanted to go to the final Niners home game that season against Seattle. The only catch was that I had to double- back from Orinda to Stockton to pick her up. Maybe this is different from some people but in my experience I don’t usually get offered Niners tickets out of the blue from girls that I was kind of dating. Bold move on her part. Although the game wasn’t great, we lost 24-17 and failed to salvage an 8-8 season, I had checked off the "likes and knows football box" for my future game day viewing partner.

I’m going to combo my last two “bonus” moments. Full disclosure, I wasn’t at either of these two events. The 2011-12 season was my favorite season since the 1994-5 Super Bowl year. I loved that team. I had just moved back to California after being gone for almost seven years and the Niners had this upstart coach and low expectations. Somehow, they kept winning these close games that they had always managed to lose during the previous 10-years.

The fourth quarter of the Saints game was one of the most emotionally draining sporting events of my life. Two heavyweights landing haymaker after haymaker with the other refusing to go down. The Alex Smith bootleg run may have been the happiest I have ever been for a Niner only to be spoiled by Darren Sproles crazy catch and run. Any Faithful watching that game is lying if they said that the Niners should have gone for the win on their next drive. I kept yelling at the TV “all we need is a field goal.” Frank chips away a few yards, then Vernon gets loose for almost fifty. The next two plays Frank for six yards and a Smith spike reeked of the classic NFL conservative play calling. Then it happened. Alex Smith dropped back and fired a laser to VD. Great catch, great throw. The Stick is going absolutely nuts at this point, I’m throwing my 1 1/2 year-old son in the air probably doing some irreparable harm to his body. Pandemonium, bedlam, joy, tears, and the feeling like football is finally back.

The next week, after Kyle Williams fumbled the punt(s) and the Giants kicked the game winning field goal (the second punt in OT never bothered me, great play by the Giants, but the first punt hitting his leg was inexcusable) I wasn’t distraught like I usually would be after a huge loss like that. We were back, a new era of Niner football.

And that is where we are now. While Candlestick will always have fond memories it’s time to move on. Tonight at the Stick will be a great send off for the team and the Faithful. Besides, wouldn't it be better to raise banner number six on opening day at Levi’s Stadium? Here's to "The Stick", and all that it's given us over the years.

"Talking Bourbon Street Karmic Super Sunday Superdome Letdown Blues"


By Josh Hunsucker (@jphunsucker)

I still feel this way.

It's been two weeks since Super Bowl XLVII and I can’t stop feeling like my girlfriend broke-up with me. Let me preface this entire diatribe with the fact that I know it is completely irrational. With that said, I still blame myself.

During the Giants 2012 World Series run, Murph and Mac always talked about “particles”. The mystic, fleeting, and intangible thoughts and feelings that fans have. On some level, the particles swirl together and make some sort of a karmic difference, good or bad. For example, before the NLCS game Barry Zito pitched (sorry for the lack of details, I’m an A’s fan) a woman named Inga (check out comment 63, called during both the NLDS and NLCS)  and spoke about a how she envisioned Barry Zito rising to the occasion and how the stars were aligning for him. This is particles.

Fast forward to SB XLVII, I know that we (yes we) got down 28-6, but I can’t help thinking about the fact that some of my decisions heading into the game added up to some particles going against us. First of all, we went to The City for the game. Prior to that, we never left the 209 for a game. I also wore a gold satin jacket for the game for the first time all season. I even rationalized that it was like the team wearing the SB patch. Among the myriad of particles that added up against me though, not watching the game with my kids, which we had done all season, may have been the karmic back-breaker.

When I look back on all of the karmic particles that I spun in the Ravens direction, I feel like Maverick after he gunned Viper and left Hollywood and Wolfman's wing. You never leave your wingman, you should always dance with who brought you, and you never change up routine before the big game. Maverick's immortal words echo in my head every time I think about SB XLVII, “I know better than that. . . . That will never happen again.”

After the game The City felt and looked like someone had died. People wandered the Marina looking like they had just succumbed to the drunken zombie Super Bowl apocalypse. I felt dazed all night. A fight in the bar spilling over into the area I was standing couldn't pull my sullen gaze away from Steve Young begrudging praising the Ravens. I even had a random dude ask me if I needed a hug as I blankly stared at one TV showing highlights and another showing Mexican League baseball.

On Monday, I knew the first week would be bad. I knew I would feel terrible. Losing the Super Bowl is undiscovered territory for Niners fans. What I didn’t know is that this empty feeling would continue to linger for two weeks with no sign of going away. Pitchers and catchers didn’t help. The Warriors having a “great” year hasn't helped. Nothing is working. I feel as lost as Lewis and Clark if they had never found Sacajawea.

I still log onto 49ers.com or go onto the 49ers App like a sullen ex stalking their long lost love on Facebook. I can’t put my 49ers jerseys away for the spring. I keep wearing my Niners shorts to bed hoping to wake-up on Super Sunday with the chance to change my mind about going to The City. But I know its not going to happen. Where do we as Faithful go from here? How do we get through this?

Unbreak My Heart.