In the win, the Packers held control for a majority of the game, but the 49ers were opportunistic, which allowed them to take leads both early and late in the game, ultimately leading them to victory.
Defensively, the 49ers struggled to keep Green Bay from moving the ball, but allowed them to score touchdowns just twice on six drives that ended in San Francisco territory.
Here are three quick takeaways from the 49ers’ 24-21 win over the Packers on Saturday
Let it be known: Brock Purdy did not have his best game against the Packers. In fact, for a majority of the game, it felt as if the 49ers rising quarterback was being outplayed by Green Bay’s signal-caller Jordan Love.
Purdy seemed off, missing some open throws all over the field, while nearly throwing two interceptions, including a potential pick-six on his second dropback of the game.
That resulted in Purdy finishing with a 59 percent completion rate, which is just the third time this season that he’s completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Both of the other games, Week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens and Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns, ended in losses for the 49ers.
Purdy even looked rattled up until the second-to-last drive of the game, which raised doubts as to whether the 49ers could come back and win after Green Bay held a 21-17 lead.
But, how Purdy ultimately responded changed the entire outlook of his performance.
With the game on the line, Purdy delivered with a 12-play, 68-yard touchdown drive following an Anders Carlson missed field goal to give the 49ers a 24-21 lead that ultimately sealed the game.
Purdy finished the drive by completing 6/7 passes for 47 yards, while also taking off on a scramble for nine more yards, which prefaced a Christian McCaffrey nine-yard rushing touchdown on 3rd & 1 for the go-ahead score.
There were two impressive throws in particular: a 3rd & 5 completion to Brandon Aiyuk for 10 yards that was perfectly placed low and away against extremely tight coverage, and a 17-yard pass to Chris Conley on a corner post with good anticipation.
One of the biggest questions that I’ve had over Purdy’s young NFL career was how he’d respond under pressure with the game in his hands in key moments.
This season, during the 49ers' wins, they were extremely dominant, beating every opponent by double digits, except for a Week 2 victory over the Rams due to a last-second field goal. And you can’t blame them for being as dominant as they were.
However, each of their losses came with the game in hand, but the 49ers couldn’t close them out, prompting a question as to what would happen against tougher teams in the playoffs.
Brock Purdy answered that question and silenced doubters by pulling it together in the clutch, where he outplayed Jordan Love on Saturday and ultimately sent his team to the NFC Championship Game.
I’ve advocated for Kyle Shanahan to win the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year award this season, which arguably has been his best as a coach.
But, Shanahan failed to impress me on Saturday with a variety of decisions that felt costly for his team.
The major questionable choice came at the end of the first half, as the 49ers retained possession up 7-6 with just over four minutes left before halftime. It was Shanahan’s ideal scenario; he prefers to get the ball back, score to end the half, and start the second half with the ball to potentially score again.
Shanahan played the drive conservatively, killing all of the play clock on every play to begin the drive, which led to the 49ers moving the ball just 15 yards before the two-minute warning arrived. However, the questionable aspect appeared right after that.
After securing a first down on the first play out of the break, Shanahan elected to run the ball twice in a row from San Francisco’s 49-yard line, draining the clock all the way to 34 seconds before using his first timeout.
With minimal clock left and 43 yards to go for a touchdown, the 49ers ultimately were forced to settle for a 47-yard field goal, which was blocked by Green Bay, leaving the halftime score at 7-6.
Shanahan had an opportunity to push the pace and work through the air, but played the possession extremely conservatively with poor clock management in an attempt to not give the Packers the ball back. That type of coaching doesn’t work in the playoffs, and made the game much more manageable for Green Bay.
Additionally, Shanahan’s reluctance to commit to the run was an intriguing choice.
The 49ers gave Christian McCaffrey just 11 carries through three quarters, despite Brock Purdy clearly struggling at times of the game, while the run game worked when being utilized.
Green Bay came into the game as the 28th-ranked run defense, but the 49ers elected not to utilize the run as much until late in the game.
Even on the team’s second-to-last drive, San Francisco gained a first down with three early runs, but threw the ball on five consecutive passes after that, of which Brock Purdy converted just one, resulting in a punt in Green Bay territory in the fourth quarter.
Now, it won’t be as concerning next weekend, given that Detroit isn’t as good against the pass, but remaining balanced has been the key formula for playoff success thus far, and the 49ers didn’t do enough of a job at it, leaving their offense inconsistent for much of the game.
Injuries were a major positive for the 49ers heading into the Divisional Round, as rotational edge Clelin Ferrell was the only notable player who missed Saturday’s game.
However, the 49ers did face two early injuries to Deebo Samuel, a concussion evaluation, which he was cleared from, and a shoulder injury that kept him out of the entire second half.
The focus now goes to Samuel’s health for next week, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter calling it a 50-50 shot that the wideout will be available for the game.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan clarified that it wasn’t a broken bone, but that there’s still too much pain to know how quickly the injury can heal for Samuel.
The 49ers offense did change on Saturday with the loss of Samuel, who is one of the team’s interchangeable pieces that creates versatility along their offense.
Of course, they’ll still have top weapons Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey, but a loss is a loss, so Samuel’s injury will certainly be one to monitor over the following week.
Samuel did suffer a fracture earlier this season on his shoulder, which forced him to miss the majority of three games for the 49ers before he turned things up in the second half of the season.