49ers 37, Packers 20: NFC championship grades

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers blew out the Packers 37-20 in the NFC championship game. Here are the 49ers’ grades:

GAROPPOLO: B. He completed only six passes, but he didn’t need to complete more than six to beat the Packers, who looked like they’d never before defended a run play. All Garoppolo needed to do was protect the ball, not turn it over, and he accomplished that. He’ll need to do much more to beat the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, but we’re not quite there yet.

RUNNING BACKS: A-PLUS. Kyle Juszczyk made any number of perfect blocks. He’s one of the 49ers’ most valuable players. Tevin Coleman started and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry before leaving on a cart with a shoulder injury. After he left, Raheem Mostert became the primary running back, a role he should have had all season. He showed why against the Packers. Mostert ran a whopping 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. The 49ers might be undefeated had they featured Mostert during the regular season the way they featured him against the Packers. They absolutely should feature him in the Super Bowl.

WIDE RECEIVERS: B. Deebo Samuel gained 89 yards from scrimmage — 46 yards through the air and 43 on the ground. What a rookie. What a player. He was the 49ers’ second-most-dangerous weapon after Mostert. Kendrick Bourne had one catch for six yards. Emmanuel Sanders had zero catches. He has become a complete afterthought. The 49ers might not re-sign him this offseason.

TIGHT ENDS: A-PLUS. George Kittle caught just one pass for 19 yards, but he arguably was the most valuable player of the game, because his blocks created Mostert’s running lanes. Kittle is a better blocker than a receiver, and he’s an elite receiver. What a special player.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A-PLUS. They gave up only one sack, and paved the way for 285 rushing yards. Congratulations to Joe Staley for making it back to the Super Bowl after wasting years of his career on terrible teams. He deserves this win as much as anyone.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead each sacked Aaron Rodgers once, and Armstead stripped the ball from him. The pass rush in general made Rodgers look old and defeated in the first half. But the defensive line gave up 4.7 yards per carry to Packers starting running back Aaron Jones. The run defense might have been an issue had the game been closer.

LINEBACKERS: B. Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner each had six tackles, and Warner broke up a deep pass intended for Packers tight end Jimmy Graham. Kwon Alexander played strong-side linebacker and two tackles, including one for a loss.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: B-PLUS. Richard Sherman gave up a 65-yard catch to Davante Adams, but also intercepted a deep pass intended for Adams to seal the win. Sherman isn’t the player he used to be, but it’s still a bad idea to test him. Ditto for K’Waun Williams, who stripped the ball from Rodgers. Emmanuel Moseley started in place of Ahkello Witherspoon, and held his own. Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt reinjured his ribs and left the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Richie James Jr. had a 26-yard punt return, and Robbie Gould made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 54-yarder, his longest since 2015. Clutch.

COACHES: A. Robert Saleh didn’t shut down Adams, but Saleh didn’t need to because the Packers never were in the game. And they weren’t in the game because their defense couldn’t stop the run. Credit Kyle Shanahan for running the ball over and over and over again. Some play callers get cute and throw unnecessarily with a big lead. Even Shanahan did that in the Super Bowl three years ago when the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point second-half lead and lost to the New England Patriots. Shanahan didn’t make that mistake this time with a 27-point second half lead. He simply ran the Packers off the field. Shanahan has evolved, and now he’s in the discussion with Bill Walsh, who won the Super Bowl in his third season as the 49ers’ head coach. Shanahan is just one win away. What a coach.

This article has 48 Comments

    1. Sanders is just fine. Grant turns on a player on a dime/ The Niners will have to pass more against a great Chiefs team. We need all our best receivers to be used.

  1. I think it’s time everyone give it up for Jed.
    He got a lot of crap
    Turns out Balkee and Harbaugh were both ego maniac fruitcakes that were not as good as advertised.
    He made the right hire, and got out of the way.
    Kudos to Jed

  2. Good analysis, except I disagree about Sanders. I think he draws a lot of coverage, and opens things up for Samuel. He’s had an enormous impact by taking the pressure off the other receivers. I hope they can bring him back.

    1. I totally agree. He’s still an above average receiver that has made this offense well rounded. And it will show in two weeks when Jimmy has to throw more.

    2. And he blocks very well for a wide receiver. Not a lot of WRs like to block this much. Sanders has been a steal for the 49ers.

  3. Jed got a lot of crap because he deserved it.

    Now he deserves a lot of credit and kudos for the great hires of Kyle and Lynch, who also deserve promo credit for putting this great team together so quickly .

    Jed is turning out to be a very good owner, someone who learns from his mistakes.

    1. I also predicted a 34-20 game:
      Pot…Kettle says:
      January 14, 2020 at 2:22 pm
      Niners 34, Packers 20. If I have time at work this week, I will try to add some context.

      Being at the game, it was a great environment again. More importantly, in reflecting on why this season’s team has meant more than the 2012-2013 Niners’ Super Bowl team, it dawned on me that this team has brought me more joy. The 2012-2013 team felt joyless and workman-like; not a bad thing, but not something that necessarily captures the imagination the way this team does. This year has just been fun and exciting.

      1. Yeah I feel the same way about this team. I live in SoCal now but was up doing a gig in NorCal at the beginning of the year. The Murph and Mac dudes were saying that if they beat the Steelers, they have a chance to go 4-0 or something. Who would have thunk that they would actually get to 8-0 before losing a nail biter to the Seahawks?

        I don’t think Grant is giving Sanders enough credit. When they traded for him, some of the talking heads said that he was would be the difference the Niners go to the SB. He solidified the WRs and gave Deebo and Bourne a chance to grow and get better.

        As for Jimmy G, he rises to the occasion. The Viking Dee was the best one would face this post season. He made some shaky throws but also some good ones. The Chiefs don’t have enough playmakers on Defense where as the Niners had special players on both sides. Mahomes is a scary QB but so is Lamar Jackson.
        It’s great to be relevant again!

    2. but Seb I was prescient too.
      I predicted that Rodgers would throw a Hail Mary’s at the end of the game!
      I think you should be proud of me now!

  4. Jed has made some mistakes as a young NFL CEO (who is also basically an owner as well). He should have fired Trent Baalke before he fired Harbaugh. Had he done that, who knows how differently the Harbaugh era would have played out (although I have my doubts about his ability to lead an NFL football team over the long haul). He should have found away to keep Fangio. Jim Tomsula was a lazy hire, and he was in way over his head. Chip Kelly was a has-been, with his gimmicky, predictable snooze-fest of an offense having long been figured out by the rest of the league prior to his arrival.

    But Jed York has officially made amends for his early mistakes. He deserves a ton of credit for not only making the right choice in hiring Kyle Shanahan and pairing him up with the future HOF Safety – John Lynch, but also showing patience by handing them both long term contracts, and then getting the he_l out of their way. And as a result, the 49ers are right back where their storied franchise has always belonged – among the best of the very best in the National Football League! GO NINERS!

  5. Grant, can you please stop making or passing judgement about a player after just one game. You have said Sherman is slow we are better off without him, Armstead is selfish he wants his own stats we shouldn’t resign him, Coleman is not a good runner, Breida should start but they don’t give him a lot of carries because they don’t want to pay him, Staley is slow they shouldn’t play him anymore. Don’t be too quick to pass judgement, maybe next game Breida might get more carries because of the game plan or matchup. Don’t be too quick to pass judgment because it will make you look bad in the end.

    1. My favorite. Jimmy G takes sacks because he doesn’t want to throw the ball away for a incompletion & hurt his stats!

    2. Amici, its a serious personality flaw and grant is to naive to even realize it! Your a horrible person grant! seriously dude!!! Your a heartless dude……if someone dosent ball out in a particular game……you trash em relentlessly….basically question their manhood……call em garbage in print…..for their family and the whole world to see!!!! what the hell dude!!??? Theres only so many yards to go around…..only so many td’s to be scored!!!! Only so many tackles to be made!!!!! its a dream season…..but leave it to grant to find someone to abuse!!! The 53rd man takes and gives out more hits every sunday than you ever have in your life!!!! Have you EVER been in a fight grant??? any type of physical altercation??

      1. Are you 14 and still get spankings and just a mad kid????…Seems like you’re the pot calling the kettle black. You have anger issues and come off as a bit pyscho. I’m sure you have had many physical altercations in the ward. Oh…and you are totally wrong about Grant, little j.

    3. He has said a lot of dumb things but I think it has more to do with his inexperience than being a jerk. He is easily swayed by small examples and doesn’t grasp the overall nuances of the game. When reading stuff he writes I get the feeling he isn’t a big fan of the game or at least didn’t live and breath it at some point. He’s wooden and more interested in antagonizing than suppling real information.

  6. One thing that jumped out tonight was how poor the Packers safeties are. They took bad angles play after play.

    On the flip side there’s Ward who is sound and makes the stops. He really solidified the back end.

    1. Mostert has made a lot of players take bad angles this season. Seems he has a knack for making people misjudge his speed.

  7. I think JG deserves an A- . He led this team to a dominant win. He did not throw a pick, or make any bad decisions.
    The WRs deserved a B+ . They may not have caught many passes, but they blocked to help the run game.
    I would give the coaches an A+ . They did not only out coach the Packers, they embarrassed them. The Packer coaches were helpless, and did not have a clue. In the end, they stood on the side line, with a bludgeoned look on their faces. Matt LaFleur probably thought he was re-living Groundhog Day.

  8. Good thought Crazy Crab. Totally agree! Coach Iggy’s assessment that Sanders is an afterthought magnifies once again how little he knows about football. Amazing. No wonder why the prevalent thought at 4949 Bill Walsh Way concerning Coach Iggy is he’s a FI. I agree.
    Kudos to 49 Reasons and Pot…Kettle! Great predictions. I had 34-24. Not too far off, but you guys got darn close! Hope you won some money. I did, on that game anyway. Not so much on the AFC game!

  9. As far as grades go: A for qb, made the throws he needed to make.
    WR A great blocking.
    OL. A again great blocking
    RB A what a performance
    TE A again great blocking
    FB A again great blocking
    Grant’s reporting. F too much poison pen.

  10. Prediction from usually accurate sports writer, NJ.com/sports, Chiefs 35 — Niners 28

    Here’s an early look at this year’s Super Bowl matchup, plus a prediction:

    Game Info
    Key matchups

    Chiefs’ offensive line vs. 49ers’ pass rush: The best way to slow down Mahomes is by making sure he can’t get the ball out. Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa and Co. have to get to the quarterback in order to upset this offense’s rhythm.

    Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. 49ers’ secondary: Kelce is an absolute menace — he led the Chiefs during the regular season with 1,229 receiving yards this year and added five TDs. The toughest part about him is that he’s deployed in a variety of ways. He’s a matchup nightmare. How will the 49ers slow him down?

    Chiefs head coach Andy Reid vs. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan: Reid is one of the better coaches in the NFL, particularly among offensive minds. He has plenty of playoff experience, too — but he has a history of falling flat on his face just short of a Super Bowl title from his days with the Eagles. That said, Shanahan is a young head coach in just his third season and in the middle of his first playoff run. It’ll be fascinating to see who wins this battle of wits.


    Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been lighting it up all season long, but he’s about to face arguably the best pass rush in the NFL. How will he handle this massive moment when he has opposing defenders in his face? Will he continue to make big, clutch plays or will he be prone to costly mistakes? Remember, he’s still just a second-year starter. And now he’s playing on the game’s biggest stage.

    Who has the advantage when the Chiefs have the ball?

    The Chiefs, hands down. Their offense is almost certainly the best in the game thanks to its impossible-to-stop passing attack. Mahomes has plenty of options in Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill. They’re a quick-strike attack capable of putting up points in a hurry. But they also proved against the Titans that they can be methodical, too. The question isn’t whether they’ll score 30 points – they’ve done that 10 times this season, including both playoff wins – but how many more they’ll tack on beyond that.

    Who has the advantage when the 49ers have the ball?

    The Chiefs’ defense is much better this season than it was last year, but the Niners will still have the edge here. Garoppolo threw for just under 4,000 yards this season and the 49ers have three running backs who tallied at least 500 yards on the ground. They’re a diverse attack that’s capable of moving the ball in a variety of ways.

    The Chiefs will win if …

    Their offensive line can shut down – or at least significantly slow – the 49ers vaunted pass rush. If Mahomes spends most of the day operating out of a clean pocket, then he and his receivers have the ability to pick this defense apart. And if the Chiefs are scoring at their usual clip, the 49ers will struggle to keep up with the pace.

    The 49ers will win if …

    Their secondary can somehow keep up with the Chiefs’ plethora of receiver weapons. Inevitably, Mahomes is going to have at least a handful of chances to break some big plays, even if the front seven has a great day. When that happens, will the Niners’ defensive backs be ready to make a play or can the Chiefs capitalize and hang points with some quick strikes?


    The Chiefs should have made the Super Bowl last year, if not for a boneheaded offside penalty. Well, they’re finally here. And it’s hard to see them blowing this moment. Their offense is just too good. The 49ers might slow them down, but no one can stop Mahomes when he’s operating at his best level.

    Chiefs 35, 49ers 28

    Matt Stypulkoski may be reached at mstypulkoski@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_Stypulkoski. Find NJ.com Jets on Facebook.

    1. The Niners will win because they have the number one pass defense.
      The Chiefs will lose because they have a 27th ranked defense.
      Defense wins championships.
      Andy Reid wilts in his biggest games, while KS wants redemption from his Atlanta SB.

    2. “Who has the advantage when the Chiefs have the ball? The Chiefs, hands down.”

      WTF? Hands down? Uh, no. More like an irresistible force vs an immovable object. Sure, the Chiefs offense could have success against the 49ers defense, but it’s also possible the 49ers defense shuts the Chiefs down. The most the Chiefs offense has over the 49ers defense is a slight edge.

      While the Chiefs offense might have a slight edge on the 49ers defense, the 49ers offense has a very clear edge over the Chiefs defense. As a result, it looks like a slight overall edge to the 49ers.

      1. not only am i going to acknowledge….but also agree w seb! and exgolger! The Chiefs will not be able to run the ball on us ……they will have some success passing….but not like their used to! they wont dominate /shred us….. their gonna have to work for it….there will be some stops, some sack and some 3 and outs…..and maybe even a pick or 2! I can see them putting up 17-24 on us. Pressure will mount do to the fact we will control ToP…….the game is gonna stay close. We’re gonna run the ball on em and hit em w a little play action here and there.
        The game is gonna stay close, with them always trailing by 1-2 scores…..thus making them truly one dimensional

    3. This is the same lazy, incompetent analysis that said the Vikings and then the Packers were going to beat the 9ers in consecutive weeks. Anyone predicting a Chiefs win hasn’t been paying attention. The Chiefs will struggle mightily against the 9ers pass defense, and nobody on their D presents a problem bigger than the last two opponents that just got completely embarrassed. The AFC is a joke, and I’m not sure the Chiefs even make the playoffs if they traded places with the Cardinals in the NFCW. This won’t be another game against a default playoff team like the last two weeks were for KC.

      Niners win this game. Easily. 35-14.

  11. This is for all you guys that will inevitably get into discussions about “how Jimmy G will have to throw or keep up with Patrick Mahomes”. Kansas City has the 3rd ranked offense in points scored per game this year. San Francisco has the 2nd ranked offense in points scored per game. It’s either a wash or they have to keep up with us! Now if we talk about defense etc…a compelling argument can easily be made that we should win this game. Las Vegas has KC favored for all the idiots or casual fans that are moved by the long ball.

      1. Kansas City has given up the 7th most touchdowns against the run in the league! San Francisco is number 1 against the pass!

  12. Is it the fumbles? Is that why Breida is not playing? I only remember 1 fumble. I thought Breida was our best running back, until Mostert took off.

  13. Grant…

    I believe that Kyle Shannahan is the top Offensive coach in the game…So why do I question his choice of running backs in 6 or 8 consecutive times when he has 3 more quality backs chomping at the bit to get into the action…? The same with WR’s…”Juice” and Matthews should be getting some snaps….just wondering….

  14. Hey, Grant. I want to remind you about all your kvetching about the Juszczyk contract, when we signed him. You should revisit the issue of paying him double the next best fullback in the league.

  15. I had a good time reading through this article, it really is nice. I might have a couple suggestions though, but dont want to cause a quarrel :P:.. Keep up the great work, and see you! Regards, TeeningaPalmen

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