Three Things We Learned From 49ers win Over Packers in NFC Championship
The San Francisco 49ers are heading back to the Super Bowl after a dominant 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers, with Raheem Mostert the unlikely hero of another blowout in the NFC Championship game.
Mostert racked up a 49ers record 220 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns to put the Packers away and set up a meeting with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami.
That matchup will be regularly dissected over the next two weeks, but here we look at what we learned as the Niners claimed the seventh NFC title in franchise history.
Perseverance pays off
The story of the NFC Championship was unquestionably the incredible performance of Mostert, who has found a home with the 49ers after being cut by six different NFL teams.
Mostert, per The Sacramento Bee, revealed afterward he keeps a list of the teams that cut him as well as the date, and his journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, which is a trait that runs through this 49er roster.
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley could easily have gotten discouraged when he surrendered the starting job back to Ahkello Witherspoon after the third-round pick returned from injury despite Moseley's consistently strong performances.
Moseley, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee who spent much of his rookie year on the practice squad, did not do so and was ready when his moment arrived in the postseason, his interception of Aaron Rodgers surely ensuring he will be the starter across from Richard Sherman on February 2.
Yet, perhaps the player who most encapsulates San Francisco's perseverance is Kwon Alexander, who defied expectations to return from a torn pectoral, the heartbeat of the Niners defense coming back in time to play an instrumental role in a postseason run for a team 60 minutes away from a sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Speed crucial to Super Bowl hopes
Whether it was Dre Greenlaw making a third-down stop by swarming to take down Jamaal Williams on the Packers first offensive series, or the incredible acceleration Mostert showed as he continually gashed Green Bay, speed was one of the defining factors of San Francisco's blowout win.
The Niners' swarming defense makes it difficult for opponents to pick up significant yardage after the catch, while the speed Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Deebo Samuel possess often allows San Francisco to gain open-field yardage almost at will.
Going into an encounter with the high-powered Chiefs offense, the athletic ability San Francisco has on either side of the ball will be crucial to putting up points and to restricting Kansas City by not allowing Mahomes to break contain and extend the play with his legs.
49ers set up for long-term NFC success
Many will pontificate on who would have been representing the NFC in the Super Bowl had the New Orleans Saints not suffered a shock defeat to the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round. However, the utterly dominant nature of the 49ers' wins over the Vikings and the Packers is indicative of the superiority they have enjoyed in the NFC this season.
The 49ers have now twice blown out the Packers, made light work of the Vikings and have heart-stopping wins over the Saints and the Seahawks on their resume. San Francisco would arguably have swept the Seahawks had kicker Robbie Gould been healthy for the first meeting between the Niners and Seattle in Week 10.
San Francisco's status as the best team in the NFC was clear throughout 2019 and the Niners reaffirmed their position as the dominant power in the conference in devastating fashion in the title game.
Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward could hit the open market in the offseason but, for the most part, the 49ers should be able to keep their young core together. Regardless of the result in Miami, the Niners are set up to keep competing for conference titles and Super Bowl berths for years to come.