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NFL playoffs: 49ers stun Packers, possibly end Aaron Rodgers' tenure in Green Bay

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
 2022-01-23

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Robbie Gould lived up to his name.

On a field littered with snow flurries, Gould made a 45-yard field goal Saturday night as time expired that knocked off the top-seeded Packers 13-10 and possibly ended Aaron Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay.

Gould has made all 20 of his career playoff field-goal attempts. His latest helped the 49ers complete an improbable comeback by scoring 10 unanswered points in the last five minutes.

"I always trust Robbie. He’s as good as gold, man," 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "He always is."

The 49ers (12-7) continued their postseason hex on Rodgers and advanced to an NFC championship game matchup Jan. 30 at either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-4) or the Rams (13-5). Those teams play Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

San Francisco’s win, coupled with the Cincinnati Bengals’ 19-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day, marked the first time both No. 1 seeds lost in the divisional round in the same season since 2010. Green Bay won at Atlanta and the New York Jets won at New England that season.

"It’s dangerous, man. When a team gets hot, it’s dangerous," Garoppolo added. "So we’ve just got to keep this thing going, focus on next week now, and keep this thing rolling."

Rodgers went 20 for 29 for 225 yards and dropped to 0-4 in career playoff starts against the 49ers. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to lose four playoff starts to a single opponent.

He now enters an uncertain offseason. After skipping the Packers’ mandatory minicamp in a standoff with management, Rodgers said he was uncertain whether this would be his last year in Green Bay. Rodgers said last month he was keeping all options open.

Rodgers didn’t want to speculate on his future Saturday night, though he said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild if he keeps playing.

"I don’t think it’s fair to anybody or myself to really go down those paths at this point," Rodgers said. "It’s disappointing, sad and fresh. I’ll have conversations in the next week or so and start to contemplate after that."

The Packers (13-5) earned the NFC’s top seed for a second straight season but again failed to reach the big game. They haven’t made it to the Super Bowl since their 2010 championship season.

“I just didn’t envision it like this,” said Green Bay running back Aaron Jones, who had nine catches for 129 yards and 12 carries for 41 yards.

San Francisco tied the score with 4:41 left thanks to a breakdown by Green Bay’s special teams, the Packers’ biggest weakness all season.

Jordan Willis’ outstretched left hand blocked a punt by Corey Bojorquez, who was kicking from the front of his end zone. Talanoa Hufanga picked up the ball at the six-yard line and ran it in to make it 10-10.

After the Packers went three and out, the 49ers got the ball back at their 29 with 3:20 left and drove into field-goal range. Deebo Samuel delivered a nine-yard run on third and eight from the Green Bay 38, and the 49ers ran down the clock to set up Gould.

A.J. Dillon’s six-yard touchdown run capped a 69-yard drive on the game’s opening possession that put the Packers ahead 7-0. Green Bay’s offense didn’t do much of anything after that.

The Packers' special teams fared even worse.

Well before that blocked punt, San Francisco’s Jimmie Ward blocked a 39-yard field-goal attempt from Mason Crosby on the final play of the first half, preventing the Packers from extending their lead to 10-0. The Packers also allowed Samuel to return the second-half kickoff 45 yards, setting up the 49ers’ first field goal. Green Bay also appeared to have only 10 men on the field when Gould made his winning kick.

"We thought our special teams had an advantage in this game," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "We thought they had an opportunity to possibly win us the game. And to be able to say that and to actually come to fruition was huge for those guys and huge for our team."

San Francisco won by overcoming a brutal start from its offense. The 49ers had minus-10 yards in their first four series, three of which included third-down sacks. It was the first time the 49ers had opened a game with four straight three and outs since a 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 27, 2009.

The 49ers didn’t get a single first down or pass completion until Garoppolo connected with tight end George Kittle on a 15-yard gain with less than 6½ minutes left in the second quarter. Garoppolo was just 11 for 19 for 131 yards with an interception, but the 49ers still managed to win.

"It took everything," Garoppolo said. "We knew it was going to. I mean, it was just offense, defense, special teams — everybody stepping up and doing their part. Wouldn’t have it any other way."

Frozen tundra

The temperature at kickoff was 14 degrees with a wind chill of zero, making it the fifth-coldest playoff game in Lambeau Field history. The second half was played amid snow flurries.

Injuries

The Packers were without offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, a 2020 All-Pro selection. Bakhtiari played 27 snaps in the Packers’ regular-season finale, which marked his first game since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 31, 2000.

Billy Turner, playing for the first time since suffering his own knee injury Dec. 12, started in Bakhtiari’s place.

49ers running back Jeff Wilson left because of an ankle injury after the opening kickoff. Packers safety Darnell Savage (back) and running back A.J. Dillon (chest) left in the third quarter.

Next up

The 49ers will be at either Tampa Bay or the Rams in the NFC championship game Jan. 30.

The Packers’ season is over. Will Rodgers be back with the Pack?

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times .

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