With a Super Bowl in sight, the 49ers faced one last test before they could punch their ticket for a matchup in Miami with the Kansas City Chiefs. Standing in their way? Aaron Rodgers, the future Hall of Famer, and the Green Bay Packers.
Sunday’s NFC Championship Game was the final game of the season at Levi’s Stadium, and it did not disappoint, as San Francisco steamrolled Green Bay 37-20 to reach their first Super Bowl since the 2012 season.
After Sunday night’s victory over the Packers, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed his message to the team heading into such a pivotal game:
“Just that everything in this league is earned. That’s one thing that’s really cool about the NFL, nothing’s given. And, I told the guys how proud I was that they had earned the right to be in a game to play for the Super Bowl. And, regardless of what was going to happen, though, and what got us up to this point, that we were going to have to go out today and earn the right to go to the Super Bowl. And, no one was going to give it to us. Those guys came out with that mindset from the first play on. They were relentless. And, i know we’re going to enjoy tonight. But, we’re going to be ready to carry it over to Miami too.”
Very few people believed lightning could strike twice against Rodgers and the Packers. What many expected to be a close game got out of hand early, as the 49ers ran away with the NFC title because of an explosive performance from Raheem Mostert (29 carries, 220 yards, 4 TDs).
The 49ers who welcomed a few key players back from injury last week were once again at full-strength for Sunday’s contest.
Green Bay won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense got their first shot to begin this NFC Championship game.
Kyle Shanahan’s guy, Tevin Coleman, got the start at running back and failed to pick up the first down after three-straight running plays to begin the 49ers first drive. A quick three-and-out ended the 49ers opening drive.
Rodgers and the Packers picked up a quick first down after two plays. A few plays later they were faced with 3rd-and-3 near mid-field. A pass to Jamaal Williams fell short of the first down marker, forcing a Packers punt.
Raheem Mostert took over for Coleman at running back on the second drive. A screen pass from Garoppolo to Deebo Samuel for 16 yards gave the 49ers a quick first down. Two plays later, Garoppolo found Samuel over the middle for another big gain, this time for 30 yards and a first down into Packers territory.
Mostert ran for six yards on the following play before a screen pass was sniffed out by the Packers defense. Faced with 3rd-and-8, Mostert broke off a huge run of 36 yards and a touchdown. Robbie Gould‘s point after was good, and the 49ers led 7-0 with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
Rodgers found Allen Lazard for a Packers first down two plays into Green Bay’s second drive. Two plays later a 3rd-and-7 for the Packers resulted in the 49ers first sack of Rodgers on the afternoon by Nick Bosa, a loss of 13 yards, forcing a Packers punt.
Richie James returned the Packers punt to midfield setting up the 49ers third drive with great field position.
Coleman carried for four yards on the first play of the drive before Garoppolo was hit low by Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark, forcing a roughing-the-passer penalty. From the Packers 28-yard line, a 3rd-and-6 for the 49ers resulted in a sack of Garoppolo.
Gould’s field goal attempt from 54-yards was good, giving the 49ers 10-0 lead to kick off the second quarter.
Aaron Jones carried for six yards to begin the Packers next drive. A screen pass to Jones on the next play was stopped behind the line of scrimmage, a loss of two yards and a 3rd-and-7 for the Packers.
K’Waun Williams blitzed Rodgers on third down, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Packers. Forced to punt, the ball bounced the 49ers way once more. A terrible punt from Packers punter JK Scott landed out of bounds in Packers territory. The 49ers took over at the Packers 37-yard line.
Three straight runs from Mostert gave the 49ers a first down inside the red zone. A quarterback sneak by Garoppolo was followed by a run from Coleman that left the 49ers running back shaken up after the play. Coleman would eventually be carted off the field with a right arm injury. On the very next play, Mostert found the end zone for the second time.
With 9:12 left in the first half, the 49ers held a commanding 17-0 lead over the Packers.
The Packers were unable to do anything on offense, and could not stop the 49ers on defense. Not a great combination for a team down 17-0 early on. Rodgers fired a strike to wide receiver Jake Kumerow over the middle for 23 yards and a Packers first down near mid-field. Jones carried for 11 yards and a second-straight Packers first down.
Green Bay moved into 49ers territory, to the 34-yard line where Jones carried for another first down. Another run with Jones and four straight for the Packers was followed by a fumbled snap and a Packers turnover. DeForest Buckner recovered the muffed snap, and the 49ers were suddenly back on offense.
Two plays into the drive and Mostert broke off yet another huge run, for 34 yards into Packers territory. With 4:22 left in the half, Mostert had run for 119 yards and 2 TDs on nine carries. The 49ers were throttling the Packers on the ground.
Mostert’s journey through the NFL has been a wild ride. After his historic night on the ground, he had a message for everyone who doubted him:
“You know, I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers, and now i get to actually tell them look at where I’m at now. I never gave up on my dream. I never gave up on the opportunities when it presented itself. And i always worked hard no matter what. And it’s crazy that i’ve been on seven different teams. I actually still have the cut dates. And i look at that before every game. I look at the cut dates when i got cut. I’ve been on, like i said, seven different teams. The journey’s been crazy. Not even — not everybody can deal with that type of stress and pain and agony that i went through. But like i said, i kept faith in not only myself but whoever gave me the opportunity. And this organization has done a great job with that.”
Mostert followed with another first down run to the Packers 17-yard line. Matt Breida got his first carry, a run for two yards before an incompletion to Samuel. On 3rd-and-8 Garoppolo found Kendrick Bourne for a completion of six yards, two yards short of the first down. A field goal from Gould gave the 49ers a 20-0 lead with 2:00 left in the half.
49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky pinned the Packers inside the 10-yard line. Rodgers found Lazard over the middle for 19 yards, good for a Packers first down. The Packers were called for a false start, backing them up five yards.
The first half was all 49ers, at all times. Emmanuel Moseley intercepted Rodgers on the very next play, giving the 49ers the ball back in Packer territory. All-out dominance from the 49ers in the first half set them up with a chance to put this game away.
What would come as a surprise to nobody, Mostert carried for a big first down on the first play following the turnover. Two plays later, Mostert did it again. His third touchdown of the game was an 18-yard run to give the 49ers a 27-0 lead with 45 seconds left. At this point in the game, the 49ers were humiliating the Packers.
The Packers took over after the touchdown and went nowhere. This game went to halftime, with the 49ers 30 minutes away from clinching a spot in the Super Bowl.
Rodgers led the Packers into 49ers territory on the first drive of the third quarter. Dinking and dunking their way downfield, the Packers were threatening to score for only the second time up to this point. A pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis was followed by a short pass to Jones, good for a Packers touchdown. The 49ers led 27-7 with 8:44 left in the third quarter.
With the Packers finally getting on the board to begin the second half, the 49ers could not afford to take their foot off the gas. Mostert carried twice on the 49ers first drive of the half for a first down. A jet-sweep run by Samuel gained 11 yards and back-to-back first downs.
Almost the exact same play was ran two plays later, and it was just as successful. A second jet-sweep with Samuel gained 32 yards, moving the 49ers just outside the red zone.
Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR touchdowns for Mostert. A 22-yard touchdown run gave Mostert 196 yards on 19 carries to go along with his 4 TDs. Mostert was playing the game of his life, as the 49ers found themselves 20 minutes away from a Super Bowl.
Rodgers and the Packers were faced with 4th-and-2 as the third quarter came to an end. A successful conversion into 49ers territory resulted in a deep completion to Jimmy Graham for 42 yards. From the 49ers 1-yard line, Jones punched it in for a Packers touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good, and the Packers trailed the 49ers 34-13.
An onside kick attempt by the Packers was not successful, giving the 49ers the ball at their own 48-yard line.
Mostert carried for four yards on the first play, officially eclipsing 200 yards rushing on the night. A 4th-and-1 for the 49ers resulted in a quick punt.
Green Bay took over inside their own 10-yard line with 11:25 left in the 4th quarter. A 3rd-and-5 for the Packers resulted in a very deep pass completed to Davante Adams for 65 yards. From the 49ers 22-yard line, the Packers were once again threatening to score.
3rd-and-2 for the Packers resulted in another Green Bay first down inside the 49ers 10-yard line. On the very next play, Rodgers rolled out and found tight end, Jace Sternberger in the endzone for a Packers touchdown. The extra point was good, and the 49ers lead was trimmed to 34-20 with 8:13 left.
Leading by only two scores now, Garoppolo and the 49ers offense wanted to but this one away for good. George Kittle, who was absent in the passing game throughout the first three quarters caught a pass for 19 yards near mid-field. On 3rd-and-3, a holding penalty called on the Packers gave the 49ers a fresh set of downs.
Three plays later a screen pass to Mostert set up the 49ers with 3rd-and-1 from the 33-yard line. Mostert immediately converted on the next play, a run up the middle. With just over five minutes left, the 49ers were looking to score and drain the clock in the process.
Run after run, the 49ers were faced with 3rd-and-3, which resulted in a 4th down and a 49ers field goal. With 3:31 left in the game, the 49ers led 37-20.
After the game, Kyle Shanahan talked about the 49ers run-heavy offensive game plan that featured 42 running plays and only eight passing plays:
“We had an idea going in. We were hoping to do something like that going in. But, you never plan for it to be like that. When you’re watching how the guys were running and everything, and then watching how our defense was playing, it made it very easy to stick with, even the third downs and stuff. The guys played as aggressive as any team I’ve been on, and they made it very easy to call plays.”
2:08 left on the clock and the Packers were going for it on 4th-and-13. A completed pass to Adams for 16 yards gave the Packers a first down. Rodgers fired a missile deep downfield, resulting in an interception from Richard Sherman to pretty much seal the win. A fitting end to the 49ers NFC Championship victory.
Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw had this to say about Sherman’s game-sealing interception:
“It was awesome, he looked like a receiver on that play. I am glad that he made up for it. The deep ball got him before that one but he is a captain on our team and we know that you can’t get Richard too many times. You can’t get him for long so we knew that with the time being left and what they needed to do. We knew that they needed to go down the field. He was right there and he made the play and brought us to victory. I am excited to play with a guy of that caliber. He is a legend. I have been watching Richard since i was a young kid and to be able to play with a guy like that. Not only that but to be able to look up to a guy like that and he look back at you and say good job, you played great and it is just a blessing come true.”
A few kneel-downs and the 49ers were NFC Champs. Finishing 4-12 last season, the San Francisco 49ers are headed back to the Super Bowl.
NFC champions for the first time since 2012, the San Francisco 49ers are on their way back to the Super Bowl. Raheem Mostert carried the 49ers offense on his back Sunday night, as the 49ers utterly dominated the Packers on both sides of the ball. The stage is set, the 49ers will take on the Chiefs in this year’s Super Bowl, for a chance to win it all on February 2.
- After the game, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman had some choice words for the Packers, who came into Sunday’s game wanting “revenge” on the team that beat them so badly earlier in the season.
- After the game, Raheem Mostert took to the podium where he discussed his long, hard journey around the NFL. His career has had its fair share of low moments:
- 49ers players (especially Jimmy Garoppolo) have been busy making t-shirts. Sunday night, George Kittle was the one with a fresh new look.
- During the 49ers NFC Championship trophy ceremony, Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike Shanahan presented his son with the championship trophy.
Shanahan talked about receiving the trophy from his father after the game:
“It was pretty special. To get a trophy handed by anyone is really cool, but especially Jed making my dad an honorary captain. Jed told me it was special for his mom when his uncle handed her the trophy before they won. And, Jed planned all that and did that. It was pretty cool, i didn’t know what was going on, but it was pretty cool that it happened there at the end. It was pretty special.”
- 49ers defensive end Dee Ford will face his former team in the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Last year, the Chiefs season ended in an AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots. At the end of that game, Ford was called for an offsides penalty that may have cost the Chiefs a chance at a Super Bowl. Despite the unfortunate end to his time in Kansas City, Ford is excited to face his former team:
“Definitely there is a lot of love in that building. I have a lot of love for the guys in that building. They gave me my opportunity of course. I am here with a new team. It is going to be a great opportunity it is going to be like playing my brothers back to training camp days. It is going to be fun.”