The San Francisco 49ers are one win away from reaching their seventh Super Bowl in franchise history, while chasing their sixth trophy, following Saturday’s 27-10 divisional round win over the Minnesota Vikings. This could then tie them for first with the most Super Bowls (6) — a fact being proudly touted by local 49er fans.
To make it to the Super Bowl, SF will have to go through future hall-of-famer Aaron Rodgers, who is also a California native (Chico) and played college ball at Berkeley, and the No. 2 Packers.
On Saturday, the 49ers held Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense to just 172 passing yards, and sacked Cousins six times while also picking him off once.
The Niners also held Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to a season-low 18 yards on eight carries.
The 49ers’ running game managed to go for 186 yards after Tevin Coleman led the way with 105 yards on the ground and Raheem Mostert added 58 on 12 carries. That was the sixth game that Mostert rushed for 53 or more yards.
The 49ers have gone from a 4-12 team just a season ago to 13-3 this past regular season.
Prior to this season, the 49ers had seen just three winning seasons in a 16-year period. Those years included three during the Jim Harbaugh era (2011-2013).
It feels like it’s been a while since the San Francisco 49ers were a competitive team or even a playoff team for that matter, but this year’s squad has reinvigorated fans.
The core of the group had been working towards major progress over the last three years, most importantly since head coach Kyle Shanahan came aboard.
In his first season, Shanahan and the 49ers went 6-10, only to follow up with a worse year last fall (2018) after posting a 4-12 record.
It looked like the whole thing was set up for this year where they really turned things around and kicked off the regular season with an 8-0 record.
Their 13-3 regular season record was their best since 2011, when they also went 13-3 during the first season under Harbaugh.
Looking ahead to Sunday, the 49ers have their work cut out for them. The Packers just defeated one of three teams that beat the 49ers during the season.
The Niners three losses this year all came in the final moments of the game, including the Ravens and Falcons game which came down to the wire and the first meeting with the Seahawks that went into overtime.
However, the 49ers beat the Packers soundly back in week 12, 37-8.
Shanahan told his team on Monday that their regular season win over the Packers “holds zero relevance.”
Both teams hold the same record as they head into their NFC Championship game.
Rodgers and his high-flying capabilities have shown time and again what the Packers are capable of and with Aaron Jones and Davante Adams, they are dangerous. Also, you can’t count out tight end Jimmy Graham.
What the Niners really have to watch out for is the Packers defense that was able to fend off a speedy and dangerous Russell Wilson, sacking him five times and allowing him to throw for just a single touchdown in their divisional round meeting.
That defensive front seven is led by defensive tackle and University of California, Los Angeles alum Kenny Clark who had a sack and three tackles.
The Packers’ Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith each had two sacks against Wilson and could be a threat to 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Smith had 1.5 sacks in their regular season meeting while Smith had the other half sack. The 49ers sacked Rodgers five times the last time they met.
Since losing DJ Jones and Ronald Blair, the weakness up front has been apparent for the 49ers, but their fill-ins, including Sheldon Day, have been strong with DeForest Buckner in the middle as well. Arik Armstead has had his best season yet, leading the team with 10 sacks.
Rookie Nick Bosa was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and was second on the team with nine sacks. With Jaquiski Tartt back in the secondary, and the team having a healthy Dee Ford back, there is no doubt that the 49ers look to be confident heading into Sunday’s game.
It is fair to say the 49ers stand more than a chance against the Packers, but Jones was a force in their first meeting after he pancaked Packers center Corey Linsley on multiple occasions. This will be intriguing how things go without Jones this time around and a strong line of Packers.
The 49ers will kick off their home NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers at 3:40 p.m. Sunday.