49ers upset Green Bay with 4th quarter comeback; 5 Burning questions answered

The San Francisco 49ers are moving on to the NFC Championship Game.

The 49ers 13-10 defeat of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field perfectly encapsulated their entire 2021 season in one three-hour game.

After allowing Green Bay to drive right down the field on the opening possession of the game the San Francisco defense tightened up, holding the Packers to only three points over the final 54 minutes.  

Offensively it was a struggle. Dropped passes on perfect throws, missed blocks and an interception from Jimmy Garoppolo in the redzone kept San Francisco off the scoreboard throughout the first half.

Deebo Samuel, the 49ers most explosive weapon this season, opened the second half by returning the kickoff all the way out to midfield.

As they had done throughout the first half, the offense would once again shoot itself in the foot when it looked primed to tie the game. As Elijah Mitchell broke off the right side on a run that looked like it would set the 49ers up inside the Green Bay five yard line, a flag flew. Mitchell had grabbed the facemask of the defender. This pushed San Francisco back to their own 19. An illegal formation penalty on the next play pushed them back again to the 24 and instead of tying the game, the 49ers would be forced to settle for a Robbie Gould field goal.

The San Francisco defense continued to hold Green Bay out of the endzone and another offensive drive would stall inside the redzone when Mitchell was dropped for loss on fourth and one.

With time running out on their season, the San Francisco defense would do what they’ve done so many times over the second half of the year, coming up with a stop when Arik Armstead sacked Aaron Rodgers on third down.

That’s when everything changed. San Francisco’s special teams has been a source of frustration throughout the year, just last week in Dallas the punt return unit allowed the Cowboys to continue two possessions due to a roughing the punter penalty and a successful fake punt.

Tonight, it was that unit that turned the game around when Jordan Willis burst through the middle of the line and got his hand on the ball, blocking the punt and sending it nearly straight up into the air. Talanoa Hufanga scooped the ball up and carried it into the endzone to tie the game.

The 49ers defense came right back on to the field and got the ball back for the offense by forcing a quick three and out.

From there the offense did what they’ve done repeatedly over the second half of the year. Two passes from Jimmy Garoppolo, one to George Kittle and one to Deebo Samuel helped the offense quickly get into Green Bay territory.

Three runs from Samuel moved the ball inside the Green Bay 30 before Elijah Mitchell and Kyle Juszczyk gained two more yards to set up a 45-yard field goal attempt from Robbie Gould.

As they have done all year, the 49ers overcame adversity and kept battling for their teammates, leaving everything they had on the field until the ball split the uprights as the last seconds ticked off the clock.

Let’s take a quick look at how the answers to the five questions for this week:

  1. Will the 49ers be able to get the run game going? YES

The 49ers run game struggled to get going early, but they kept going back to it and in the second half it began to click.

San Francisco finished with 106 yards on 29 rushing attempts. Elijah Mitchell led the way on Saturday night with 53 yards on 17 carries and Deebo Samuel had 39 yards on 10 very tough carries.

Samuel showed his toughness, shaking off an injury suffered on a third quarter screen to set the 49ers up in position for Robbie Gould’s game winning field goal.

  1. Can the 49ers defense make the Green Bay offense one dimensional? Kind of

San Francisco held Green Bay to only 67 yards on 20 rushing attempts.

The Packers did a good job of sticking with the run early on, but after losing AJ Dillon to an injury they were unable to keep it up late in the fourth quarter.

On their final two possessions, Green Bay ran the ball only once on six plays.

  1. Will San Francisco be able to contain Aaron Rodgers? YES

Aaron Rodgers started the game off hot, leading Green Bay to a touchdown on the opening possession and finished the first half 12 of 16 for 170 yards.

The second half was a different story as Rodgers would complete only 8 of 13 attempts for 55 yards.

The 49ers pass rush had a lot to do with this, consistently forcing Rodgers to move around and get rid of the ball faster than he wanted to.

Although San Francisco’s secondary struggled to stop Davante Adams at times, they were able to limit him to only 90 yards on 9 receptions by having their safeties help in coverage.

Of Rodgers’ 20 completions, only two went to a receiver other than Adams or running back Aaron Jones.

  1. Can the 49ers get a complete game out of Jimmy Garoppolo? NO

Garoppolo was strong early, but his receivers let him down as Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Jauan Jennings dropped the first three passes of the game.

When the 49ers offense finally found a rhythm late in the first half, a mistake by Garoppolo cost them points.

With the ball at the Green Bay 19, Garoppolo was forced to move to his right. George Kittle was open, but Garoppolo was late with the throw and Packers defensive back Adrian Amos was able to step in front of the tight end for an interception.

While he received plenty of help from his running game and defense, Garoppolo was good in the fourth quarter, completing 5 of his 6 passes for 55 yards.

Garoppolo’s numbers weren’t anything to write home about, 11-19, 133 yards and one interception, but he drew praise from defensive end Nick Bosa following the game.

“A lot of people give him crap for whatever, but he’s as cool and collected of a quarterback that I’ve ever had,” said Bosa. “He’s the perfect guy to lead us to where we want to go.”

Bosa wasn’t the only 49ers teammate to recognize Garoppolo’s leadership. George Kittle talked about Garoppolo’s ability to lead as well.

“Jimmy, can’t say enough about that guy. The stuff that he takes, consistently people try to pull him down, consistently all he does is deliver,” said Kittle. “He leads the team. He’s the sense of calm in the huddle. He allows us to play football at a high level.”

  1. Can the 49ers hold on to the football? NO

The 49ers turned the ball over once, Garoppolo’s interception late in the first half, however Green Bay faltered as well.

Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis fumbled the ball after making a reception from Rodgers in the first quarter, but the 49ers offense could not make Green Bay pay.

Two of the biggest plays in the game weren’t officially turnovers, but they may as well have been.

Green Bay had both a field goal and a punt blocked, and Jordan Willis was a key part of both plays.

On the final play of the first half, Willis chopped down the arm of a Packers lineman allowing Jimmie Ward to break through to block the Mason Crosby field goal attempt.

In the late moments of the fourth quarter, it was Willis who once again came up big, blocking a Packers punt that Talanoa Hufanga would scoop up and carry into the endzone to tie the game at 10.

Prediction:

49ers 27 Packers 24

This article has 41 Comments

    1. That was the funniest thing. Robbie was just a few yards away from Packers player introductions kicking right over their heads. Loved it.

  1. There were 3 critical game winning plays in this game. Punt block, field goal block, and Deebo’s run on 3rd & 7 in the 4th quarter. Jordan Willis helped make 2 of those plays. I don’t care if Willis only played 2 plays the entire game. Willis is the MVP of this one.

    LETS GOOOOO 9ers!!!!!!!!

  2. This was a great victory for the niners. Playing in Green Bay in very cold weather on a short week against the #1 ranked team. It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch but a w is a w.
    I love the fortitude of this team. They battle every minute of the game and get over mistakes quickly. I expected we would have a better run game but the Packers came ready to stop the run. I assume field conditions probably didn’t help. The packers also were able to rush Jimmy pretty well especially against Compton. This is my main concern going forward.

    1. Compton and Brunskill, who got owned again by Kenny Clark.

      The entire right side whether it be those two or McGlinchey/Brunskill is quite subpar in pass coverage.

  3. Will the 49ers pursue Rodgers again in the off-season if Lance isn’t ready to go next year?

    I can only see it happening if he would agree to a pay cut, which I doubt he would.

    But an interesting topic to think about.

    1. Not happening.

      From Mike Woodford (@DFlutieBB): If Rodgers ends up traded, what package will the Packers get back?

      Mike, it’d be a haul. Post-draft, there were four teams still sniffing around on a blockbuster quarterback trade: Philly, Carolina, Denver and Miami. I don’t see why any of those four wouldn’t be in the running again, and you’ll have others now, too. Seattle could be in the mix if Russell Wilson’s gone. Derek Carr has been great, but he’ll be going into a contract year, and Rodgers showed previous interest in the Raiders. The Giants? The Browns?

      And then there are teams you wouldn’t expect. Remember, in 2012 no one was talking about the Broncos being a player in the Manning sweepstakes—they had a first-round pick at the position who’d just won a playoff game. Then they were, and you know the rest.

      I’m detailing all of that to say, the potential for a bunch of bidders would drive the price north. That Rodgers is not under contract past 2022 would be a factor going in the other direction, so it’s a little complicated. But for the sake of the exercise, let’s pick Denver out of the hat and put a package together. If the season ended today, the Broncos would have the 13th pick in the draft. The Packers would have the aforementioned cap problems. So …

      Broncos get: QB Aaron Rodgers, 2022 seventh-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick.

      Packers get: 2022 first-round pick (13th overall), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (from Rams), QB Drew Lock, TE Albert Okwuebunam, WR K.J. Hamler.

      https://www.si.com/nfl/2021/12/22/mailbag-what-would-aaron-rodgers-trade-package-look-like

      Furthermore, the Niners sure as heck don’t want the QB they’ve beaten the pants off 4 straight times in the playoffs.

  4. Biggest play of game was not even a play. Shanahan calling a timeout before Crosby’a kicked was blocked. I don’t think they block the kick without calling that timeout.

    I felt something when it happened, was thinking it was more to ice Crosby, but they had a plan.

  5. 49ers scored 10 points in the last 4:49 minutes of this game. John Lynch is right, GRIT. This team isn’t the best team the 49ers have had in the past 20 years but they may have the most heart. This team reminds me of the speech given to the 3rd Army at the beginning of the movie Patton.

    I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position.

    We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that.

    We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy.

    We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re gonna kick him in the ass.

    We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose!

    F^*k the Packers!

  6. I have been highly critical of Dontae Johnson in the past but the last three games have been his best as a Niner. He gives his absolute best all the time, every time. Kudos to him.

    I also have been very nervous about Josh Norman, but full credit to him, he came in for two critical plays in the fourth and lined up very aggressively, and he too, gave it his best…………..

    1. OneT, I noticed the same thing. Rodgers went after those two the entire second half and they stepped up. Of course it was helpful that Bosa and Armstead were constantly breathing down his neck.

      1. Yes, obviously, the pass rush helps them out. But to be beaten continuously all year and step up with confidence when it mattes the most is very ballsy and impressive……………

    2. Dontae Johnson had some good moments last year. I have always rooted for him since they drafted in him in the Baalke era. I remember I thought he was going to be a top CB after his pick 6 against WAS.

  7. NFC Championship here we come.

    1. Jimmy was up , down and back up this game. The two drops early rattled him a bit. His pick and other errant throws were inexcusable. However, in the final drive he hit Deebo and Kittle with perfect passes and put us in position to kick the GWFG.

    2. Rodgers 4 MVP and 4 playoff losses to the Niners.

    3. Secondary: They were much maligned all season but played out of their minds last night. Rodgers had 55 pass yards in the second half. Hafunga obviously played huge especially on the pass break up intended for Adams , but #27 was right there as well step for step. Norman was called in for a few plays and held Adams to zero receptions. Ward merely blocked a FG which gave us huge momentum. This made up for the miscommunication with 27 on the blown coverage.

    4. DLine is dominant. Armstead’s 2nd sack set up the blocked punt.

    5. Deebo does it all including KR. He was a KR at South Carolina. I was a bit surprised Aiyuk only had 1 target. BTW I think he returned punts at AZ st.

    6. I suspect this will put an end to the fire Shanahan / fire Ryans chatter – at least until next season.

    7. See you next week Rams. Sofi is our home away from home.

    1. 4A. We need to fix the right side of our OLine. It probably wont be until the offseason . McGlinchey is not the answer.

  8. That final drive was epic. Game tied. Freezing blizzard. Needed to score but also burn clock.

    With a few seconds left Kittle, Deebo and Trent literally limped off the field. Running the offense in overtime would have been a bear.

    I wrote in the pregame comments when I heard Ambrey was out that maybe we should try Talanoa Hufanga at strong safety, Replace Johnson with Ward at corner and nove Tartt to free safety.

    The 49ers (thankfully) didn’t take my telepathic advice, but Hufanga made some key 2nd half plays in addition to the TD.

    1. Those first two paragraphs are exactly what I was trying to capture with the article. They left everything they had on the field for each other and pulled it out. They’ve been doing this consistently over the last 11 weeks. It’s so cool to see.

  9. Epic tear through traditional NFC rivals.
    – Beat Rams at home last play of the regular season or the season would have ended.
    – Beat Cowboys at home last play of the wildcard game or the season would have ended.
    – Beat Packers at home last play of the divisional playoff game or the season would have ended.

    wow

  10. Having the bye doesn’t seem to help teams much, does it.
    Bucs have 45 yards of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, not exactly playing with composure.

    1. Both the Bucs and the Packers play in soft divisions. The Niners and Rams are battle tested. Looks like we’ll need to beat the Rams 1 more time this year.

  11. AKers can’t hang onto the ball- 2 fumbles. Safety help over the top of Kupp and Eman on Odell shuts them down. We also got an extra day of rest. Rams/Sofi here we come

  12. OK fellow 49er faithful lets out do what we did in the last game and fill sofi with 75% niner fans this week. It will be difficult with only a week to get tickets but its possible. Something that struck me in the last few weeks. Jimmy G is a clone of John Brodie, Brodie was a better QB but he threw innumerable key interceptions but was a savant at the end of games. Also the fans hated him until the 70 season.

    1. Faithfuls should buy both tickets now for the NFCCG and SB! We are going to punk those Lambs! Our offense is due to have a great game! Next week’s game wont even be close!

    2. I looked yesterday/early today and 5th deck was $500, now $750………. heading down, but will wait for the tickets to slide down to a normal range.

      I think it will be a close game- Rams may have done all of their dumbass stuff today- as did Leslie Frazier w/ not covering Kelce in OT…….

  13. I see we are 3.5 point dogs against the Rams. I bet our team loves being the underdogs. I think so far the odds makers are about 100% wrong. We know the strategy to beat 5he Rams but It’s all about execution.

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