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49ers Head to NFC Championship on the Efforts of Special Teams, Defense

GREEN BAY, WI -- If I told you the league's 26th-ranked special teams unit aided the San Francisco 49ers to their second NFC Championship appearance in three years, would you believe me?

Well that was the case on Saturday as the 49ers fought their way back from a scoreless first half to a walk-off field goal in the low-scoring 13-10 victory. Of note, the weather at kickoff was 14 degrees. The wind is blowing 13 mph. This is the fifth-coldest playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Here are a few takeaways from the contest:

Defense Holds Strong

Green Bay's offense looked to be having their way with San Francisco early in the first quarter. They opened up the game with a 10-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in an AJ Dillon rushing score. The drive didn't feature a single third down with wideout Davante Adams hauling in three receptions, all resulting in first downs.

On their second series, the Packers were driving downfield yet again, before San Francisco notched their first takeaway for the game. On 1st-and-10 from the 49ers 42 yard line, Rodgers connected with tight end Marcedes Lewis. Linebacker Fred Warner managed to punch the ball out of the tight end's arms after the reception which was recovered by Dre Greenlaw. The play marked Lewis' first lost fumble since 2013.

The 49ers defense stopped the Packers on four-consecutive drives following Green Bay's opening series, including a third-down sack against Rodgers by Samson Ebukam to force a punt.

However, one of their biggest mishaps came on third down with Green Bay backed up inside their own 10 yard line. On 3rd-and-3, San Francisco's secondary let running back Aaron Jones slide by them for a 75-yard catch and run, Rodgers' longest play of his postseason career.

The play set up Green Bay inside of the 49ers 15 yard line. On the ensuing play, Bosa notched his second sack of the game, stripping the ball from Rodgers which was recovered by Green Bay. On a field goal attempt before the half, Jimmie Ward cut through the middle of the line of scrimmage for a block to keep points off the board for the Packers.

Of note, Bosa got a hold of Rodgers twice in the first half, marking his second and third postseason sacks against the quarterback.

Offensive Slump

While San Francisco's defense found some success, it was a different story for the offense. The unit opened the game with four-straight punts and couldn't get much going on offense. The unit dropped several passes and at one point, accounted -7 yards to Green Bay's 150. After not being sacked once in Dallas, Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked three times on third down in the first half alone.

It took until San Francisco's final drive of the half to finally find their groove. The unit's first completion of the game was a wild sideline catch by George Kittle that picked up 15 yards. San Francisco drove inside the Packers 10 yard line, before an offensive holding call pushed San Francisco back to Green Bay's 19 yard line.

On the ensuing play, Garoppolo escaped multiple sacks, however, lofted a pass intended for Kittle that was intercepted at the goal line by Packers safety Adrian Amos.

In San Francisco's three trips to the red zone, the team only came out of the game with three points.

The offense posted exactly 106 yards passing to 106 yards rushing and 4.1 yards per play on the day.

Fourth Quarter Frenzy

San Francisco had the opportunity to put points on the board while driving down the field in the fourth quarter. On 4th-and-1, rookie running back Elijah Mitchell missed a hole and was tackled for loss, forcing a turnover on downs.

San Francisco's defense came up big again, forcing a quick three-and-out that included Arik Armstead's second sack of the game.

On the punt, defensive lineman Jordan Willis, who suffered a high-ankle sprain just six days prior, managed to jam up the middle of the line and block the kick which was recovered by rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga for the special teams score.

Green Bay failed to move the ball on the ensuing drive, credit to San Francisco's defense leading to another Packers punt. The 49ers managed to run down the clock while moving into field goal range with connections to Kittle and Samuel for 12 and 14 yards, respectively.

Six plays later, Robbie Gould connected on a 45-yard walk-off field goal to send San Francisco to the NFC Championship.


Samuel opened the second half on special teams and returned the Packers kickoff 45 yards to start San Francisco's drive at midfield. The wideout followed up with a 4-yard carry and three plays later, picked up 18 yards on a quick pass from Garoppolo. Samuel weaved in and out of defenders that helped set up San Francisco's first points of the game, a 29-yard field goal by Gould.

Samuel finished his outing hauling in 3-of-4 of his targets for 44 yards and added 10 carries for 39 yards.

Performances of Note

Both Armstead and Bosa notched two sacks a piece against Rodgers in addition to Ebukam's take down.

Compared to the Week 3 outing where Green Bay's ground game posted 100 yards, San Francisco managed to hold Jones and Dillon to 67 yards.

Injury Updates

Samuel briefly left the game with a stinger following his 18-yard pickup, however he returned on the ensuing series.

Trent Williams played through a right ankle injury. Per Shanahan, he will undergo X-rays when the 49ers return to the teams facility on Sunday.

"We're going to have to get some X-rays and stuff on him," Shanahan said. "I mean, I saw him hobbling around the whole second half, so I'm not sure yet."

Jeff Wilson Jr. left the game on the opening kickoff with an ankle injury and did not return. Like Williams, he will also he re-assessed when the team returns to Santa Clara.

Up Next

The 49ers will await the winner of Sunday's Divisional Round showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their opponent in next weekend's NFC Championship round. Time and dates are to be determined.

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