Can 49ers make leap over Lambeau’s historic charm?

Kyle Shanahan's injury-riddled offense enters with three-game losing streak

San Francisco 49ers’ running back Frank Gore (21) runs with the ball while being tackled by Green Bay Packers’ Brad Jones (59) in the fourth quarter of their NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. San Francisco defeated Green Bay 23-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – This isn’t your great-grandfather’s Lambeau Field, all due respect to its Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi statues on the porch.

Oh sure, this stadium remains a rite of football passage for players and fans, alike. It’s a NFL treasure. But it’s not a NFL relic. It’s been expanded and refurbished, complete with climate-controlled suites, LED lights and a heating system under the once-frozen tundra.

Steeped in history, Lambeau’s allure can’t be ignored, and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t expect his 1-4 team to lose focus as it arrives Monday night to face the Packers (2-2-1).

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks at the scoreboard during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“Yeah, we’re going through some stuff, but we get a chance to go play Monday night in Green Bay, which is as cool of a place to play,” Shanahan said.

The key word is “play,” rather than sight-see, eat brats or chug Titletown Brewery’s latest craft beer. (That’s what the weekend was for, right?)

The 49ers are an injury-riddled team that can’t afford to lose focus. They’re also a youth-laden team. Only two players (Joe Staley, Garrett Celek) were on their 2013 team that last visited Green Bay (and won in the NFC wild-card playoffs).

“It’s going to be my first time in Lambeau, so it’s going to be exciting,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “I’ve heard great things about it.”

Now hear this: the 49ers won their past two visits. First, they triumphed in their 2012 season opener, snapping a seven-game skid in Lambeau. Then the 49ers returned the next season and opened the NFC playoffs with a wild-card win.

GREEN BAY, WI – JANUARY 05: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up on the sideline during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 5, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The modern-day 49ers are on a three-game losing streak. The future looks bleak the remaining 11 games. Shanahan, as driven as he is to rally the troops, won’t ignore Lambeau’s historical charm, nor the impact of their first prime-time kickoff.

“It’s great to be amped up and have a little bit more energy, but the main thing is you’ve got to focus and do your job,” Shanahan said. “So, that can play two ways against you. You’ve got to balance it out.”

The Packers are unbeaten through three home games: rallying past the Chicago Bears in Week 1 (24-23), tying the Minnesota Vikings (29-29) in Week 2 and shutting out the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 (22-0).

San Francisco 49ers’ Phil Dawson (9), right, celebrates his game-winning field goal with San Francisco 49ers’ Andy Lee (4) against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. The final score was 23-20, with the 49ers facing the Carolina Panthers on Jan. 12. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

“This is a special place and we take the responsibility of defending Lambeau,” Mike McCarthy said. “Monday night makes the atmosphere better.”

The Packers are 71-20-2 (.727) at home since McCarthy arrived in 2006, the third-best mark in the NFL. Dating back to 1992, the Packers have the best home record (158-51-2; .754).

Only 11 Niners have played there: Celek, Staley, running back Alfred Morris, wide receiver Pierre Garçon, safety Antone Exum, offensive tackle Garry Gilliam, kicker Robbie Gould, defensive end Cassius Marsh, linebacker Mark Nzeocha, center Weston Richburg, cornerback Richard Sherman and guard Laken Tomlinson.

Said 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard of the expected scene: “A Monday night game in Lambeau, historic stadium. We’re playing a great team. It’s everything you ask for.”

A man wearing a costume holds a sign about the temperature as the San Francisco 49ers play the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter of their NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. San Francisco defeated Green Bay 23-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

The weather will be chilly but not the near-zero climate the 49ers overcame when they won a January 2014 wild-card visit.

Celek recalled this week how, unlike quarterback Colin Kaepernick, he wore sleeves and bundled up further with gloves, which he said he could smell burning as he desperately huddled up next to a sideline heater.

Shanahan has his own Lambeau story on ice, when his maiden trip came in 2008 as the Houston Texans offensive coordinator and 3-degree weather greeted him. “I tried to go to the (upstairs coaches) box, but they made me stay on the field,” Shanahan said. “I was freezing.

“It was pretty neat because I think we set a record,” Shanahan added. “We had over 500 yards of offense and it was the most in any temperature under 10 degrees. That was a pretty neat win. … It was a fun time.”


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