49ers Freeze Packers Super Bowl Hopes

Winning Kick

49ers stunned the Packers and the rest of the football world Saturday night. The Packers were supposed to win by at least six points. It was the largest betting line of the weekend. They had all the advantages. The Packers have been resting since week sixteen. They were playing at home. They have Aaron Rodgers. Meanwhile the 49ers were coming to Lambeau Field’s frozen tundra with a banged-up roster. Jimmy Garoppolo has a sprained thumb and a sprained shoulder. Both injuries are on his throwing side. The up-and-coming rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas was out due to a knee contusion. Fred Warner and Nick Bosa were game time decisions due to last weeks injuries. The stage was set for a big win for the Packers. Even Aaron Rodgers had looked past this game. In his end of game comments, he discussed he was looking forward to thinking about his future after winning the NFC Championship. He expected to win this game and the next one. Expectations and reality turned out to be two different things.

Kittle and Warner

The much-maligned Jimmy G started the game out well. The rest of the offense did not. Uncharacteristic key drops were made by Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Jauan Jennings. All three throws were on target. Jimmy G’s next throw to Deebo Samuel was slightly off target, yet catchable. That was Jimmy G’s fourth incomplete pass in a row. To Jimmy G’s credit, he did not get frustrated. He just kept playing. In the first half, the Packers defense stuffed the run, and sacked Jimmy G multiple times forcing four punts in a row. The 49ers came alive during their fifth possession. They drove all the way to the Green Bay four-yard line. Unfortunately, Trent Williams committed a penalty pushing the ball back to the nineteen-yard line. The next play, Green Bay put pressure on Jimmy G and he threw a characteristic interception.

Despite all the 49ers offensive woes in the first half, the Niners defense held up strong after the Packers first drive. Aaron Rodgers started the game leading the Packers on a 10 play 69-yard touchdown drive. The Packers looked like a well-oiled machine. They executed at a high level. Davonte Adams and Aaron Jones secured significant chunk plays against the defense until AJ Dillon pounded five yards into the endzone. Early in the game, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the 49ers. Yet, we all forget that the 49ers coaches are excellent at making in-game adjustments. DeMeco Ryans started to roll coverage to Adams side. The run defense stiffened up and the Niners overall defense allowed only a field goal the rest of the game.

Coming into the game, the 49ers projected keys to success were run the ball, consistently pressure Aaron Rodgers and execute on special teams. They ran the ball 29 times for 106 yards, and they sacked Aaron Rodgers five times. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead collected two sacks each with Samson Ebukam collecting the fifth sack overall. The 49ers keys to success always include pressuring the quarterback and running the ball well. Executing competent special teams has been a problem throughout the season for the 49ers. Yet, the coaches saw something in the film while preparing for this game. The Niners preparation netted a field goal block at the end of the first half, and a punt block for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Special teams was the key to win this game. Late in the first half, Jimmy Ward blew a coverage allowing Aaron Rodgers to connect with Aaron Jones for a 75-yard pass play. Jones laced the breakaway speed to score and failed to get out of bounds to stop the clock. Rodgers was forced to spike the ball and settle for a field goal attempt. Ward redeemed himself by blocking the field goal as the clock ticked down to zero.

Rodgers SACKED

Late in the fourth, Arik Armstead sacked Aaron Rodgers for an eleven-yard loss forcing a Packer punt on their own twelve-yard line. During the punt, Jordan Willis burst past the snapper, blocked the punt and rookie strong safety Talanoa Hufanga picked the ball up and ran it in for the tying touchdown. The Packers and their fans were stunned. Lambeau went silent. The Niners defense forced another three and out on the ensuing Packer possession giving the ball back to the Niner offense to end the game. Coach Shanahan masterfully managed the clock, while the offense executed his vision. The Niners bled the clock as they put Robbie Gould in position to kick the gaming winning field goal. The 49ers are on to the NFC Championship.

Blocked Punt

Grit, teamwork, and belief are the keys to 49er success. The players are unselfish. They play for each other. They don’t point fingers when adversity hits. They just keep playing. The team is led by George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Jimmy Garoppolo. Each of these players display toughness in their own regard. They all execute when they are needed most. Jimmy G catches a lot of heat. He is often injured and usually makes one bone headed play a game. The 49ers team rallies around him anyways. The 49ers win as a team. The game in Lambeau on Saturday night highlights that fact.

The 49ers are playing their fifth NFC Championship game since 2011. They will play the Rams at SOFI for the second time in a row. They had to defeat the Rams in order to get into the playoffs in the first place. Additionally, they have defeated the Rams the last six games they have played them. They are now tasked to do it one more time to get to the Super Bowl. Both teams will bring their best. The Niners are banged up, but they are hardened. They are tough. They are gritty. Hopefully they can get their seventh win in a row against the Rams next Sunday.

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