SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers continued their magical season, dominating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the N.F.C. championship game, 37-20, to earn a trip to Super Bowl LIV in two weeks.
The 49ers, who will be gunning for their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy, will face the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Tennessee Titans earlier on Sunday, 35-24, to end their 50-year Super Bowl drought.
The star of Sunday’s N.F.C. game was never in doubt. San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert scored four touchdowns and ran for 220 yards on 29 carries. Mostert’s performance was the second best by a running back in N.F.L. playoff history, after Eric Dickerson’s 248-yard game for the Los Angeles Rams in 1986.
“When it’s working, you stay with it,” Coach Kyle Shanahan said about the running game.
The 49ers’ victory completes a remarkable turnaround for the club, which won just four games last season and had not had a winning record since the 2013 season, the last time San Francisco was in the playoffs.
The 49ers made it to their last Super Bowl the year before that, when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch have remade the team entirely since they arrived three seasons ago. Their plan focused on building a solid running game and a stout defensive line. The 49ers used both to pummel the Packers on Sunday.
The 49ers ran the ball so well that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempted just eight passes.
While Mostert gained most of the rushing yardage, receiver Deebo Samuel had two big runs on reverses. Running back Tevin Coleman had six carries for 21 yards before leaving with a shoulder injury.
Mostert thanked his blockers, including tight end George Kittle, for all the support. “They all did a great job,” he said.
San Francisco’s defense was the second best in the N.F.L. this season, and on Sunday, it showed why. The defensive front, led by Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, harassed Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers all game.
Statistically, Rodgers had a solid game, throwing for 326 yards and two scores on 31-of-39 passing. But the 49ers’ defense forced him to fumble twice (San Francisco recovered one of them) and throw two interceptions. The second interception came with less than two minutes left when San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman dived for Rodgers’s desperation pass, which was intended for Davante Adams.
After kneeling several times to run out the clock, the 49ers ran onto the field and confetti floated down.
As the team’s season leader in catches (85), targets (107), and receiving yards (1053), San Francisco tight end George Kittle gets proper accolades for his receiving skills. But tonight he’s been showing off his blocking, which has helped running back Raheem Mostert to score four touchdowns.
The 49ers have repeatedly run the ball to the side of the line where Kittle lined up. His blocks give Mostert room to get around the end and slice through the Green Bay secondary.
Kittle did not get his first catch of the game until Jimmy Garoppolo found him for a 19-yard catch with a little under eight minutes left during a fourth-quarter drive.
Kittle was known as a strong blocker at Iowa, where he played in college, and he enjoys blocking for the 49ers, too.
“If you don’t enjoy it, then you’re just going to be miserable, and so I just enjoyed it, and now I’m very prideful in it,” Kittle told reporters on Thursday.
Mostert has been the beneficiary of that hard work today.
The Packers were down by three scores early in the fourth quarter, but Aaron Rodgers isn’t conceding anything.
Rodgers connected with tight end Jace Sternberger for an 8-yard score to inch the Packers closer, 34-20, with under nine minutes left.
Rodgers was facing pressure, so he scrambled to his right to buy time before he threw a rocket to Sternberger in the back of the end zone.
The big play of the 92-yard drive was a gorgeous 65-yard pass from Rodgers to receiver Davante Adams, who caught the ball in stride before he was tackled at the 49ers’ 22-yard line.
The Packers may have found a rhythm, even if it’s getting late.
Green Bay scored seconds into the fourth quarter to cut San Francisco’s lead to 34-13.
Aaron Jones ran in the 1-yard score. Green Bay missed the 2-point conversion when receiver Davante Adams could not handle a pass from Aaron Rodgers on an out route.
The Jones touchdown came after Rodgers hit tight end Jimmy Graham with a 42-yard pass, the quarterback’s longest completion of the game. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but on review, the officials determined Graham was down before he crossed the goal line.
Either way, down by three possessions, the Packers still have an uphill climb.
Did we say running back Raheem Mostert is having the game of his life?
Mostert scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 22-yard run around left end to put the 49ers ahead, 34-7.
It was an emphatic response to the Packers’ lone score on the opening drive of the second half.
The 49ers philosophy seems to be, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The 7-play scoring drive started with Mostert notching big gains.
The back-breaker came on second-and-8, when the 49ers ran a reverse to receiver Deebo Samuel, who scampered 32 yards to the Green Bay 22-yard line.
Two plays later, Mostert evaded several blockers to rumble into the end zone.
The 49ers have run the ball so well that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has only thrown the ball six times, completing four of those passes for 48 yards.
After a disastrous first half, the Green Bay Packers started the second with a strong 75-yard drive to chip into the 49ers’ 27-point lead.
Aaron Rodgers had time to throw, hitting receivers Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison for big gains. On the final play of the drive, Rodgers found running back Aaron Jones with 9-yard touchdown pass. Rodgers completed nine of 10 passes en route to the end zone.
The 11-play drive, though, consumed more than six minutes of game clock. Still behind by three possessions, the Packers will have to get the ball back quickly if they hope to keep making up ground.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is having the game of his professional life. In the first half alone, he scored all three 49ers touchdowns and ran the ball 14 times for 160 yards.
The 49ers went into the locker room leading the Packers, 27-0.
Mostert, a fifth-year player from Purdue, is the leading rusher in the 49ers backfield by committee. He gained 772 yards on 137 carries during the regular season with eight running touchdowns. He averaged a healthy 5.6 yards per carry.
Green Bay did not help themselves in the first half. Tyler Ervin bobbled a kickoff return. Aaron Rodgers muffed a snap, lost another fumble and threw an interception.
The 49ers have made the Packers pay for those turnovers, ending five of six total possessions with a touchdown or field goal.
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley picked off Aaron Rodgers on second-and-15 to add onto Green Bay’s woes. The Packers’ drive began with a muffed kick return by Tyler Ervin, which buried the team at their own 8-yard line to start. Four plays later, the 49ers have the ball yet again.
Things are going from bad to worse for the Packers, and they have themselves to blame.
After finally gaining some momentum, quarterback Aaron Rodgers muffed a snap on second-and-4 deep in the San Francisco end of the field. San Francisco defensive lineman DeForest Buckner recovered the ball on the 49ers’ 25-yard line to give his team another chance to score.
The 49ers didn’t waste it. Raheem Mostert broke free for a 34-yard gain, cutting left and right through the Packers backfield. San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk made a key block to pave the way for Mostert.
San Francisco’s drive ended on the Packers’ 7-yard line and the 49ers settled for a field goal to go up, 20-0, with just under 2 minutes left in the first half.
The 49ers have built a commanding 17-0 lead, but it has come at a cost.
On their last drive, Tevin Coleman injured his shoulder and left the game.
The injury happened in the red zone. Coleman ran for five yards and as he fell to the ground, he reached out with his arm to break his fall. After a lengthy examination by the team trainers, a cart was driven on to the field.
Coleman’s return is questionable.
Coleman was the 49ers third-leading rusher this season, after Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida.
More pressure on Green Bay leads to more points for the 49ers.
On the Packers’ first drive of the second quarter, 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams stripped quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the ball on third down. Green Bay recovered the fumble, but the play led to a 15-yard loss. Then Green Bay punter J.K. Scott shanked the punt just 23 yards down the field.
The 49ers took over on the Packers 37-yard line, eager to pounce. Running back Raheem Mostert ran for 13 yards and 9 yards to open the drive. Garoppolo extended it with a quarterback sneak.
Then Mostert punched in his second touchdown run, this one for nine yards.
San Francisco now leads 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
Though both teams have had the ball for about the same amount of time, the game is starting to feel like another blowout by San Francisco.
San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould hit a 54-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to put the 49ers up by 10 points. The 49ers caught a break on the 15-yard drive after the Packers were penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer.
The drive began with excellent field position for the 49ers after Richie James Jr. returned the Green Bay punt 26 yards to the San Francisco 49-yard line.
The first quarter zipped by, in part because the 49ers scored so quickly on their second drive to head into the break up, 7-0.
Both defenses have made outstanding plays. Nick Bosa has hounded quarterback Aaron Rodgers, while the Packers sacked 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for an 8-yard loss to end the quarter.
San Francisco had the second best defense this year, and their front line showed why on the Packers’ second drive.
Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a 13-yard loss on third-and-7 to end Green Bay’s second drive. The play before, Bosa gobbled up running back Aaron Jones at the Packers 42-yard line for no gain.
Bosa tormented Rodgers when the teams met in November, recovering a Rodgers fumble and nearly returning it for a touchdown.
As my colleague Ben Shpigel wrote, Bosa totaled 80 sacks, hurries and hits for the 49ers during the regular season, “tormenting offenses with a blend of power, speed and technical expertise amplified by a sophistication uncommon for his age, particularly at that position.”
The San Francisco 49ers strike first. Running back Raheem Mostert broke free for a 36-yard run, speeding past several defenders to score the game’s first touchdown.
After their opening drive stalled on three plays at their own 34-yard line, the 49ers came out firing. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit receiver Deebo Samuel for two catches and 46 yards, including a 30-yard catch on second-and-5 that could have been a score had Samuel not been tripped up.
Mostert, a track and field star, did the rest, running for 5, 6 and 36 yards on the 6-play, 89-yard drive.
The 49ers had the second-best running game in the N.F.L. this season. They deploy tight end George Kittle as a blocker often, as they did early today.
If the past is prologue, the San Francisco 49ers should wallop the Green Bay Packers in the N.F.C. championship game on Sunday. After all, the 49ers beat the Packers, 37-8 in November, as the 49ers bottled up Green Bay’s run game and constantly pressured quarterback Aaron Rogers.
But the Packers have had time to review what went wrong and prepare, which is why the 49ers are not complacent. “I promise they’re looking at some clips on tape where they know that they could have hit us on,” said Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. During the regular season, the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams were unable to avenge earlier losses to the 49ers, who swept the season series from both teams.
Neither the Packers nor the 49ers were in the postseason last year.
The Green Bay Packers fired Mike McCarthy, their longtime coach, after Week 12 last season in part because quarterback Aaron Rodgers was reportedly unhappy with his boss. Despite a lot of wins together, the Packers had faltered in the last two years.
Enter Matt LaFleur, Green Bay’s 40-year old coach who has a reputation as an offensive savant. A quarterbacks coach with the Redskins and the Falcons, and offensive coordinator with the Rams and Titans, he appears to have Rodgers clicking again.
After two losing seasons, the Packers went 13-3 in the regular season. Rodgers topped 4,000 yards passing for the eighth time in his career. He threw 26 touchdown passes and was intercepted just four times.
Levi’s Stadium opened to great fanfare in 2014, but the building has largely been a house of horrors for its primary tenant, the San Francisco 49ers. This year, the team has finally arrived, going 13-3 in the regular season and winning its first playoff game in Santa Clara last weekend.
The mood on the field before the N.F.C. championship game against the Green Bay Packers was as jubilant as it has been all season. The sidelines were packed six- and seven-deep with credentialed fans, including Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Barry Bonds. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got the loudest cheers as he stopped to sign autographs before heading into the locker room.
There was a sprinkling of Packers fans, who were easy to spot with their bright yellow foam cheeseheads. Home field advantage isn’t what it used to be, but if the 49ers need any encouragement, they’re likely to get it from a highly partisan crowd.
One potential matchup worth watching: 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and Packers wide receiver Davante Adams. Sherman usually plays on the left side of the field, but he may be asked to shadow Adams, who caught eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.
Sherman, one of the best cornerbacks in the game, intercepted Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins when San Francisco beat Minnesota last week.
Because of Sherman’s skills, offenses often avoid throwing to his side of the field. But the 49ers could place him strategically on the right side, as well.
On Thursday, Sherman talked down the notion that he gets more pumped up to cover an opponent’s top receiver, in this case, Adams. “At the end of the day it’s about winning football games. He’s a great player. He’s somebody that we’ve obviously got to account where he is on the field at all times. But in terms of individual matchups, it means nothing to me.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s grudge against San Francisco is among the most talked about story lines in Sunday’s N.F.C. title game. Rodgers, 36, grew up a 49ers fan in Chico, Calif., and played college football at California. The 49ers had a chance to draft Rodgers in 2005, but opted instead to take quarterback Alex Smith with the first overall pick.
Smith, who quarterbacked the 49ers from 2005 to 2012, has had a fine career, but not the caliber of Rodgers, who has won a Super Bowl and appears destined to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In that draft, Rodgers slipped to the 24th pick, where the Packers selected him. Rodgers has a 4-5 career record against San Francisco, including two losses in the playoffs.