SANTA CLARA –San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had a simple explanation for his team’s run-heavy approach in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
“If it is working, you stay with it,” Shanahan said at the on-field podium.
Raheem Mostert made the strategy pay off, as he rushed for a franchise-record 220 yards and scored four touchdowns, and the 49ers pummeled the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball to notch a 37-20 victory in the NFC title contest.
Mostert’s historic showing was part of a dominating performance, as San Francisco reached the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2012 season and the seventh time overall. The 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) in Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Feb. 2.
Mostert’s rushing output, which came on 29 carries, is the second highest in NFL postseason history behind Eric Dickerson (248 in the 1985 postseason). The four rushing scores ties with LeGarrette Blount (2013) for second, one behind record-holder Ricky Watters of the 49ers (1993).
“It was one of those things where, hey, once we all get in a groove, we just want to keep it riding, keep it going, and that’s what we did,” Mostert said.
Aaron Rodgers completed 31 of 39 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Packers. Aaron Jones scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving), and Davante Adams caught nine passes for 138 yards.
It was the second time the 49ers easily handled the Packers this season. San Francisco won 37-8, also at home, on Nov. 24.
“It wasn’t like they did a whole bunch of new stuff,” Rodgers said in his postgame press conference. “They brought back the blitz that they showed a few months ago, but there wasn’t a lot of different stuff.”
The 36-year-old Rodgers was cognizant that falling one win shy of the Super Bowl — the third such loss in the last six seasons — was a missed opportunity.
“It’s a little bit raw right now, but it definitely hurts a little more than early in the career,” said Rodgers, “because you realize how difficult it is to get to this spot.”
Mostert rushed for 160 yards and three touchdown on 14 first-half carries — helping the 49ers to a 27-0 lead — en route to becoming just the eighth player to rush for 200 or more yards in a playoff game. His yardage was the highest ever by a San Francisco player, regular season and postseason (Frank Gore, 212 in 2006).
His load only increased after Tevin Coleman was carted off the field with a right shoulder injury during the second quarter and didn’t return.
The 49ers picked up 285 of their 354 total yards on the ground. Green Bay finished with 358 yards.
Mostert began the scoring with 5:55 left in the first quarter when he exploded through a huge hole on third-and-8 and headed to the left for a 36-yard touchdown run. Robbie Gould kicked a 54-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to make it 10-0.
Mostert added a 9-yard scoring run to extend the lead to 17 with 9:12 left in the half. The Packers turned the ball over on their next possession when center Corey Linsley never got the snap to Rodgers, and San Francisco’s DeForest Buckner recovered at the 49ers’ 25-yard line. The ensuing drive was capped by Gould’s 27-yard field goal to make it 20-0 with 1:57 left.
Emmanuel Moseley intercepted Rodgers with 1:01 left in the half, and San Francisco cashed in when Mostert again raced through a big hole to score from 18 yards out with 45 seconds remaining.
Green Bay got on the board when Rodgers connected with Jones on a 9-yard scoring pass with 8:44 left in the third quarter.
Mostert was back at it less than four minutes later, as he darted 22 yards to the left for a touchdown to make it 34-7 before the Packers attempted to rally.
A 42-yard pass from Rodgers to Jimmy Graham set up Jones’ 1-yard scoring run 25 seconds into the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion pass failed. Rodgers connected with Adams on a 65-yard play to lead to a 8-yard touchdown throw to Jace Sternberger with 8:13 left.
Gould booted a 42-yard field goal with 3:31 left to make it a three-score game, and Richard Sherman later intercepted Rodgers as the 49ers finished off the victory.
“Our team is incredible to be a part of, we can win in so many different ways,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was called on to throw just eight passes, completing six for 77 yards.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said being unable to stop the run, as well as committing three turnovers, were big blows for his club. But he also was pleased that his team didn’t pack it in while being walloped.
“These guys are a bunch of fighters. When you are down 27-0, these guys kept battling, I can’t tell you how much that means to myself and our staff,” LaFleur said. “That’s why it hurts so bad, is because we accomplished a lot of great things this season. Ultimately, at the end of the year, only one team is going to be happy.”
San Francisco is 5-1 in its previous Super Bowl appearances. The defeat came in its most recent appearance, after the 2012 season.
–Field Level Media