GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The 49ers did not put up much resistance to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on the game-opening, tone-setting touchdown drive.
It turned out the tone really was not set at all.
The 49ers’ offense sputtered, but defense and special teams did enough to propel the 49ers to a 13-10 victory — one of the most-impressive playoff victories in franchise history.
Rodgers, who will likely be named the NFL MVP for a fourth time, could not overcome the 49ers’ relentless defense on a frigid night at Lambeau Field.
“It was one of those things that we’ll remember forever,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said.
The 49ers punched their ticket to the NFC Championship Game to face the winner of Sunday’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Los Angeles Rams game.
Here is the 49ers’ report card from their victory in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game:
Things did not come easy for the 49ers. The yards were difficult for Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel. Mitchell gained just 53 yards on 17 rushing attempts, while Samuel had 39 yards on 10 carries.
The frustration continued for most of the game. Mitchell was stopped on a fourth-and-1 running attempt from the Green Bay 19-yard line with six minutes remaining in the game. It looked as if that might be it for the 49ers.
But after tying the score on special teams, the 49ers picked up some huge yards on the ground during their game-winning drive.
On a third-and-7 play from the Green Bay 38, Samuel broke free for 9 yards to set up the winning field goal as time expired.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could have easily had a 63-yard touchdown pass to George Kittle at the end of the first quarter. Instead, the usually sure-handed Kittle allowed it to get into his body, the ball hit off his shoulder pads and he dropped it.
Then, Garoppolo made a number of ill-advised throws. With a minute left in the first half, he tried to force a pass to Kittle near the front right corner of the end zone. Safety Adrian Amos made the interception.
Garoppolo completed 11 of 19 passes for 131 yards in the game, and narrowly avoided another couple interceptions.
But Garoppolo also made some key throws, such as a 12-yarder to Kittle and a 14-yarder to Samuel to help the 49ers get into field-goal range at the end of the game. Kittle finished with a team-best four receptions for 63 yards.
This game did not start well for any facet of the 49ers, including the usually reliable run defense. Packers running back A.J. Dillon scored the first points of the game on a 6-yard touchdown run.
After that, the 49ers’ run defense was nails. Starting running back Aaron Jones gained just 41 yards on 12 rushing attempts. As a team, the 49ers gave up just 67 yards on 20 carries.
Arik Armstead was a beast against the run with two tackles for loss. Fred Warner, Samson Ebukam and Jaquiski Tartt also had stops behind the line of scrimmage.
The pass rush got better and better and the game went on, as the 49ers appeared to wear down the Packers with their relentless nine-man rotation of defensive linemen.
Armstead and Nick Bosa registered two sacks apiece, and Ebukam came through with a sack. The 49ers piled up five sacks for minus-29 yards.
Dontae Johnson, starting at left cornerback in place of injured Ambry Thomas, had a rough beginning to the game. Rodgers went after him. He settled down. And even Josh Norman, who entered when Johnson had to exit the lineup briefly, made a big contribution with his defense on a third-down pass intended for Davante Adams.
Free safety Jimmie Ward took responsibility for a busted coverage that resulted in Rodgers finding Jones out of the backfield for a 75-yard gain before the end of the half.
Rodgers finished the evening with 20 completions on 29 attempts for 225 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The 49ers put the clamps on the Packers, who managed only three points over the final 3 1/2 quarters of the game.
Kicker Robbie Gould provided the winning points with a 45-yard field goal as time expired. Taybor Pepper had the snap, and Mitch Wishnowsky had the hold.
Gould was 2-for-2 on his field-goal attempts and is now 20-for-20 in the postseason for his career.
The biggest play of the night came from Jordan Willis, who manhandled Packers long-snapper Steven Wirtel and blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt. Rookie Talanoa Hufanga scooped up the live ball and returned it 6 yards for the game-tying touchdown with 4:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Jordan and Johnson helped set up Ward’s field-goal block at the end of the first half to prevent three points. And Samuel had a 45-yard kickoff return to open the second half that set up the first points of the game, Gould’s 29-yard field goal.
A lot had to go right for the 49ers to come to Lambeau Field and pull off the upset. The coaching staff crafted a strong plan and made the necessary adjustments along the way.
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who is a candidate for multiple head-coaching jobs, might have a few other teams interested in him after this performance. He switched up the coverages and dialed up enough different pressures to upset Rodgers’ timing and decisiveness.
Most importantly, the players followed through on the coaches’ vision. Coach Kyle Shanahan, the offensive play caller, made a critical decision late in the game after originally calling a pass play.
He took a timeout and decided to run the ball in order to guarantee the 49ers would either have a chance to win or the game would go into overtime. He called a Samuel run play on a third-and-7 situation. The team's top offensive star gained 9 yards to place Gould into field-goal range.
It is impossible to find any fault with the defense or special teams. Those areas of the team did enough — and a lot more — to enable the 49ers to advance through another round in the NFC playoffs.
The offense was rough, of course. But when they needed the plays at the end of the game, Garoppolo and the running game came through.
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The 49ers took care of the final 3:20 of regulation in moving 44 yards on nine plays to set up Gould’s game-winning kick.
The Packers were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. This was supposed to be the season when everything aligned for Rodgers. But the 49ers came to town and dropped his postseason record against them to 0-4.
This crazy season will last at least another week, as the 49ers earned their second trip to the NFC Championship Game in the past three seasons under Shanahan.