Kyle Shanahan

Why a fast start will decide 49ers' playoff clash vs. Packers

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SANTA CLARA — At approximately 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, 49ers kicker Jake Moody can be expected to tee it up inside Levi's Stadium and send the ball into play to open the NFC divisional round matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

After all, regardless of which team wins the coin toss, it seems likely the Packers will end up with the football to start the game.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he would not even consider taking the ball if the 49ers win the coin toss. He is set on deferring, and Packers coach Matt LaFleur seems to have found something that works with his recent decisions to receive the opening kickoff.

Green Bay deferred the first 39 times they won the coin toss in LaFleur's first 4 1/2 seasons with the Packers. All that changed on Thanksgiving Day when he stressed the importance of a fast start against the Detroit Lions.

The Packers won the toss that day and chose to receive the opening kickoff. Green Bay led 20-6 at the end of the first quarter and cruised to a 29-22 victory.

Once again, the Packers opted to take the ball again Sunday in their playoff opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Jordan Love led the Packers down the field on a touchdown drive. The Packers took control and maintained control throughout en route to a 48-32 upset victory over the Cowboys.

"I think the guys just feed off it," offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich told the Green Bay-area media this week. "Anytime you can start fast and get seven points on the board in that first drive, I think that sets the tone for the entire game."

After the success of the decision a week ago, it would be a shock if the Packers changed their approach against the 49ers.

Meanwhile, when asked if he might opt to take the ball in order to prevent the Packers from a fast start, Shanahan answered, "Nope."

The 49ers have experienced a lot of success early in games while earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The 49ers scored 76 points on their opening drives this season — the best in the NFL since at least 2000. They outscored the opposition 115-63 in the first quarter of their 17 regular season games.

"We're all juiced up and ready to go for the first drive," 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy said. "Just our mindset with getting on a team pretty quickly and doing the little things right from the jump. That's a big emphasis that we have here.

"So that's something I think we've done well. Then obviously, our scheme and stuff, the plays that we know we're going to call for the first drive. Those are all things that you can prepare for and it helps you out as a player."

Shanahan prefers the possibility of holding the ball and scoring at the end of the first half, then immediately coming back and receiving the kickoff to open the third quarter.

"That's the advantage," Shanahan said. "If not, I think it usually plays out even. But you've got a chance to get an extra possession.

"Watching it all now and really studying it since I was in Atlanta, I just feel pretty strong about it."

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