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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers survive Packers’ upset bid, advance to NFC Championship in instant classic 24-21 win

Jan 20, 2024 at 8:30 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers were given everything they could handle from the upstart Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoff game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Saturday, but the 49ers managed to fight through some big mistakes and a series of body blows from the Packers to survive and advance to the NFC Championship game with a 24-21 win.

The 49ers faced a 21-14 deficit as the fourth quarter began but fought from behind to take a 24-21 lead with just over a minute left in the game. An interception from linebacker Dre Greenlaw on the final possession of the game sealed the comeback victory and sent the 49ers to their third consecutive NFC Championship game.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy fought through rainy conditions and an up-and-down performance to finish 23-of-39 for 252 yards and one touchdown while leading the game-winning drive. Packers quarterback Jordan Love completed 21-of-34 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

First Half

The Packers began the game with possession after winning the coin toss and electing to receive. Their opening drive took over seven-and-a-half minutes off the first quarter clock, but after being handed a first down at the 49ers' 13 following a third-down pass interference penalty on cornerback Ambry Thomas, the Packers stalled and were unable to turn the drive into a touchdown, settling instead for a 29-yard field goal from kicker Anders Carlson for a 3-0 lead.

The 49ers punted after five plays on their first possession, then the Packers put together another long drive, this one spanning 68 yards in 10 plays. But the 49ers stepped up on defense inside the 20-yard line once again, this time forcing a turnover on downs on a 4th-and-1 run by Love. A 38-yard completion from Love to wide receiver Romeo Doubs on a 3rd-and-6 earlier in the drive put the Packers deep into 49ers' territory, but six plays later the drive came to a halt when Greenlaw and defensive lineman Arik Armstead stuffed Love just short of a first down.

After a shaky start on the first possession that included a near pick-six by safety Darnell Savage, Purdy and the 49ers' offense got rolling after the turnover on downs with a 12-play, 86-yard drive that culminated in a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end George Kittle. A scattering of runs and passes helped move the ball past midfield, then on a 3rd-and-5 from the Packers' 32-yard line, Kittle got behind Savage for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

The Packers responded with yet another lengthy drive, but the 49ers' defense once again stepped up in the red zone. A dazzling 22-yard completion to Doubs on a 3rd-and-7 gave the Packers a 1st-and-Goal at the 9-yard line, but they moved backwards from there on two incompletions and a 2-yard loss on a completion to running back Aaron Jones. Carlson capped the 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal to trim the 49ers' lead to 7-6.

With just over four minutes remaining in the game, the 49ers took over at their own 25-yard line and moved across midfield with over a minute left to play and three timeouts remaining. But the 49ers took their foot off the gas somewhat from there, running time off the clock while seemingly playing for a field goal before time expired in the half. Kicker Jake Moody had the chance to add some points with a 48-yard attempt with 10 seconds remaining, but the kick was deflected by defensive lineman Colby Wooden, leaving the score at 7-6 as the game moved to halftime.

The first half stat sheet was fairly even between the two teams, with the Packers holding a total yardage edge of 174 to 153. The Packers totaled 10 first downs to nine from the 49ers while holding a time of possession edge of 16:55 to 13:05. Purdy finished the first half with 125 yards and one touchdown on 10-of-16 passing, while Love completed 10-of-16 passes for 115 yards.

Second Half

The 49ers began the second half with a three-and-out, then the Packers took the lead on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a 19-yard touchdown strike from Love to wide receiver Bo Melton. The drive was moving in the opposite direction when a botched pitch to running back Aaron Jones put the Packers in a 2nd-and-21 on their own 34-yard line, but after a six-yard completion to Jones that set up a 3rd-and-15, the Packers moved 41 yards on a disastrous pass interference penalty by Thomas. Love and Melton connected on the next play to give the Packers a 13-7 lead.

The lead didn't last long, as the 49ers turned to two of their biggest stars to recapture the momentum on a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive. On a 3rd-and-6 play from their own 29-yard line, Purdy connected for a first down to Kittle, who bulldozed his way to the Packers' 39-yard line. Then, on the following play, running back Christian McCaffrey found a seam and broke free for a 39-yard score to put the 49ers back in front 14-13.

One big play was answered with another, as Packers return man Keisean Nixon responded to the touchdown with a 73-yard return to the 49ers' 27-yard line. Nixon fumbled at the end of the return, but the Packers recovered to give themselves possession at the 20.

A handoff to Jones on the first play of the possession went to no gain, then Love found Doubs for a 15-yard completion to the 5-yard line. After a three-yard run from Jones, Love connected with tight end Tucker Kraft from two yards out to take a 19-14 lead. Love then completed a pass to Jones for a two-point conversion to put the Packers in front 21-14 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

After punting the ball back to the Packers following a three-and-out, the 49ers needed to make something happen on defense to take back momentum. They got the play they needed from Greenlaw, who came up with the first turnover of the night by intercepting a pass from Love that deflected off the hand of Kraft. Greenlaw went through an eventful seven-yard return before giving the 49ers possession at the Packers' 48-yard line. The 49ers turned the takeaway into a 52-yard field goal from Moody at the start of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 21-17.

The 49ers held the Packers to a three-and-out after the field goal to force the first Packers punt of the game. From there, the 49ers put together an eight-play drive that moved to the Packers' 40-yard line, but from there they chose to punt, which pinned the Packers at their own 10-yard line with 9:37 left in the game. It took one play for the Packers to dig out of their field position hole as Jones ran for a 53-yard gain from the 10 to move the ball to the 49ers' 37-yard line. But the 49ers wound up dodging a bullet, as after advancing to the 23-yard line, the Packers couldn't add to their lead when Carlson missed wide left from 41 yards out with just over six minutes remaining.

From there, the 49ers put together their strongest drive of the game -- a 12-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a six-yard run from McCaffrey to take a 24-21 lead. The drive took over five minutes on the clock and featured three successful third-down conversions, including a clutch 10-yard completion to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk on a 3rd-and-5 and the McCaffrey touchdown run on a 3rd-and-1.

The Packers took over at their own 25-yard line after a touchback with 1:07 on the clock and three time outs remaining. After advancing to their own 36-yard line, Love dropped back to pass but for the second time in the game found his throw land in the hands of Greenlaw, who sealed the win for the 49ers following another eventful interception return. The 49ers ran out the clock from there to move on to the NFC Championship game, where they'll host the winner of Sunday's Divisional Playoff contest against the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Game Notes: The win snapped an ugly streak held by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was previously 0-30 in games where he faced a deficit of five or more points in the fourth quarter... Saturday's meeting marked the tenth postseason meeting between the 49ers and Packers, which currently stands as a record for the highest number of postseason games between two teams in league history. The Packers still lead the all-time series 38-34-1 but the 49ers hold a 6-4 edge in the postseason... The 49ers were 9.5-point favorites heading into the game... 49ers standout wide receiver Deebo Samuel exited the game in the first half with a shoulder injury and did not return.

GB Team Stats SF
194 Passing Yards 245
136 Rushing Yards 111
330 Total Yards 356
5.71 Avg Yards per Pass 6.46
4.86 Avg Yards per Run 4.63
0 Fumbles Lost 0
2 Int Thrown 0
0 Sacks Allowed 1
00:30:19 Time of Pos 00:29:41
1 Penalties 6

Packers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Jordan Love 21/34 194 2 2
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Aaron Jones 18 108 6 0
Emanuel Wilson 4 16 4 0
Jayden Reed 1 9 9 0
Jordan Love 5 3 0.6 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Romeo Doubs 4 6 83 0
Jayden Reed 4 4 35 0
Bo Melton 1 1 19 1
Luke Musgrave 3 4 14 0
Emanuel Wilson 1 1 11 0
Christian Watson 1 2 11 0
Tucker Kraft 3 6 9 1
Aaron Jones 3 6 8 0
Ben Sims 1 1 4 0
Dontayvion Wicks 0 2 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Keisean Nixon 1 0
Jordan Love 1 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Anders Carlson 2 3 29 1
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Daniel Whelan 1 42 0 42
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Jayden Reed 2 8 0 12
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Quay Walker 9-4 0 0 0
De'Vondre Campbell 8-3 0 0 0
Kenny Clark 5-3 0.5 0 0
Keisean Nixon 5-2 0 0 0
Jaire Alexander 5-1 0 0 0
Rashan Gary 4-4 0 0 0
Darnell Savage 4-2 0 0 0
Tedarrell Slaton 4-1 0 0 0
Carrington Valentine 4-1 0 0 0
Jonathan Owens 3-2 0 0 0
Preston Smith 2-1 0.5 0 0
Lukas Van Ness 2-0 0 0 0
Karl Brooks 1-1 0 0 0
Devonte Wyatt 1-0 0 0 0
Anthony Johnson 1-0 0 0 0

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Brock Purdy 23/39 252 1 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Christian McCaffrey 17 98 5.8 2
Brock Purdy 6 14 2.3 0
Jauan Jennings 1 -1 -1 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
George Kittle 4 7 81 1
Jauan Jennings 5 6 61 0
Brandon Aiyuk 3 6 32 0
Christian McCaffrey 7 12 30 0
Deebo Samuel 2 2 24 0
Chris Conley 1 1 17 0
Ray-Ray McCloud 1 2 7 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Jake Moody 1 2 52 3
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 4 40.8 2 57
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Dre Greenlaw 8-2 0 2 0
Fred Warner 7-1 0 0 0
Ambry Thomas 5-2 0 0 0
Charvarius Ward 5-1 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 5-1 0 0 0
Arik Armstead 3-2 0 0 0
Logan Ryan 3-1 0 0 0
Nick Bosa 3-1 0 0 0
Chase Young 3-1 0 0 0
Tashaun Gipson 3-0 0 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 3-0 0 0 0
Randy Gregory 2-1 0 0 0
Oren Burks 2-0 0 0 0
Sebastian Joseph-Day 2-0 0 0 0

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