It’s been a long time coming – 20 months to be exact – since the San Francisco 49ers had a home game with fans at Levi’s Stadium.
“It’ll be special,” said 49ers linebacker Fred Warner. “…I’m really excited to have fans back, and it just happens to be…a primetime game against the same team that we played against the last time we had fans here. So, really looking forward to it.”
We're back at the crib!
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 25, 2021
It was January 19, 2020, and the 49ers hosted the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, a game they won, 37-20, on their way to the Super Bowl. Sunday night, they host the Packers again, and they’ll be looking for a similar result.
“Hell yeah,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said this week. “It’s been awhile. The Packers were the last team actually with a crowd here. So, it’s a kind of coming full circle now, but it will be exciting getting the Faithful back in the stands. I can’t wait to get all them screaming and everything like that. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”
For 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 2019 NFC Championship game is a day he’ll never forget.
“…[J]ust the feeling and the energy of the stadium was one of my favorite moments in sports,” Shanahan said. “And when that’s the last time you felt that anywhere and it goes back to almost two years ago, it’s crazy how long it’s been. So, I know the guys are really pumped and really pumped to have the fans out there. And just watching tape and you mix in the last games that you played that team previously. Going back and forth between two games and one game, it goes to the scoreboard and there’s not one person in the stands and the next clip, the stands are packed and it just shows the difference between 2019 and 2020. And I’m very glad 2021 we’re going to have people in there.”
It’s called home-field advantage for a reason. It’s not just the stadium, the home locker room, the lack of a plane flight. It’s the fans in the seats and the energy they bring to the game.
“Getting in front of Levi’s [Stadium], just getting that atmosphere back, it’s really exciting,” said defensive end Nick Bosa. “…Just excited to get the fans back into it, get a home game and, hopefully, get a win.”
With the 49ers defense up against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the weapons he has, i.e. wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones, San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is hoping the fans can provide a little extra boost.
“…[I]t’s a tough challenge for us this week,” Ryans said. “We’re up to it. Looking forward to the matchup, it’s going to be exciting just to be back here in our home stadium for the first time in a long time to get our fans back in here, make sure they’re rowdy and loud. We need all the help we can get. So, make sure they’re pretty loud when we’re on defense to help us out because we’re going to need it.”
— Tracy Sandler (@49ersfangirl) September 23, 2021
Plus, there’s something about Sunday Night Football.
“I’m excited our first experience back at Levi’s is going to be a night game,” tight end George Kittle said. “We’re going to bring it. Coach Shanahan likes to have fun under the lights. We have a lot of fun plays in prime-time games that opponents might not be looking for.”
Kickoff is at 8:20 pm ET/5:20 pm PT.