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49ers rally against all odds, beating young Packers and advancing to NFC title game

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Needing a fourth-quarter comeback with a magical season on the line, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy didn’t panic.

There was no reason to. He handed the ball to the team’s best offensive player, running back Christian McCaffrey

The Stanford product scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 6-yard inside run with 1:07 left, and the 49ers held off the young and feisty Green Bay Packers, 24-21 on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium in the NFC divisional round playoffs. 

San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw sealed the game with his second interception of Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love

Dre Greenlaw picks off Jordan Love to seal 49ers’ 24-21 victory over Packers

Entering this weekend’s contest, under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were 0-31 when trailing by at least five points entering the fourth quarter, according to FOX Sports research.

Make that 1-31.

In a back-and-forth game with five lead changes, Purdy extended his postseason streak of games without interceptions to four. The Iowa State product finished 23-of-39 for 252 yards and a touchdown pass. McCaffrey totaled 98 rushing yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.  

With the win, Purdy becomes the eighth QB to win at least three postseason starts within his first two seasons in the league, joining Ben Roethlisberger (5), Russell Wilson (4), Mark Sanchez (4), Joe Burrow (3), Joe Flacco (3), Tom Brady (3) and Kurt Warner (3).

Like Purdy, San Francisco’s defense got all it could handle from Love and Green Bay’s offense. Running back Aaron Jones finished with 108 rushing yards, the first time the 49ers allowed a 100-yard rusher in 51 games, which had been the longest streak in the NFL.

Brock Purdy, 49ers survive vs. Jordan Love, Packers

Love finished 21-of-34 for 194 yards, with two touchdown passes and two interceptions. 

However, the 49ers managed to make key stops in the second half that led to the win, including a 41-yard missed field goal by Green Bay kicker Anders Carlson, giving San Francisco the ball with 6:01 left down 21-17.

Purdy and San Francisco’s offense did the rest. 

San Francisco could have used plenty of excuses for an underwhelming performance to start the postseason. Those include rust with the extra time off, the wet weather, a hot opponent and injuries to one of their top players in Deebo Samuel.

But linebacker Fred Warner said having a tough game early could aid them later in the playoffs.

“I think it’s going to help us going forward,” Warner said. “Knowing it doesn’t matter what kind of game it is, we can win any kind of way. So, that’s a big-time win right there for our team.”

Left tackle Trent Williams said Green Bay giving the 49ers all they could handle wasn’t unexpected.

“They didn’t surprise us,” Williams said. “Obviously in the playoffs, especially in the divisional round, nobody’s overlooking anybody. Especially after watching them dismantle the Dallas Cowboys like they did. We knew they were hitting their stride. They have a really, really talented quarterback and a really talented defense that flies around. Those guys create havoc.”

While Purdy struggled early, he finished 6-of-7 on the final drive for the win. What was the difference for the QB late?

“I think I was just able to go through progressions and get to the checkdowns efficiently,” Purdy said. “And move the chains, and stay up rather than get behind. Obviously, we got the third down and BA (Brandon Aiyuk) was clutch on it. He made a great play and you need that throughout a drive.

“But early on in the game, the checkdowns were there and I was just missing the checkdowns. Their defense did a good job of playing soft and keeping everything in front of them, taking away our shots and stuff. And as a quarterback, you’ve got to be efficient and hit the checkdowns. At the end, I was able to do that.”

With the victory, San Francisco tied the Packers and the New England Patriots for most postseason wins in NFL history with 37. The 49ers have now won the last five meetings against the Packers in the playoffs, and advanced to the NFC title game for the fourth time in five seasons. 

Under Shanahan, the 49ers are 4-0 at home in the postseason, winning by an average margin of 15.5 points per contest. 

Now that his team is moving on, 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa acknowledged feeling a sense of relief that his team has survived and advanced to the NFC championship round. 

“I did not want this to end,” Bosa said. “Nobody did. And we made the plays that we needed to.”

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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