Aaron Rodgers may be the league’s MVP this season, but he won’t be going to the NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers defense shut down the Packers offense after an early touchdown and a fourth quarter blocked punt gave them a tie despite their own offensive ineffectiveness over most of a snowy evening at Lambeau Field. The offense was able to come up with just enough juice in the final three minutes of action.
After forcing a three-and-out in the wake of their game-tying touchdown on a blocked punt by Jordan Willis, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit George Kittle and Deebo Samuel to move the ball into Packers territory. A couple of Samuel runs forced the Packers to use up their remaining timeouts and set up a pivotal third down that they converted on a nine-yard run by Samuel.
Samuel limped off the field, but two more runs set up a 45-yard field goal attempt that Robbie Gould sent through the uprights for a 13-10 win. The 49ers will now go to Tampa or Los Angeles with a chance to advance to the Super Bowl.
It’s fitting that Samuel got the big play at the end on offense because he continued to be the team’s leading playmaker. He had 10 carries for 39 yards, three catches for 44 yards, and a 45-yard kickoff return that set up a field goal to kick off the second half.
The win means Rodgers is now 0-4 against the Packers in the playoffs and this loss was a crusher given the Packers’ top seed and offensive success throughout the season. After a 69-yard touchdown drive to open the game, they only managed 194 yards the rest of the way. That included a 75-yard pass to Aaron Jones at the end of the first half, but an ensuing field goal try was blocked and the Packers would only score three more points over the course of the evening.
Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa each had a couple of sacks to help keep the Packers from padding their lead and any team considering 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for their head coaching vacancy will likely be impressed by the plan he was able to put together for the second straight playoff game.
Ryans will get at least one more chance to burnish his resume next weekend and the 49ers could be making their second trip to the Super Bowl in the last three seasons.