Good news for Gore: Packers’ struggling run defense is next

Here’s a fearless wild-card prediction: Frank Gore will have more than 14 yards Sunday against Green Bay.

Gore had that rushing total in last week’s regular-season finale against Arizona, which boasts the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. In stark contrast, the Packers are, well, not quite as adept at stopping the run, to put it politely.

Green Bay finished the regular season 25th in rushing yards allowed per game (125.0) and 28th in yards allowed per attempt (4.6). An ominous sign entering their meeting against the 49ers: They morphed from average to awful as the season progressed.

In their last nine games, Green Bay allowed 157.2 rushing yards, 5.2 yards a carry and seven 100-yard rushers. Seven 100-yard rushers since November? The 49ers have allowed seven 100-yard rushers in their past 78 games dating to 2009. In addition, Green Bay’s 1,415 rushing yards allowed since Nov. 4 is just 120 fewer than the 49ers have allowed this season.

On Sunday, the Packers won’t have All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who re-broke a thumb in Week 16 that required a second surgery. Matthews originally broke the thumb on Oct. 6 and had pins surgically inserted.

“You’re always cautious with players after surgery,” Mike McCarthy said Monday to the Green Bay media when asked about Matthews’ availability in the playoffs. “Right now he’s out for this week and that’s really what we’re focused on.”

In the 49ers’ 34-28 win over Green Bay in Week 1, Gore was limited to 44 yards on 21 carries. The Packers defense went to extremes to ensure they didn’t reprise last season’s playoff embarrassment, when Colin Kaepernick (181 yards) and Gore (119) headlined a 323-yard rushing performance. The tradeoff, of course, was that Kaepernick torched their secondary for 412 yards and three touchdowns.

On Sunday, the Packers will presumably try to find a happy medium. Whatever strategy they employ, I’ll stick with my bold prediction: Gore will rush for at least 15 yards.

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