49ers

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SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers earned their way back onto "Sunday Night Football."

And, by the looks of things, they will not have to wait another four years before they’re invited back to the party.

The 49ers thoroughly dominated the Green Bay Packers, 37-8, on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in a game featuring NFC division leaders.

The Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints kept pace earlier in the day with victories to move to 9-2 on the season. The 49ers held onto their one-game lead in both the NFC West and the NFC while improving to 10-1. The Packers fall to 8-3.

The win matched the 49ers' win total of the first two seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan, when the club finished with records of 6-10 and 4-12.

The 49ers had not appeared on "Sunday Night Football" since October 2015. They were scheduled for two appearances last season. But on their way to the second-worst record in the NFL, the 49ers were demoted out of those games.

The 49ers were not originally scheduled for SNF this season, but they were flexed into the prime-time matchup because of the attractive billing of two of the top teams in the NFC.

Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers in Week 12:

George Kittle is back

Tight end George Kittle sat out two games with left knee and ankle issues, but he did not look as if he missed a step when he returned to the playing field on Sunday.

 

Just when it looked as if the Packers had a chance to get back in the game late in the third quarter, Kittle ripped out their hearts with a 61-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Kittle finished with six receptions on six targets for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Kittle figured prominently in a couple of 49ers scoring drives in the first half, too. He helped set up a field goal in the second quarter when he caught passes from Garoppolo of 18 and 22 yards on back-to-back plays.

Late in the first half, Garoppolo hooked up with Kittle for another 22-yard pass play to set up Chase McLaughlin’s third field goal of the first half -- a 48-yarder as time expired to give the 49ers a 23-0 lead at halftime.

The emergence of Kittle also appeared to help in the run game, too. Coleman, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson combined for 111 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Mostert put the game away with a 15-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Garoppolo finished the night completing 14 of 20 attempts for 253 yards with two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder to Deebo Samuel, and no interceptions. His passer rating was 145.8.

Defense sets the tone

The 49ers’ offense did not have to work very hard to score a touchdown on their first offensive play of the game after the defense came through with a game-changing play in the opening two minutes.

DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead got initial pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, forcing him to step up in the pocket. Then, linebacker Fred Warner broke through to sack Rodgers and strip the football.

Nick Bosa scooped up the loose ball and returned it 6 yards to the 2-yard line. On the 49ers’ first offensive play, running back Tevin Coleman took it in for a touchdown. The 49ers would not be challenged the rest of the way.

In the first half, Rodgers completed 10 of 20 pass attempts for 41 yards and was sacked three times for minus-32 yards. Warner, Armstead and Bosa registered the sacks, which left Green Bay with just 9 yards of net passing through 30 minutes.

Rodgers was sacked five times in the game, and completed 20 of 33 pass attempts for just 104 yards.

Finding the right mix of players

Emmanuel Moseley started at right cornerback, but Ahkello Witherspoon worked his way back into the mix.

 

When Justin Skule struggled at left tackle in place of Joe Staley on Sunday night, the 49ers turned to Daniel Brunskill to take on the Packers’ difficult outside pass rush.

And defensive end Damontre Moore, in his second game since being signed after Ronald Blair’s season-ending knee injury, recorded a pressure that led to a sack. Moore was one of the 49ers’ final cuts before the start of the regular season.

The 49ers’ depth has come up big for the 49ers all season, and the win over the Packers provided another example.

The 49ers believe they have a bunch of starting-caliber players who are available to come off the sideline, including at cornerback. Witherspoon opened the season in the starting lineup but was sidelined for six games due to a foot sprain.

Witherspoon rotated in with Moseley as the two shared playing time on Sunday.