You have to control the game script to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. That usually means getting out to a fast start. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Green Bay had the ball first and marched 69 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown.
The Niners had Green Bay in a couple of long-yardage situations but forgot to cover Davante Adams, who had three first-down receptions on the drive. Two of them came against Dontae Johnson, who also missed a critical tackle that went for a first down.
JaMycal Hasty’s 32-yard kick return gave the offense the ball at the 40. Without checking, this had to be Hasty’s longest kick return of the season. Daniel Brunskill jumped on second down, which meant 2nd & 14 for the offense.
Laken Tomlinson tripped on third down, which gave Za’Darius Smith a free run at Jimmy Garoppolo. So, a promising drive based on starting field position netted -9 yards.
The Packers were driving on their next drive before Fred Warner forced a fumble on Marcedes Lewis, which was the turnaround the defense needed. That didn’t last long, as Brandon Aiyuk fumbled two plays later. The play was a close call, and it was ultimately ruled incomplete. Tom Compton gave up a sack to Rashan Gary on the play.
After a three-and-out, George Kittle found himself wide open down the seam but dropped what would have been an explosive play. Jauan Jennings had a more difficult catch next, but he couldn’t haul in the pass.
The 49ers went three-and-out on their first three drives despite starting on the 40, 42, and 38. That can’t happen. Neither can nine plays for -7 yards. Despite that, after a quarter, San Francisco only trailed by a touchdown.
After yet another punt, San Francisco would start on the 34. Unfortunately, yet another drive was wasted as the 49ers allowed a sack on third down. So, through 11 plays, the offense had -10 yards.
A stop on first down and a Nick Bosa sack on second down forced the Packers into a long-yardage situation once again. After bluffing as if they would go for it on fourth down, Green Bay would punt once again.
Finally, the offense woke up. Jimmy Garoppolo had been the best player on offense up until this drive, but he hadn’t had help. He threw a perfect pass to Kittle that was high and away from the safety. Kittle made an acrobatic catch for the 49ers' first first down of the game.
Jimmy would scramble later in the drive and hit Kyle Juszczyk for another first down. Then Kittle, again. And just like that, the offense was in the red zone. Garoppolo broke a couple of tackles but was late finding Kittle — who was open — and didn’t have enough on his throw, which resulted in an interception.
That was a back-breaker. The offense had their first promising drive of the game. They converted for first downs. Trent Williams was flagged for holding once they got inside of Green Bay’s 9-yard line. That backed the offense up, which led to Jimmy’s interception.
Green Bay would take advantage of a coverage bust in the secondary during the two-minute drill, but Jimmie Ward blocked Mason Crosby’s kick to keep the score 7-0 at the half.
The 49ers received the opening kickoff and Deebo went over 40 yards before running over the Packers defender. The offense made its way into the red zone once again, before Elijah Mitchell was flagged for a face mask. That stalled another drive. Robbie Gould’s field goal was good to cut the lead to 7-3.
After yet another Packers punt, the offense went nowhere as Garoppolo was sacked on third down by Kenny Clark. That was the fourth sack of the game for Green Bay. The defense was only going to hold down Rodgers for so long.
Sure enough, Green Bay converted on a couple of 3rd & short plays, before a Charles Omenihu defensive holding gave the Packers another first down. That gave the Packers the ball inside of the red zone at the 19-yard line.
Arik Armstead came up with a massive sack on third down to keep Green Bay out of the end zone. After a field goal, the score was 10-3. DeMeco Ryans couldn’t have called a better game. They doubled Davante Adams, gave Rodgers different looks, and held one of if not the best offense to one touchdown through three quarters.
A successful first down, which was rare, from Mitchell started the drive off well. Then, Kyle Juszczyk gained 13 yards on a pass from Garoppolo before Jimmy found Kittle for a gain of 24 yards. It came down to a 3rd & 7 from the 25-yard line. Jauan Jennings came up a yard short, which meant we’d have another fourth-down situation.
On a similar play call earlier in the game where they used Trent Williams, Mitchell was stopped short of the first down marker.
Arik Armstead had his second sack of the game. Then, Jordan Willis bullied the long-snapper and blocked a punt, which Talanoa Hufanga recovered for a touchdown. That tied the score at 10.
San Francisco had endless opportunities to score in this game, so naturally, they do on special teams after being a disaster in the third phase all season. Give credit to Richard Hightower, as the special teams unit had two game-changing plays.
The offense took over with 3:20 to play. Kittle and Deebo picked up first downs over the middle and the Niners were in Packer territory. On 3rd & 7, Shanahan relied on his best player, Deebo Samuel, and he came through.
It would come down to a Gould hitting a 45-yarder. Robbie, as he’s been as of late, was good as Gould. And the 49ers would find themselves in the NFC Championship once again.