In a surprising yet expected result, the San Francisco 49ers ran roughshod over the Green Bay Packers, punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. The Levi’s Stadium crowd was rocking and it was over by halftime. San Francisco secured their seventh NFC title and the first since 2012. Today we take a look at what happened on Sunday and how the 49ers secured their trip to Miami.
Seems Like Yesterday
On April 23, 2005, University of California quarterback, Aaron Rodgers sat in the green room at the NFL Draft. The first overall selection was moments from being revealed and was held by the 49ers. It would come down to Rodgers and Utah quarterback Alex Smith. Rodgers was the local product who grew up a 49ers fan who then played in Berkley. Surely, the 49ers would strike on that narrative as they desperately searched for an identity. The pick came in and the football world would never be the same. As has been widely reported, Rodgers would slipt toward the end of the first round until finding a home, Green Bay. From that day forward, Rodgers and the 49ers would be linked, destined to hear about the quarterback who couldn’t go home.
Including Sunday, the 49ers have faced Rodgers a total of 10 games. Seven of those games have been in the regular season where Rodgers has won four. In the three postseason games, the 49ers are undefeated against Rodgers and the Packers. Leading up to Sunday’s matchup, the narrative of Rodgers returning for payback was a popular one. However, Rodgers again could not get his team past the finish line, dropping his overall record against the 49ers at 4-6. San Francisco has defeated Rodgers with well-rounded teams, with all three phases of the game playing well. The 49ers have been the better team during those games. At the end of the day, Rodgers is an all-time great who lacked enough around him to compete with a well-built 49ers team. Through no fault of his own, the 49ers have once again passed Rodgers by.
The 49ers relied on the ground game on Sunday, finishing with 285 yards on 42 rushes, including four touchdowns. The man of the hour was running back Raheem Mostert. A week after running the Vikings out of the stadium, the 49ers lined up and ran the ball down the throat of the Green Bay defense. Play after play, San Francisco ran the football, daring the Packers to do something. Play after play, Green Bay had no answer, giving up chunks of yards on each carry. With the 49ers averaging 6.78 yards per carry, there was no need for San Francisco to adjust. Early in the second quarter, with the 49ers holding a 10 point lead, San Francisco took over the ball at the Green Bay 37-yard line. Six runs later, San Francisco pushed their lead to 17 points following a nine-yard touchdown run by Mostert. It was a master class in mixing up the ground game while keeping things simple.
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The offensive line had its way with a talented Green Bay defensive line. An unsung hero on the offensive line on Sunday was the starting center, Ben Garland. Garland did well against defensive tackle Kenny Clark, shutting down the Packers defender. Clark entered the game on a hot streak, tallying seven tackles for loss through the previous five games. On Sunday, Clark collected just two tackles, none of which went for a loss. Not to be undone, tight end George Kittle had another stellar game as a run blocker. Kittle essentially made it six offensive linemen against the Green Bay front line, more than enough to create sizeable holes for Mostert to take advantage of. Mostert’s speed and elusiveness seemingly caught the Packers off guard as many failed to get in front of the San Francisco running back. It was a dominating performance and one which will be remembered for years to come.
Defense Wins Championships
Aaron Rodgers finished with 326 passing yards, completing 31 of 39 attempts, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The stat line points to a solid game for the Green Bay quarterback. However, for those who watched the game, the numbers were a shock when compared to what was seen on the field. It is important to note that the 49ers entered halftime with a 27-0 lead. At the half, the San Francisco defense held Rodgers to less than 70 yards passing on 70% passing. It was an impressive performance by Robert Saleh‘s unit, one which essentially ended any hope for a Green Bay victory. Eventually, the Green Bay air attack would get the yards they are normally accustomed to, even though it came against a significantly relaxed San Francisco defense.
The San Francisco pass rush again caused problems for the Green Bay offensive line. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and K’Waun Williams registered a sack apiece on Rodgers. As a whole, the pass rush helped speed up the process for Rodgers and often forced him from his natural drop back spot. On the back end, the idea was to limit big plays and keep everything underneath. This resulted in numerous completions of under ten yards. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, 64% of Rodgers’ attempts went for less than ten yards. The lack of big plays in the passing game forced the Packers to string multiple plays together to drive the ball down the field. This resulted in errors such as penalties and turnovers. Rodgers threw two interceptions, half as many as he had thrown during the entire regular season. San Francisco’s relentless pressure and stingy coverage made Rodgers into a dink and dunk quarterback.
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South Beach Diet
For the seventh time in the franchise’s history, the 49ers are heading to the Super Bowl. A victory gives San Francisco its sixth championship which would tie the league lead shared currently by the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. Awaiting the 49ers are the Kansas City Chiefs and their vaunted offense. The Chiefs will present new challenges to San Francisco. However, if these last two weeks have taught anything, it is that these 49ers are happy to surprise anyone. Levi’s Stadium was rocking and ready for the Packers, the 49ers left no doubt, they are the best the conference has to offer.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covered the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada