On Sunday, expectations met reality. It was clear how disadvantaged the Green Bay Packers were to the 49ers on every level coming into Sunday’s NFC Championship game. Despite the cautious optimism — dare I say nervousness — that maybe, just maybe, there was overconfidence, that doubting Aaron Rodgers would result in a catastrophe, nothing could be further from reality.
The 49ers dominated Green Bay for the second time this season from start to finish, and the Packers bit themselves twice in the first half with a botched snap by Aaron Rodgers (recovered by DeForest Buckner) and an interception by Emmanuel Moseley.
San Francisco’s recipe of running the ball with Raheem Mostert worked again and again and again as he set and NFL first, rushing 14 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns. It’s the first time in NFL history that a player has run for more than 150 yards and three touchdowns in a single half.
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The Packers responded with a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half, but that drive took more than six minutes, and the 49ers responded with an 11-play, 11-run drive that finished with Mostert’s fourth rushing touchdown and 196th yard of the game.
That touchdown put Mostert in elite standing in NFL history, as one of only two players in NFL history to rush for four touchdowns. The other was LeGarrette Blount with the New England Patriots in 2014, against the Indianapolis Colts. It was one short of the NFL record set by the 49ers’ own Ricky Watters on January 15, 1994 against the New York Giants.
On the 49ers’ next drive, Mostert jumped into the 200-yard club, a mark reached only by six NFL players before him (and one AFL player). His 205 yards are the third-most in an NFL playoff game. But that combination of 200-plus yards and 4 TDs is unique only to Mostert, and had never been accomplished before.
But even as the Packers seemed dead, they failed to let the game die. Rodgers hit Jimmy Graham on a busted coverage for 43 yards, down to the goal line. It was punched in by a 1-yard run by Aaron Jones.
After a 49ers’ three-and-out, the Packers hit again with 65-yard dime from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams — who just ran by Richard Sherman. It set up another Packers touchdown, this time on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jace Sternberger.
The once 27-point lead had been cut to 14 points with 8:10 left in the fourth quarter.
Of course, Kyle Shanahan, who hadn’t called one pass play in the second half, led the next drive off with one to George Kittle, who hadn’t been targeted all game. After a pair of run plays, Jimmy Garoppolo (6-of-8, 77 yards) targeted Kittle again, who drew a pass interference call.
From there, Garoppolo threw a screen to Raheem Mostert for 11 yards, and then punched ahead with a Mostert for a first down on 3rd and 1. At that point, it was a steady diet of Mostert rushes, who got up the upper echelon of NFL postseason rushing history. His 220 yards trail only Eric Dickerson’s record of 248 postseason rushing yards in a single game.
That diet led to a Robbie Gould 42-yard field goal to effectively end the game at 37-20 with just over three minutes remaining. The field goal added to Gould’s impeccable kicking record in the postseason (now 13-of-13 on field goals and 25-of-25 on extra points).
A handful of hapless Packers plays later, Richard Sherman picked off Aaron Rodgers to seal the win. With it, the 49ers sealed a 71-27 combined season lead over the Packers.
For the first time since 2013 and the second time since 1995, the San Francisco 49ers are heading to the Super Bowl. They will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami, Florida on February 2nd.