The 49ers are playing in their first NFC Championship Game in seven years Sunday when they host the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium. Left tackle Joe Staley is the only player remaining on the roster from the last one, but the 49ers feel like they've been here before.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told Westwood One Radio's Scott Graham as much on Sunday's episode of "NFL Insider." Garoppolo's reasoning? San Francisco's difficult run down the stretch.
"I think they were good stepping stones," Garoppolo told Graham. "We had a lot of games this year that were playoff-atmosphere-type games -- on the road and at home, both of them. So I think it's serving us well. We've been in this situation before. We've been in these atmospheres, and for a young team I thought we handled it really well this past week (in the divisional round)."
Over the final five games of the regular season, the 49ers played in five games decided by seven or fewer points. They went 3-2 during that stretch, losing to the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons but beating the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks thanks to game-changing plays in the final minutes.
The Packers, who entered the 2019 season as the NFL's fifth-youngest team, have plenty of holdovers from the 2016 team that made the NFC Championship Game that year. The most important is probable Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers, whom the 49ers dominated in a 37-8 win at Levi's in Week 12.
The 49ers are going to key in on stopping Rodgers once more, and for good reason. Garoppolo told Graham it's "an honor" to play against Rodgers with a spot in Super Bowl LIV on the line Sunday.
"The guy's unbelievable," Garoppolo said of Rodgers. "He's one of the greatest to ever do it, and I love watching his film and just learning from him. It'll be a great challenge for us, definitely, and we're looking forward to it."
Rodgers has plenty of late-game experience, as the 49ers saw firsthand when he orchestrated a late comeback against them in Green Bay during the 2018 season.
But thanks to their string of wins late this season, the 49ers feel prepared for those situations, too.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.