The San Francisco 49ers pulled off an improbable comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night, spotting their opponents a two-touchdown lead before storming back in the fourth quarter to earn a 24-21 win. The victory sends the 49ers to the NFC Championship game next weekend, while ending the Packers’ season in bitter disappointment.
Back-and-Forth Battle Ends in Gut Punch for Packers
The game played out as a back-and-forth defensive struggle for much of the first half. Though Green Bay drew first blood with a field goal, San Francisco responded with a touchdown pass to even the score at 7-7. The 49ers seemed poised to take the lead just before halftime when Deebo Samuel scampered for a massive gain into Packers territory, but a crushing special teams mistake allowed Green Bay to swing the momentum.
49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky inexplicably tried to throw a pass on what looked like a fake punt attempt, but his wobbly throw fell incomplete. The Packers took over with a short field and quickly capitalized with a touchdown pass from Jordan Love to AJ Dillon. The shocking turn of events sent Green Bay into halftime with a unexpected 14-7 advantage.
|End of 1st Quarter
The Packers extended their lead to 21-7 midway through the third quarter, and the optimism from San Francisco’s impressive Wild Card win over Seattle seemed to drain from Levi’s Stadium. But the 49ers have made fourth-quarter comebacks their calling card this season, and they once again flipped a switch late in the game.
After Christian McCaffrey powered his way to his second rushing touchdown of the game, San Francisco got the ball back trailing 21-14 with just over five minutes remaining. What happened next will go down in franchise lore as an all-time gutsy performance.
Purdy Engineers Masterful Game-Winning Drive
With the season hanging by a thread, 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy directed a picture-perfect drive that stunned the Packers defense. Purdy stood poised in the face of pressure, firing completions and galvanizing the offense. His trademark accuracy and decision-making shone through at the most pivotal moments.
A key 4th-and-1 conversion kept the drive alive, as coach Kyle Shanahan once again displayed extreme confidence in his young QB. Purdy rewarded that trust by threading perfect throws to Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle that pushed San Francisco right to the goal line with seconds left.
On the biggest play of his life, Purdy delivered. He fired a bullet to a wide open McCaffrey for the decisive touchdown, sending the sodden Levi’s Stadium crowd into absolute pandemonium. Just minutes after they had gone silent in resignation, 49ers fans exploded as their team pulled off the unthinkable yet again.
|49ers Final Drive
|Started at own 29, 5:10 remaining
|Purdy 35-yard pass to Aiyuk
|Purdy 12-yard pass to Kittle
|4th-and-1, Samuel 2-yard rush
|Purdy 3-yard pass to McCaffrey
Defense Clamps Down to Seal Victory
There was still work left to be done, as the 49ers defense took the field looking to protect the three-point lead with just 37 seconds on the clock. The Packers and MVP candidate Jordan Love had moved the ball well all game long. But defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans had saved his best play call for last.
On first down, the 49ers brought exotic pressure that seemed to confuse the Packers offensive line. It collapsed the pocket and allowed linebacker Fred Warner to break through clean for a massive 13-yard sack. Warner had been a force all game long, flying to the ball with trademark speed and physicality. His clutch sack left Green Bay scrambling.
After two failed pass attempts, the Packers faced 4th-and-Long with the game on the line. Love dropped back and heaved a desperate throw toward the sideline. But cornerback Jimmie Ward was ready, cutting under the route for a game-sealing interception. Ward and the defense mobbed each other in celebration, having come through when it mattered most.
What This Means Going Forward
The win keeps the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes alive entering Championship Weekend. They now progress to face the winner of Sunday’s Eagles-Giants game for the NFC crown. After handling their business yet again at home, the team looks poised to break through on the playoff stage.
Rookie Brock Purdy has silenced doubters with each successive week, playing well beyond his years. His poise and accuracy in high-pressure spots have veterans raving about his maturity and potential. If he can turn in one more flawless performance on the road, Purdy and these 49ers may just shock the football world by reaching the Super Bowl.
The future also remains murky for Green Bay after another painful postseason defeat. Though Jordan Love posted an admirable first career playoff start, the team failed to support him on either side of the ball when it mattered most. Difficult roster decisions loom this offseason as they look to retool and make another run in 2024.
This instant classic playoff game added yet another unforgettable chapter to the storied 49ers-Packers postseason rivalry. Both teams battled to the final whistle, but San Francisco landed the knockout blow. Their resilience and explosive playmaking ability could take them all the way, while Green Bay searches for answers after being left stunned on their home turf.
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