In the same vein as their 37-8 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 12, the San Francisco 49ers controlled this one from start to finish. Kyle Shanahan’s offense was successful on nearly 60% of its offensive plays, and they did that with Jimmy Garoppolo dropping back to pass just nine times in the entire game and throwing for only 77 yards. Just as in their game against the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round, the 49ers didn’t need to turn to the passing game to exert their will offensively. They simply physically outmatched the Packers on the ground and made enough plays defensively to hold the lead from start to finish.
Raheem Mostert was on six different NFL teams in the span of a year before signing with the 49ers’ practice squad in November of the 2016 season. Now, he’s the owner of the most rushing yards by any NFL player not named Eric Dickerson in a postseason game. Mostert rushed 29 times for 220 yards, consistently adding yards above expectation with 158 rushing yards after contact and seven broken tackles on the ground. Factor in that the 49ers’ offensive line provided nearly three yards before contact per rush attempt prior to the garbage time runs late in the game and you end up with a historic effort for Mostert.
On the other side, the Packers’ offense picked up steam late, but they dug themselves in too large of a hole early on. They weren’t moving the ball at will by any means with just 3.2 yards per play in the first half, but it was their two costly turnovers that really put them behind the eight ball. A botched snap under center and what appeared to be part miscommunication and part poor throw from Aaron Rodgers to Geronimo Allison late in the second quarter led to 10 points for San Francisco, building the deficit early. Rodgers improved his stat line late, but he was a non-factor in the first half. He passed for just 65 yards on 12 attempts with an average depth of target of just over four yards downfield. Leading an outmatched team, Rodgers had to do more than that from the jump. He had to be the elite quarterback we’ve seen for most of his career, and he wasn’t that.
The 49ers have been able to follow a simple formula in their two postseason wins this season: jump to an early lead, outmatch a team in the run game and hold the lead with a strong defensive performance. The problem that awaits them in the Super Bowl is that the explosive Kansas City Chiefs’ offense is on the other side of the field, not the Vikings’ or the Packers’ offense that we’ve seen each of the past two weeks. You have to imagine that the Chiefs will not go away so easily on that side of the ball, putting Garoppolo in a position where he will have to lead the offense in key situations. That’s something that we’ve seen him do, particularly over the second half of the season in which the 49ers’ passing offense was a top-five unit in the league. Unlike these last two games, the pressure will be on for him to do it again in Miami.