49ers Advance to the NFC Championship with Win Over Packers; 6 Takeaways from #GBvsSF

Cornerback Charvarius Ward Prevents a Packers Touchdown Early

After winning the coin toss, Green Bay elected to receive the ball first, a repeat move from their Wild Card win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers were driving down the field slowly but steadily, reaching San Francisco’s 13 yard line before stalling out in the red zone. Defensive linemen Chase Young and Javon Kinlaw combined for a tackle for loss of Packers running back Aaron Jones on first-and-10 and a short gain on the next play forced Green Bay into a third-and-long situation on the eight yard line. Packers quarterback Jordan Love took a shot to receiver Romeo Doubs in the end zone and had his pass broken up in a clutch play by Ward. The veteran corner forced the Packers to settle for the 29-yard field goal on their opening drive.

The People’s Tight End George Kittle Gets the 49ers on the Board

The 49ers defense stood tall on a fourth-and-one attempt by the Packers from their own 14 yard line. Green Bay opted to go for it, handing the ball off to Jones, who was stopped by linebacker Dre Greenlaw and defensive lineman Arik Armstead. The Packers turnover on downs gave the 49ers offense a jumpstart, and quarterback Brock Purdy led a 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive capped off by a 32-yard touchdown pass while on the move to Kittle. Purdy threw three, 10-plus yard completions on that series, connecting with Jauan Jennings and Brandon Aiyuk before the go-ahead score to his surefire tight end.

Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel First Half Injuries

Samuel was in and out of the first and second quarters of game action due to injury concerns. The 49ers ‘wideback’ took a hard hit on the way down from a nine-yard gain on second-and-15 on the 49ers first offensive series. Samuel was slow to get up and was initially questionable to return with a head injury before being cleared minutes later. He resumed play into the second quarter but then exited the game again due to a shoulder injury. He did not return to game action in the first half.

Special Team Struggles

The 49ers had a scoring opportunity taken away by the Packers special teams unit in the final second of the first half. Rookie kicker Jake Moody had his 48-yard field goal attempt blocked by defensive lineman Colby Wooden. As a result, the 49ers took a 7-6 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon made a huge return on the kickoff following San Francisco’s second touchdown. He gained 73 yards before linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles forced a fumble that was recovered by Packers running back Emanuel Wilson on San Francisco’s 20 yard line. Green Bay went on to score on the ensuing possession and get the two-point conversion to take the 21-14 lead with 5:23 left in the third quarter.

Second Half Surge

After a three-and-out to open up the second half, Kittle came up with another 32-yard reception to fire up San Francisco’s offense in the team’s second offensive possession of the third quarter. On third-and-six, Purdy hit Kittle on the left side to convert and then some with additional yards after the catch. His 32-yard gain helped set up running back Christian McCaffrey‘s 39-yard rushing touchdown on the very next play. Offensive linemen Jake Brendel and Aaron Banks opened up a lane down the middle, and McCaffrey ran straight through the middle to pay dirt.

The veteran running back’s second touchdown of the night came on the second to last 49ers possession and closed out a 12-play, 69-yard drive. McCaffrey ran it from the six yard line with about a minute left in regulation to put San Francisco ahead 24-21. He finished the day with 17 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in addition to seven catches for 30 yards through the air.

Dre Greenlaw Comes Up with the Momentum-Changing Plays

Late in the third quarter in a third-and-long situation, Love had his pass intended for tight end Tucker Kraft tipped and snagged by Greenlaw at San Francisco’s 45 yard line. Greenlaw was able to return the pick for seven yards and set the 49ers offense up on Green Bay’s 48 yard line. San Francisco’s offense was able to move the ball an additional 14 yards, and Moody sailed a 52-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to get them within four points. Later in the fourth quarter, Greenlaw notched a second interception on Green Bay’s final drive to seal the victory.

“Being able to play today, he’s been battling these two weeks trying to get back and get healthy for the game, he inspires the heck out of all of us,” Shanahan said. “The way he runs, the way he hits, for him to make those plays, catching the ball when they send both to him. We’ll put him on offense if he really wants to run with the ball that bad. He could definitely get down a lot sooner.”

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