The Green Bay Packers went into Levi Stadium on November 24th hoping to show the National Football League that they had a place amongst the NFL’s elite teams. Not that they weren’t trending in the right direction, but because they needed to show that they weren’t a team to reckon with.
The Packers had to solid victories over the Chiefs, Panthers, Cowboys, and Vikings previously, but they needed to shake the one thing that was holding them back, placing themselves in the top tier.
Star WR Davante Adams had been out for a month with a turf toe injury, and he was recovering from it coming into this game. Adams, who has been the go-to man on the Packers offense, was “shut down” that night, catching 7 passes for 43 yards and 1 touchdown. For some guys, that’s an okay night, for Adams, it was well below the bar he has set for himself.
Fast forward several weeks and the Packers hold the number 2 seed in the NFC, and defeat the Seattle Seahawks at home, 28-23. The defense held back Seattle’s run game, and Russell Wilson played like an MVP, throwing for 277 yards and rushing for 64.
Aaron Rodgers knew that his team had a strong chance of running into the 49ers again.
“You have to win one” Rodgers said when talking about the Packers/49ers matchup. If the Packers did in fact win that game out in Santa Clara, the 49ers would have came to Lambeau Field as the Packers would have earned the NFC’s coveted one seed.
With the two seed, they were off to play the 49ers out in California for the second time this season. Everyone including the Packers knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The betting line for the NFC Championship game swung between 7 and 8 points throughout the week in favor of the 49ers, and Aaron Rodgers had never won an NFC Championship game when the opponent was favored by 7 or above.
The NFC Championship game began in the Packers’ favor. They won the toss, deferred to the second half, and even stopped the 49ers on their first drive forcing a punt.
On the Packers side of the ball, however, they couldn’t get the ball moving. They were also forced to punt on their first possession.
The first quarter was a killer for the Packers’ momentum. The 49ers scored a touchdown on their second drive with RB Raheem Mostert rushing for 36 yards into the end zone.
After that touchdown drive by the 49’ers this is how the rest of the first half went:
49ers: Field Goal (10-0)
49ers: Touchdown (17-0)
Packers: Fumble, turnover
49ers: Field Goal (20-0)
49ers: Touchdown (27-0)
That isn’t a winning recipe, especially when the Packers turned the ball over twice in the first half. Had the Packers scored a touchdown instead of fumbling the ball and turning it over in the first half, that would have made the score 17-7, giving the Packers a little bit of hope that they might of needed. Instead, the Packers turned the ball over, allowing for the 49ers to kick a field goal, placing the game almost out of reach.
The Packers got the ball to begin the second half. And although the score was 27-0, if the Packers could score on their first possession to make it 27-7, they might just give themselves that sliver of momentum they need to get something rolling.
That is exactly what they did. The Packers came out, drove 75 yards down the field, and Rodgers tossed the ball to Aaron Jones for 9 yards and the score.
Down 20 points, the game wasn’t entirely out of reach. The Packers just needed a defensive stop.
At this point in the game, the Packers needed near-perfect football in all phases. The defense needed to step up and get stop after stop if the Packers were going to swing it. This, they couldn’t do. The 49ers drove 79 yards down the field, punched the ball in the end zone, making the score 34-7 in favor of the home team.
The Packers got the ball back, went 75 yards, and Rodgers finds Jimmy Graham for the 43-yard touchdown, failing on the two-point conversion makes the score 34-13.
From there the second half went like this:
Packers: Touchdown (Rodgers to Sternberger) 34-20
49ers: Field Goal 37-20
The Packers did rally in the second half and played much better. The ending, however, looked much like what the Packers experienced previously this season. There was no answer to what the 49ers did on the ground. 49ers QB Jimmy Garappolo only passed the ball eight times, which was the third-fewest in the Super Bowl era.
49ers running back Raheem Mostert ate the Packers alive on the ground, rushing for 220 yards on 29 carries. The 49ers weren’t going to throw the ball if they didn’t have to, and who could blame them? The Packers couldn’t stop the ground game at all.
Aaron Rodgers had a decent game although throwing 2 interceptions and fumbling the ball. Rodgers ended up with 326 passing yards on 39 attempts, connecting on 31 of them. Davante Adams had another impressive night, catching 9 passes for 138 yards.
In the end, the Packers simply couldn’t stop the run, the 49ers controlled the tempo, and the Packers didn’t have the offense to muster up a comeback with the Packers’ season-ending with a 37-20 loss in the NFC Championship game.