There are beat downs and then there are beat downs, and this was a NFC Championship beat down. The San Francisco 49ers picked up right where they left off in Week 12 and dominated the Green Bay Packers, 37-20, to advance to Super Bowl LIV.
“We knew their game plan,” said LB Dre Greenlaw. “We knew what they wanted to do. Credit to the coaches and the players all week for just buying in and understanding what they were trying to do. The personnel that we have and the personnel that they have and understanding football. They did a great job coming back in the second half with some plays and change it up a little bit and go a little deeper. We just came out swarming and credit to them for coming out in the second half and adjusting.”
These are the same San Francisco 49ers that were 4-12 last year (with some upgrades of course). The are the same San Francisco 49ers that were called pretenders. Those same San Francisco 49ers are NFC Champions and are heading to Miami to take on the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I am never comfortable in games until it’s officially over,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “Once it was officially over I got bombarded by everyone. I’m sure I’ll feel those injuries tomorrow. But, it was really awesome to have my family down there, my wife and kids. It was just so cool. I know how happy our players were, how much they wanted this. And, I was just so proud how hard they fought.”
Much like their regular season matchup, the 49ers dominated early and never looked back and much like their Divisional Round win over the Minnesota Vikings, they did it on the ground.
Running back Raheem Mostert carried the offense, literally, to the tune of 220 rushing yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns. It is the most yards a 49ers player has ever rushed for in a game from a player who has been integral to the 49ers’ success all season, whether it be in the run game or on special teams.
“I mean whether it’s special teams or offense, the way he hits the hole, he gets so vertical so fast,” said tight end George Kittle, who put on another blocking clinic today. “And, I think defenses, they underestimate his speed. You can just see it. He’ll hit a hole and the guy will take what he thinks is a good angle. And, next thing you know, he’s by him. Doesn’t even touch him. And, his 0 to 60 is literally in two steps and it’s so special, especially with our offense. The way we do outside zone, inside zone, he can make one cut and get vertical. It’s all we need.”
For Mostert, who has played on seven different NFL teams, it was a special night.
“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,” Mostert said. “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 the faith in not only myself but whoever gave me the opportunity. And this organization has done a great job with that.”
On the whole, the 49ers ran the ball 42 times and passed eight. Yes, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball eight times the entire game, but when you’re winning, you stick with what works.
Once again, the 49ers’ defense was swarming, and as a result, the Packers couldn’t get anything going. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers did finish the game 31-of-39 for 326 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both touchdowns and most of that productivity came late in the game, and though 49ers’ fans held their collective breath for a few minutes in the fourth, it was too little too late.
“Stay focused,” said DE Dee Ford. “Do what we got to do. It is very simple if we play together we dominate. We took that same mentality and we didn’t need to do anything different.”
49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman was Davante Adams’ shadow and was effective as such. Adams had nine receptions for 138 yards, but again, most of it came late.
Sherman iced the Packers’ slim comeback hopes with an interception with just under two minutes to go in the game. And, fun fact (kinda), it is six years to the day that the Seahawks beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game on that ball Sherman tipped into the hands of Malcolm Smith. This one, however, feels good, for both Sherman and for 49ers’ fans.
“It’s a long road,” Sherman said. “And, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. A lot of things that you don’t see, a lot of unspoken things, a lot of work away from the cameras. You guys see the games. You don’t see the hours and hours of work. The hours and hours of study. The hours and hours of treatment, pain, overcoming pain. The nights at home you don’t even get to spend with your kids because you’re trying to get your knee back or hamstring back or your back. And your kids sitting there rubbing on you trying to make you feel better. People don’t understand the sacrifice that goes into being great at this game. They see the games and they’re like they won or lost, but regardless, guys sacrifice. Those guys in Green Bay, they put a lot of sacrifice into it throughout the season. They deserve to be there. They earned their right to be there. And no matter what, win, lose, draw, you sacrifice. You give up your body and your time and your health and your mind. You’re usually somewhere between going psychotic and you’re locked in, you know what I mean? Because, it’s such a crazy edge you’ve got to be on. That’s why it’s a little emotional. You get to appreciate it a little more.”
And they get to appreciate it as a team, a team without ego, a team that just wants to win. Kittle loves the run game and blocking, as much as he loves running routes. Mostert is anywhere they need him to be. Nick Bosa is everywhere, always. All for one and one for all.
“It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a ride,” Garoppolo said. “And nowhere else I’d rather be than in a dogfight with than with those guys in the locker room. Great group to be with, everyone pulling together and everyone tight together. Just a great group, it really is.”
That group is heading to Miami. Because, 49ers fans, the Niners are going to the Super Bowl!