Packers vs. 49ers score: San Francisco rides Raheem Mostert, stellar defense to Super Bowl 2020

We're going to remember this for a long time as The Raheem Mostert Game. The least heralded of the 49ers' stable of running backs (he's an undrafted free agent who was cut eight times before catching on with San Francisco's practice squad in 2016, and he had 40 career carries before this year), Mostert had a game for the ages on Sunday night -- 29 carries for 220 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-20 win. 

He's just the eighth player ever to rush for 200 yards in a playoff game. He's the third to rush for at least four touchdowns. And he's the first to do both. His 220 yards are the second-most in all-time playoff history, behind only Eric Dickerson. They're the most in a single game in the history of the 49ers, period. Regular season or playoffs. 

Mostert was so good, so consistently that the rest of the offense barely had to do much of anything. Jimmy Garoppolo -- the 49ers' $137 million quarterback -- threw all of eight passes. He went more than an hour and a half of real time between his sixth and seventh attempts of the game. By the time he threw that seventh pass, Mostert had already crossed the 200-yard mark. The game was all but over. 

Of course, the San Francisco defense played a role in that. Dre Greenlaw came up with a huge play on the first possession of the game, stoning Jamaal Williams short of a first down after a swing pass on third-and-3. The Packers will probably regret their decision to punt on fourth-and-1 from the 50-yard line for quite a while. The game essentially ended on the next drive, which was when Mostert really got going. 

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The Niners sacked Aaron Rodgers three times, picked him off twice, and also recovered one of his fumbles. Don't let his final stat line fool you. This was not a good game for Rodgers. He was 9 of 12 for 65 yards and an interception at halftime, and he'd also fumbled twice. His team was down 27-0 before he ever got anything going, and he piled up some numbers in extended garbage time. Even his best play of the night -- a 65-yard bomb down the right sideline to Davante Adams, who smoked Richard Sherman off the line -- came back around on him, because when he tried to hit a similar pass later in the game, he overthrew Adams and Sherman picked him off to seal the win. 

And so, Mostert and the 49ers, and their top-notch defense that is playing at an extremely high level, will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl in two weeks' time. It's a game that'll feature stars on both sides of the ball, two of the league's most inventive offensive minds, and two defenses that have shut down all comers during their postseason runs. This is going to be fun. 

Why the 49ers won

Mostly because Raheem Mostert had the game of his life. Mostert had 160 rushing yards and three touchdowns by halftime. Only four other players had ever done that in a full playoff game in the history of the league. By midway through the fourth quarter, Mostert had become the eighth player ever to rush for at least 200 yards in a postseason game, and the third ever to rush for at least four touchdowns in a postseason game. Of course, he is the only one to ever do both of those things. Deebo Samuel made a few plays and the San Francisco defense did plenty, but it was Mostert's night. 

Why the Packers lost

A complete inability to stop the run on any level whatsoever and costly mistakes at extremely inopportune times spelled the difference for Green Bay. Tevin Coleman mixed in early and Matt Breida gave Raheem Mostert a breather with one carry, but other than that, Garoppolo just took the snap, turned around, stuck the ball in Mostert's belly, and let him go to work. The few times he didn't, he just flipped it to Samuel on an end-around. And the Packers just couldn't do anything about it. 

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Packers dug themselves a hole with a deadly combination of timid decision-making and poor execution. On Green Bay's first drive, the Packers faced fourth-and-1 from the 50-yard line ... and punted. As a heavy underdog on the road, that's inexcusable. Green Bay was down 17-0 by the time they got back into scoring position, at which point Aaron Rodgers promptly fumbled a snap. After the Niners scored again to go up 20-0, Rodgers threw an interception on an apparent miscommunication with wide receiver Allen Lazard. Three plays later, Mostert had his third rushing score and San Francisco had a 27-0 halftime lead. 

Turning point

The first two drives of this game were largely uneventful. San Francisco started the game with the ball and ran it three times before punting. The Packers didn't do much better, gaining just one first down before seeing Jamaal Williams tackled a yard short of the first-down marker on a third-and-3 swing pass and then punting the ball back to the Niners even though they had an opportunity to go for a fourth-and-1 from the 50-yard line. 

The play made by Dre Greenlaw to get Williams to the ground before he could get a first down may have been the real turning point of the game, but the catalyst for the explosion we saw the rest of the way came a few plays later. Two big gains from Deebo Samuel set San Francisco up inside Green Bay territory, but the Niners followed up Raheem Mostert's six-yard run on first down with a screen pass that lost four yards. All of a sudden, it was third-and-8 from the Green Bay 36-yard line. 

And that's when Kyle Shanahan pulled this one out of his magic hat. 

That's a Trips Right 21 Trap against a defense playing man coverage across the board, clearly expecting a throw on third-and-long. Instead, the Niners run a trap to the strong side, but because tight end George Kittle is split out wide instead of inline, he's able to run his man out of the play, while Mostert beats two more Green Bay defenders to the edge and gives San Francisco a lead it would never come close to relinquishing. 

Highlight play

So, we've talked a lot about Mostert. And he did the heavy lifting. But there was another guy on the San Francisco offense making plays. It was rookie Deebo Samuel, who did it in the air, on the ground, and with his blocking. He was the one with the first big play of the evening for San Fran. 

Samuel nearly made a house call on that one, but he got tripped up at the last second. Mostert got the Niners on the board a few plays later, as seen above. But Samuel wasn't done. He led the way with a great block on Mostert's second TD of the game. 

Samuel also had two carries for 43 yards on the drive that ended with Mostert's fourth score of the night. That included this 32-yard beauty of an end-around. 

He's become a heck of a weapon for the Niners, and he looks like a great pickup in the second round. 

What's next

The Packers' season is over. They'll have the No. 30 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They desperately need to get Davante Adams some help on the perimeter, whether that be in the form of a wide receiver or a tight end. They could also use some help stopping the run, as the Niners showed repeatedly throughout this game. 

San Francisco is headed to the Super Bowl for the ninth time in franchise history. The 49ers will take on the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. 

The Niners and Chiefs make for a fascinating matchup, as San Francisco sports one of the NFL's best run games and will go up against a Kansas City run defense that struggled throughout the season but shut down Derrick Henry in the AFC title game on Sunday. Kansas City, meanwhile, has the NFL's best quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) playing at as high a level as he has ever played. He'll go up against a San Francisco defense that was one of the best in the league all season. It should be incredibly fun. 

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Season Leaders

passing
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A. Rodgers 2889 YD, 29 TDS, 4 INTS
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A. Rodgers 2889 YD, 29 TDS, 4 INTS
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N. Mullens 1390 YD, 6 TDS, 6 INTS
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N. Mullens 1390 YD, 6 TDS, 6 INTS
rushing
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A. Jones 113 ATT, 534 YD, 6 TDS
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A. Jones 113 ATT, 534 YD, 6 TDS
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R. Mostert 51 ATT, 303 YD, 1 TD
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R. Mostert 51 ATT, 303 YD, 1 TD
receiving
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D. Adams 68 REC, 847 YD, 10 TDS
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D. Adams 68 REC, 847 YD, 10 TDS
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G. Kittle 37 REC, 474 YD, 2 TDS
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G. Kittle 37 REC, 474 YD, 2 TDS
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CHIEFS VS. 49ERS

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Niners rubber stamp their ticket to Miami

Down by 17 points and needing every molecule of a miracle, the Packers started their last gasp drive on their 25-yard line following an unfruitful kick return. A third fumble by Rodgers was forced by Armstead but the Packers recovered, only to find themselves in third-and-13. Rodgers rolled out right and heaved it downfield to Lazard but it fell short of the deep route, leaving them on fourth-and-13 with everything on the line and no timeouts. 

Rodgers took the snap from a shotgun formation and connected with Adams for 16 yards, and that took the game down to the two-minute warning. From there, Sherman erases the toast from earlier and reels in Rodgers second INT of the night.

The Niners are meeting the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

I feel like this is worth noting: Raheem Mostert is 27 years old. He was cut eight times before catching on with the 49ers' practice squad in 2016, and he spent most of the next three seasons as a special-teamer. He had 40 career carries before this season. He led the team in carries, yards, and touchdowns during the regular season, and just had arguably the best playoff game of all time. Incredible.

January 20, 2020, 2:39 AM

When the 49ers defense knows you have to throw the ball, you're in a bad spot. These guys can just tee off on Rodgers.

January 20, 2020, 2:35 AM

The nail in the coffin

Niners 37, Packers 20 (3:36 remaining in fourth quarter)

Just in case you forgot Jimmy G was a quarterback, because he had only four passes up to the middle of the fourth quarter, he started the Niners latest drive with a 19-yard strike to Kittle -- the latter always being a lethal threat to change the game. Another handoff to Mostert gained yardage and kept the clock moving, but put them in a third-and-3 situation. Targeting Kittle yet again, Redmond was called for defensive pass interference and gifted the Niners a first down. 

Mostert can do more than take handoffs, for those who are unaware, catching a pass in the flat and bursting forward for nine yards that led to third-and-1. The Niners would convert for a first down by giving the ball to -- guess who -- Mostert. The Packers would eventually keep them out of the end zone, but a field goal makes it a three-possession game. 

With no timeouts and little time remaining in the contest, this is pretty much wrapped. 

That may or may not be pass interference, but why is Will Redmond matched up with George Kittle on the biggest play of the game?

January 20, 2020, 2:23 AM

Rodgers makes history

As noted in the pre-game, Rodgers only needed two touchdowns to pass Brett Favre's postseason mark of 39, and that touchdown toss to Sternberger achieved the mission. That puts Rodgers at 40 postseason touchdowns -- most in Packers history. 

Packers applying some pressure to the Niners

Niners 34, Packers 19 (8:13 remaining in fourth quarter)

Packers started their drive on their own eight-yard line, and Rodgers started to look like the one everyone was expecting to see -- airing it out to Adams on a 65-yard reception with Sherman in coverage. Sitting at the 22-yard line, a failed handoff to Williams, thanks to Solomon Thomas, forced a third-and-2. Rodgers found Jones on third-and-2 for a first down catch-and-run, and the drive was punctuated by a touchdown strike to Sternberger to cut the lead to two touchdowns. 

The Niners need to answer on the next drive, even if it's with a field goal.

I want to come back to that fourth-and-1 decision by San Francisco, because that really seems like the only reason the Packers are now within two scores. Why didn't Shanahan just go for it?

January 20, 2020, 2:16 AM

It's pretty shocking to see the Niners get beaten on a deep ball like the one to Davante Adams. They let up ONE completion on throws more than 30 yards in the air during the regular season, according to Sports Info Solutions.

January 20, 2020, 2:14 AM

I'm pretty surprised the 49ers didn't go for that fourth down. It's not like the Packers have put up any resistance all night. I'm pretty sure Mostert could have picked up the yard.

January 20, 2020, 2:10 AM

Packers defense stands firm, finally

A failed onside kick attempt gave the Niners the ball at the Packers 48-yard line to start the drive and, stop me if you've heard this one before, the Niners gave the ball to Mostert to start the drive. That was for only a gain of four yards, but put him at the 200-yard rushing mark, adding on to a historic night by the young running back. On fourth-and-1, Shanahan attempted to draw the Packers offsides by faking the conversion attempt, but no dice.

Packers were disciplined and the Niners punt -- a rarity in this game. Rodgers will have a chance to shrink the lead to two touchdowns on the next drive.

Packers refuse to go quietly into the dying light

Niners 34, Packers 13 (14:53 remaining in fourth quarter)

Packers start at their own 25-yard line and had a ton of work to do, down by 27 points late in the third quarter. A wheel route to Ervin started the drive off with a seven-yard gain followed by a first down grab by Sternberger. It was a good start but a deep pass down the seam to Graham was fruitless in double coverage -- with Warner carrying him up the field underneath. A hands to the face penalty by Dee Ford (the Niners first of the game) awarded the Packers first down, but the Packers went back to their discombobulated ways and nearly suffered another stalled drive before converting a fourth-and-2 from the Niners 47-yard line.

Doing all they can to stave off elimination, Rodgers hit Graham for a 42-yard pass that set up a one-yard touchdown run by Jones to open the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 21 points, following a failed two-point conversion. 

They're going to need a big defensive play asap, and several of them. 

Nick Bosa came SO close to blowing up that run play. He bounced Allen Lazard out of the club and nearly threw him into Jones before Jones was able to make it into the end zone.

January 20, 2020, 2:00 AM

Jimmy Graham didn't play much last week but he did have three big catches against the Seahawks. He just had another one right there, whether he is ruled in the end zone or just short.

January 20, 2020, 1:57 AM

Jimmy G isn't breaking a sweat

Jimmy Garoppolo has only 48 passing yards with four completions, but it doesn't matter because Mostert is owning the Packers and has been the motor that's driving this rout. The latter has 196 rushing yards and four touchdowns through three quarters (!!), and the Niners as a whole have a massive 264 rushing yards as a team, and none are from Garoppolo — by the way. For contrast, Jones and the Packers have 57 total yards rushing, and that's only 21 percent of what the Niners have produced.

And there's still an entire quarter left to play, with Mostert showing no signs of slowing down.

I'm sorry but why on earth are the Packers running the ball on second-and-10, down 34-7 with three minutes left in the third quarter?

January 20, 2020, 1:47 AM

Mostert: A force awakened

Niners 34, Packers 7 (4:49 remaining in third quarter)

Niners start at their own 21-yard line, and a handoff to Mostert leads to a seven-yard gain as he continues to rack up yardage, followed by yet another -- as Kyle Shanahan continues to hammer the Packers run defense. Mixing things up, the Niners then flip the ball to Samuel on a reverse that turns into an 11-yard gain. That wasn't the only damage Samuel did, tacking on a 32-yard gain on a flip to the opposite direction, as the rookie continues to make his presence felt in January.

Not quite like Mostert, though, who ended the drive with his FOURTH touchdown of the game. 

Mostert is now the first player in NFL history with 190+ rushing yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game.

January 20, 2020, 1:41 AM

Kyle Shanahan is just being mean at this point. Mostert destroyed the Packers in the first half, so he gets Deebo Samuel the ball on an end-around twice on the first drive. That'll keep them honest.

Making matters worse for Green Bay, with Amos already out, Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith are now hurt as well. Yikes.

January 20, 2020, 1:38 AM

11 plays, 75 yards and the Packers finally have their first score. That drive took 6:16 off the clock, and if it takes them that long to score every time, they won't win. Good drive, but it hammers home how far they have to go. They'll need some turnovers and/or big plays to get back into it.

January 20, 2020, 1:28 AM
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