Packers and 49ers tangle for NFC title, trip to Super Bowl LIV

ninerswire.com file photo: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will match up against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers in the NFC Championship at Levis Stadium on Sun Jan 19

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

SANTA CLARA, Calif — For the second time this season, the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers will meet at Levi’s Stadium for a game. But this time, there’s much more at stake for both teams than just a win in the standings.

To the victor, the NFC Championship and a ticket to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Florida for a chance to play for the Vince Lombardi trophy against the winner between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs from the AFC will be punched.

First class.

To the loser, the harsh reality that your season is over smacks you in face immediately.

Instead of basking in the glow of winning the NFC Championship, you’ll return to your team’s headquarters to clean out your locker room, hug your teammates (possibly for the last time as teams change rapidly in the NFL each year), and go your separate ways for the offseason.

The end.

In the first matchup back in Week 12, the Packers took a beating at the hands of the 49ers, losing 37-8 at Levi’s Stadium. The Packers weren’t just outplayed by the 49ers, but were embarrassed in front of a nationally televised audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played almost flawlessly in that game, throwing for 253 yards on 14-of-20 passes and two long touchdown passes (a 42-yard strike to rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the second quarter, and a 61-yard deep ball to tight end George Kittle).

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of his worst showings of his career, finishing with 20-of-33 passes for just 104 yards — setting a record for fewest passing yards by a quarterback with at least 20 completions. His 3.15 yards per attempt is the lowest of his career.

San Francisco sacked Rodgers five times that night. Linebacker Fred Warner was all over the field, registering a team-high 11 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble against the Packers on the game’s opening moments. Warner’s performance led him to be named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Don’t expect a replay of Week 12 in this matchup as both teams are playing a elite levels at the most important time of the year.

Sunday’s NFC Championship Game in the South Bay, which kicks off at 3:40 p.m. PT, will feature two teams that finished 13-3 in the regular season, won the NFC West and North Division titles respectively, and earned first-round byes to open up the playoffs as the top-two seeds.

Last Saturday, top-seeded San Francisco (14-3) opened up the divisional round by dismantling the Minnesota Vikings (11-7), 27-10, in dominating fashion. It was the 49ers’ first playoff win in six years.

The returns of defensive starters, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco’s defense looked re-energized and ready for a big day, made life difficult for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, sacking him six times and limiting Minnesota’s offense to 147 yards on the day, the fewest in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era (1967).

“People keep disrespecting us. At the end of the day, all you can do is go out and execute,” said Richard Sherman, who registered his third career interception in the playoffs. “It felt good. That’s what we look like when we’re totally healthy.”

The 49ers stonewalled Dalvin Cook and the Vikings’ rushing attack, holding Minnesota to just 21 yards on 10 carries (9 carries for Cook, 1 carry for Alexander Mattison). Cook finished the game with 18 rushing yards on nine carries.

Offensively, the 49ers leaned on a punishing running game that ran right through Minnesota like Ex-Lax led by running back Tevin Coleman’s 105 rushing yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. As a team, the 49ers ran 47 running plays and gained 186 yards on the ground.

Garoppolo, who made his first career start in the playoffs, threw a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, and mostly watched his defense wreak havoc on Minnesota for most of the game. He finished 11-of-19 passing for 131 yards.

The second-seeded Packers (14-3) was able to outlast the Seattle Seahawks, 28-23, at Lambeau Field Sunday night that advanced Green Bay to their third NFC Championship Game in six seasons.

In that game, it was a vintage performance by Rodgers with his array of throws and spectacular completions throughout the game. Rodgers and wide receiver Davante were so locked in against the Seahawks, connecting eight times for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s one of those feelings that starts to creep up in warmups, when you really feel like you’re locked in,” Rodgers said, “and I was glad it translated to the field.”

Rodgers finished 16-of-27 passing for 243 yards in his 17th postseason start, has thrown 38 touchdowns passes in the playoffs. That’s good for fifth all-time per Elias Sports Bureau.

Running back Aaron Jones found the end zone twice, while rushing for 62 yards on 21 carries.

Green Bay’s defense sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson five times on the night, two apiece by linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith (no relation).

The 49ers and Packers have met in the playoffs seven times with the Packers holding a 4-3 advantage. The 49ers have won the last two playoff matchups.

 

49ers defense thump Vikings, roll into NFC title game with 27-10 victory

sfgate.com: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), is tackled by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, center, during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

Santa Clara, Calif — In the first ever NFL playoff game at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers defended its home field in dominating fashion, outlasting the visiting Minnesota Vikings 27-10 on Saturday afternoon in the NFC Divisional round for their first playoff win in six years.

With the win, the top-seed 49ers (14-3) advance to the NFC championship game for the 16th time in franchise history where they await the winner between Seattle and Green Bay on Sunday in the other NFC Divisional matchup.

In his first playoff start, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a 3-yard touchdown to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne for an early 7-0 lead. Garoppolo marched San Francisco 61 yards in eight plays after its defense forced Minnesota (11-7) to punt on their opening drive.

Garoppolo wasn’t spectacular, finishing 11-of-19 for 131 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“A lot of things to clean up, but we played well enough to get the win,” tight end George Kittle said. “That’s all you can ask for. Playoff football, anyone can win and we just made more plays today.”

Kittle had just three catches for 16 yards in the contest.

As a group including Kittle, San Francisco’s pass catchers (wideouts Deebo Samuel 3 catches for team-leading 42 yards, Bourne 3 catches for 40 yards, TD; and Emmanuel Sanders 2 catches for 33 yards) combined for just 11 catches for 131 yards and a score.

Minnesota quickly responded, tying the game up at 7-7 on a 41-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who had struggled in coverage down the stretch of the season, had great coverage on Diggs, but slipped at the 19-yard line and Diggs ran into the end zone.

But that would be Minnesota’s best highlight of the day as San Francisco would hold the Vikings to 147 yards of total offense. San Francisco’s offense racked up 308 yards total.

“The 49ers I felt were the better team today,” Cousins said after the game. “We didn’t do enough offensively to give ourselves a chance to win the game. It hurts now. Mike [Zimmer] said he was proud of the way the team fought this year, but right now, it’s just so raw. We’re kind of focused on this game and falling short. I thought the 49ers were a good team. They earned the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the way they played this season.”

San Francisco would retake the lead for good, behind the first of two rushing touchdowns by running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman capped off a 10-play, 53-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge to give the 49ers a 14-7 lead.

“Those guys did very well,” Coleman said of his offensive line. “They moved the guys back so I had clear holes to run through. So, yeah, they did a real good job.”

Coleman finished the game with 105 yards on 22 carries.

Following an interception by linebacker Eric Kendricks inside the 49ers’ own territory, Minnesota added a 39-yard field goal by kicker Dan Bailey to cut the lead to 14-10 at halftime.

On their first possession of the third quarter, San Francisco stretched its lead to 17-10 behind a 35-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould.

After Richard Sherman intercepted Cousins inside Minnesota’s territory on the Vikings’ next possession, Coleman gave the 49ers a two-score lead with his second score of the game, a 2-yard run that increased San Francisco’s lead to 24-10.

It was Sherman’s third career playoff interception. Sherman has intercepted Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and now, Cousins.

Defensively, San Francisco overpowered Minnesota’s offense all day limiting the ground game and their play-action attack. Running back Dalvin Cook couldn’t find any running lanes, rushing for just 18 yards on nine carries.

“That was the No. 1 emphasis all week,” Bosa said of the Minnesota running game. “We knew we were facing probably the best back we’ve faced all year with Dalvin, and we knew we had to earn the right to pass rush. So, that’s what we did. We took the run as serious as we could, shut it down and then we ate.”

Bosa had a great start to his playoff career, registering two of San Francisco’s six sacks on the day. The returns of defensive Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt proved to be vital for San Francisco’s defense, that looked like its dominating self from earlier in the season.

“It was huge to have those guys back,” defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. “They’re leaders on our team, talented players, they make big plays for us. We were missing some pieces out there, but to get those guys back, we hit back on all cylinders.”

At one point, the 49ers held the Vikings’ offense without a first down for 27 minutes of game time. Minnesota had mustered just seven first downs, compared to 21 by San Francisco. The 49ers held the Vikings to 2-of-13 on third downs and dominated time of possession (38:27 to 21:33).

“We were playing good the whole game,” Armstead continued. “They got us early with the touchdown. We just locked in. We knew what they wanted to do which was run the ball. It starts with that, stopping the run. I think we did a good job with that. I saw they only had twenty something yards. Once we did that, we were able to get after the passer. When you do that, you can have a complete game and shut people out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco 49ers podcast with David Zizmor: Garoppolo ready to make some plays against San Diego on Thursday Night Football

Photo credit: @49ers

On the 49ers podcast with David:

#1 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 188 yards, a touchdown for 14 completions out of 20. It was a game that was called Jimmy G’s on track game after struggling the first few weeks of preseason. Garopplo has looked much better in camp.

#2 The 49ers signed former Arizona Cardinal cornerback Chris Campbell, the 49ers waived offensive lineman Dillion Day, the 49ers will be without Jason Verett, K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Richard Sherman for Thursday Night Football against San Diego.

Join David for the 49ers podcast each Wednesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami: 49ers to end season in L.A. against a successful Rams team

Photo credit: ocregister.com

On the San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami:

#1 The 49ers were able to hold a 9-7 lead at half time against one of the best teams in the NFC last Sunday the Chicago Bears (11-4). Do you view this as progress after the 49ers had won Denver and Seattle in previous weeks at Levis’s Stadium?

#2 Going into a game like that, where the Bears know how to protect both sides of the ball, the 49ers to play a game like that head coach Kyle Shanahan really had to have had a great game plan.

#3 The Bears did shutout the 49ers in the second half of that game last Sunday. Did it appear to you that quarterback Nick Mullens and the offense did everything they can to get some head way on offense?

#4 San Francisco 49ers (4-11) safety Marcell Harris said his late hit on Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was not intentional. The hit drew an unnecessary roughness and sparked a brawl that saw 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman getting ejected from the game plus two other players.

#5 The 49ers end their season against the Los Angeles Rams (12-3) at the LA Coliseum this Sunday. The Rams are another team having a glory season. Can the 49ers play spoiler again?

This is the final 49ers podcast for the season. Join Joe Lami for the NHL podcast each Friday at  http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco 49ers podcast with David Zizmor: Late hit by 49ers’ Harris sparks brawl at game’s end; Bears come back with 2 TD’s and shutout 49ers in second half

photo still from sbnation.com: The San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears scrum after a late hit by 49ers safety Marcell Harris on Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the closing minutes of Sunday’s contest at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara

On the 49ers podcast with David:

#1 San Francisco 49ers (4-11) safety Marcell Harris said his late hit on Chicago Bears (11-4) quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was not intentional the hit drew an unnecessary roughness and sparked a brawl that saw 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman getting ejected from the game plus two other players.

#2 The Bears are noted to being one of the NFC’s best, a first-place team in the NFC North Division and heavy favorites to be beat the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday. They did that 14-9, but they had to be concerned in the first half as the 49ers captured the lead going into halftime by two points 9-7.

#3 The Bears scored two touchdowns, shutting out the 49ers in the second half. The key touchdown for Chicago came in the third quarter with 4:14 left in the quarter when the Bears’ Jordan Howard carried for a two-yard touchdown to get the Bears over the top for good.

David Zizmor does the 49ers podcasts each week at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami: 49ers on track, can they take out the Mighty Bears this Sunday at Levi’s?

Photo credit: ninerswire.usatoday.com

On the 49ers podcast with Joe:

#1 Joe, the 49ers have worked hard for their victories in their last two games both home games against Denver and Seattle. Taking the Denver game first, George Kittle’s record setting first half certainly set the tone, didn’t it?

#2 Nick Mullens has been throwing for yards and touchdowns and helping keep the scoring ahead of the opponents.

#3 Against Seattle, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman has been all things anti-Seahawks and how much of an impact has Sherman been in stopping the Seahawks last Sunday?

#4 After getting these two key victories at home at Levi’s Stadium, how much does that set the tone going into next season?

#5 This Sunday, it’s Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears the NFC’s North Division first place team at 10-4.

Joe Lami does the 49ers podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

49ers podcast with David Zizmor: Sherman and Mullens made the difference in the 49ers victory against Seattle

@49ers photo: San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman seen in the 49ers locker room after the 49ers three point win over Sherman’s former team the Seattle Seahawks on Sun Dec 16th at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara

On the 49ers podcast with David:

49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was thrilled to face his old teammates again the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday in a game the 49ers won by three points 26-23. The game in overtime saw the Seahawks  hit for a holding penalty and it took out the Hawks 32 yard drive and first down that ruined their comeback stopped by the Sherman and the 49ers.

49ers quarterback Nick Mullens had a busy afternoon with 20 completions in 31 attempts for 237 yards and two touchdowns in rainy weather at Levis Stadium. Kicker Robbie Gould hit a game winning field goal Mullens was not intercepted by the Seahawks defense not once.

David Zizmor does the 49ers podcasts each Tuesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami: NFL is cracking down on lowering helmets as a weapon; 49ers’ Sherman says the new rule is idiotic

Photo credit: @SportsCenter

On the 49ers podcast with Joe:

#1 The NFL imposed a new rule about lowering helmets before making contact. Are the players upset by this new rule?

#2 Regardless of player position, the penalty of lowering helmets will be 15 yards and a game ejection, which the league ruled that the helmet is used for contact with another player that could cause serious injury, including a concussion.

#3 The change was made after the league observed 33 preseason games and after 50 helmet penalties, which have been assessed.

#4 The 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman said the new rule is idiotic, saying “there’s no way you can tackle the way they are asking people to tackle and play football.”

#5 The 49ers play week three in Indianapolis Saturday, which means the 49ers will see a lot more starters in the first half. Joe talks about what will be expected of the starters on Saturday.

Join Joe Lami for the 49ers podcasts on Fridays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

49ers’ signing of Sherman is a stellar move

Photo credit: @NFL

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Contributor

Not like the San Francisco 49ers needed any validation from this guy typing here, but the signing of cornerback Richard Sherman was a huge win for the organization and for Sherman.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Sherman and the 49ers came to terms on a three-year deal worth $39.15 million on Saturday after five hours of negotiating. Sources also mentioned that Sherman represented himself during those negotiations.

News broke out Friday that Sherman was having dinner with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and spent most of Saturday meeting with team officials in Santa Clara, where he also took a physical.

He became a free agent once the Seattle Seahawks released the veteran cornerback Friday to avoid paying the $11 million salary he was due in 2018. It will be very weird at first to see Sherman don the Red and Gold this season after spending his first six seasons in Seattle tormenting the 49ers for much of that time.

While in Seattle, Sherman was voted First-Team All-Pro three times and voted to the Pro Bowl four times and alongside safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, formed the feared “Legion of Boom” secondary. From 2012-16, Seattle led the NFL in scoring defense for four straight seasons.

Sherman, the 6-foot-3, 195 pound cornerback, will turn 30 on March 30, is coming off a torn right Achilles tendon suffered in November that limited him to just nine games. It was the first time in his career that Sherman didn’t play a full 16-game schedule. The original timetable for Sherman’s return to football-related activities was 6-to-8 months, which would make him available by mid-May to early-July.

Since entering the NFL out of Stanford in 2011, Sherman leads the league with 32 interceptions and 99 passes defended.  Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 47.4 percent of their passes with a 50.9 passer rating, which is first in the NFL among cornerbacks with a min of 300 targets in coverage according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Jacksonville’s A.J. Bouye (54.9), Los Angeles Chargers’ Casey Hayward (57.7), Los Angeles Rams’ Marcus Peters (60.7), and the retired Darrelle Revis (66.0) round out the top five.

Sherman is long and rangy with extreme football smarts that makes him one of the more feared cornerbacks in the game today, when healthy.

Sherman arguably made the biggest play in Seahawks history in the final minute of the NFC Championship game in January 2014 when he deflected a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, now with the 49ers, intercepted the pass which sealed Seattle’s second NFC title and propelled the organization to its first and only Super Bowl title.

That season, Sherman finished with a career-high eight interceptions.

Since that game, the 49ers have lost nine straight head-to-head matchups with their bitter rivals from the Pacific Northwest.

With Sherman on board, the 49ers have a veteran cornerback that they can pair with Ahkello Witherspoon, who had a strong rookie season with two interceptions and seven pass breakups. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Witherspoon is similar in size to Sherman.

Outside of the promising Witherspoon, the 49ers didn’t have a premier cornerback on the roster last season. By signing Sherman, the 49ers filled one of their biggest holes heading into this offseason and gives the team  a legitimate cornerback that opposing offenses will need to account for.

After watching their divisional rival the Los Angeles Rams add two top-flight cornerbacks in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib in separate trades within the last two weeks, landing Sherman wasn’t a bad fallback plan for the 49ers and the vocal Sherman, who wanted to play for “a contender.”

With just over $70 million in salary cap space according to Overthecap.com, the 49ers can still address the offensive line and remain play for former Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who is an unrestricted free agent and the most coveted cornerback on the market.

The 49ers are expected to be one of the better story-lines heading into the 2018 season and have just gotten more interesting with the addition of Sherman, who gets to remain in the NFC West and face Seattle twice a year.

A win for Sherman, who will play with the ultimate chip on his shoulder, especially in those matchups. Motivation can be fuel for anyone. For Sherman, who many believe has lost a step due to the Achilles injuries (he had a “procedure” to clean up his left Achilles this offseason too), will be out to prove that he is still the best cornerback in football.

49ers one giant step away from another Super Bowl birth

By Gabe Schapiro

For the San Francisco 49ers, the road to their second straight Super Bowl appearance fittingly runs through Seattle. This Sunday at 3:30 pm, the 49ers and Seahawks face off in the NFC championship game. The two heated rivals finished first and second in the NFC West this season, and split their two regular season matchups.

Last weekend San Francisco suffocated the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round, winning 23-10. Colin Kaepernick’s stat line won’t blow anyone away, but he did what he had to, and didn’t make any costly mistakes. He completed 15-of-28 throws, for 196 yards and a touchdown, to go along with a rushing score. Anquan Boldin had a stellar game, with eight grabs for 136 yards. Ultimately though, it was the defense that dominated and won it for the 49ers. They sacked Cam Newton five times, and had two interceptions. The Panthers scored 10 points in the second quarter, but were shut out for the second half.

This week features two very similar teams. Both have young and athletic quarterbacks, run-heavy offenses, and fearsome defenses. For the 49ers, the Seahawks may well be their toughest opponent. Russell Wilson is wise beyond his years, and rarely makes a mistake. Marshawn Lynch is a bruiser, and despite a lot of mileage on his legs is still one of the leagues best running backs. They don’t have a real stand out number one receiver, but they get production from a lot of different sources. Six targets have multiple touchdown grabs this season, and four of those have four or more. In the regular season they scored the eighth most points per game.

However, their defense is their real calling card, boasting the leagues best. They allowed the fewest points and fewest yards in the NFL. They easily have the league’s best pass defense, with their only very slight weakness coming against the run, where they finished seventh. Similarly to their offense, they get production from a lot of different sources, with 10 different players recording more than one sack, and 10 more recording at least one interception in the regular season. Richard Sherman headlines the group as the teams best corner.

The good news for San Francisco is that they won their last matchup with the Seahawks, and they are a team you can run against. The bad news, is that this time they are playing in Seattle, where they may have the leagues biggest home field advantage. Including the playoffs they are 8-1 at home this season.

The last time the 49ers traveled to Seattle they were blown out, 29-3. With San Francisco playing their best football of the year, and the addition of Michael Crabtree to the lineup this time around, things should certainly be more competitive. However the mountain to climb remains steep. Kaepernick will have his hands full, and they’ll need to get Frank Gore going to be successful.

They’re just one step away from another Super Bowl appearance, but that step is an awfully big one.