49ers must hit the road for playoffs this season

That familiar ”Quest for Six” slogan has re-emerged.

The San Francisco 49ers have acknowledged for months that the

road back to the Super Bowl to chase a sixth championship would be

a daunting one. Now, they have to hit the road, literally – a

different path than San Francisco had the past two seasons as NFC

West champions with a first-round bye and hosting home games.

The No. 5 seed Niners (12-4) are riding some important momentum

with a six-game winning streak. They head for the bitter cold of

Green Bay to play Sunday against the Packers (8-7-1), who have lost

the past three meetings in what has become quite a rivalry.

Coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t ready to call it so yet, however, only

that this is a matchup with a talented football team he

respects.

”In terms of a challenge, our guys know the challenge,”

Harbaugh said Monday. ”Being in the playoffs is a chance at the

ultimate chance. I don’t know if there’s a different way to speak

about the ballgame, the approach is that we’re going to be playing

at Lambeau Field next Sunday.”

The 49ers’ recent run of success against Green Bay includes a

45-31 NFC divisional playoff victory last January at Candlestick

Park in which Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback

playoff-record 181 yards in a sensational postseason debut.

San Francisco also beat Green Bay in each of the past two season

openers, 30-22 at Lambeau Field in 2012 and 34-28 this past

September at Candlestick to kick off the stadium’s farewell

year.

While the 49ers can learn plenty from those games, the Niners

are most concerned with improving in several areas while staying on

this nice roll.

”I’ve noticed in this league everyone bases it on your last

four quarters of play, that’s very much how you’re playing at the

moment,” Harbaugh said. ”That will be judged this week. I like

our team very much in the regard that they’re a very competitive

group. They’re fiery competitors.”

Kaepernick might already have the slight mental edge.

He got the best of linebacker Clay Matthews in the last meeting.

After Matthews said leading up to the game that the Packers spent a

large portion of their offseason working to stop Kaepernick and the

read option, he lost his cool with a late, out-of-bounds hit on the

third-year quarterback in the second quarter back in September.

Afterward, Kaepernick offered this parting shot: ”If

intimidation is your game plan, I hope you have a better one.”

”Green Bay is a completely different team than the team we saw

in Week 1, as we are,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. ”For us,

we would like to carry that momentum. We are in a six-game winning

streak.”

And if the 49ers get through the wild-card round they could be

headed to the Pacific Northwest for another highly anticipated date

with the nemesis Seattle Seahawks, who grabbed the division crown

away from the bay this year.

”I think we are showing fight,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman

said. ”None of the games are going to be easy. The scenarios are

going to be tight and a lot of teams had a chance to be in the

playoffs. So as a team we are showing fight, we are showing grit,

we are staying focused. Teams are going to make plays but the teams

that prevail through adversity and not let things distract them,

those are the great teams and we are doing that right now.”

While Harbaugh hadn’t yet spoken to big brother, John, whose

Ravens beat the Niners 34-31 in the Super Bowl then missed the

playoffs, he understands how fleeting these opportunities can

be.

”I think we all understand the wonderful opportunity we have to

be in the playoffs. We take it very seriously,” Harbaugh said.

The 49ers insist the chill factor won’t be a factor at all.

”It’s the Super Bowl on the line, coldness goes out the

window,” Bowman said. ”You want to be great. You want to be

remembered. These are the games that you are remembered in – the

teams that fought no matter the temperature or situation. We’re

prepared. This team is going to Green Bay – we’ve done it

before.”

Notes: CB Carlos Rogers was scheduled for an MRI exam on his

injured right hamstring, sustained in the fourth quarter Sunday.

The 49ers re-signed CB Perrish Cox after he was cut Friday by the

Seahawks. Harbaugh said the move was planned before Rogers got

hurt. … If Rogers is out, Eric Wright would take on a larger

role.

AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this

story.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org