How the 49ers took advantage of Packers’ special teams flubs

San Francisco might have ended Aaron Rodgers’ career in green and gold

By Ben Shpigel

The New York Times

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Robbie Gould’s kick sailed through the uprights, and as his San Francisco teammates, bundled in red parkas, scampered onto the grass Saturday night, the Green Bay Packers just stood on their sideline. They had not lost all season at Lambeau Field, not in warm weather or temperate conditions or the winter chill, but a certain finality had now descended amid the snowfall.

The 49ers ousted the top-seeded Packers from the playoffs 13-10 on Gould’s 45-yard field goal as time expired. San Francisco, the sixth seed, advances to play at the Los Angeles Rams in next Sunday’s NFC championship game.

Beyond ending Green Bay’s season, one that sparkled amid the parity of the NFL, San Francisco might have ended Aaron Rodgers’ marvelous career in green and gold. Rodgers has not won a Super Bowl in 11 years, losing in the conference title game four times, and he reconfigured his contract with Packers management last summer to allow him to switch teams.

The question for Rodgers will be whether he wants to play somewhere else. It is unlikely that another team will offer as full a roster as Green Bay’s, which was loaded on offense and defense — but not, as the Packers no doubt realized, on special teams.

Green Bay scored on its opening drive, a 6-yard run by A.J. Dillon, but not again until early in the fourth quarter, on a 33-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. At the end of the first half, Crosby had a field goal attempt blocked. Then, late in the fourth quarter, Jordan Willis blitzed through the Green Bay line to block Corey Bojorquez’s punt, which Talanoa Hufanga scooped up and returned 6 yards to tie the score at 10-10.

That blocked punt came only a few minutes after Rashan Gary, a disruptive force all game for Green Bay, stuffed Elijah Mitchell on fourth and 1 from the Packers 19-yard line.

After the 49ers stopped Green Bay and Rodgers — who completed 20 of 29 passes for 225 yards — Jimmy Garoppolo drove San Francisco 44 yards in nine plays to set up Gould’s game-winning kick. It was San Francisco’s fourth consecutive playoff win over Green Bay, dating back to the 2011 season.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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