For parts of Saturday’s showdown with the upstart Green Bay Packers, the No. 1-seeded San Francisco 49ers looked as if they might be one-and-done in the playoffs. Quarterback Brock Purdy, in particular, was erratic for much of the night. But everything changed in the final minutes of action, when Purdy led a go-ahead touchdown drive for a 24-21 victory, snapping a troublesome 49ers streak.
Saturday’s decision didn’t just send San Francisco to its fourth NFC Championship in the last five years, see. It also marked the first 49ers win under coach Kyle Shanahan during a game in which his team trailed by five points or more entering the fourth quarter. Prior to Saturday’s win over Green Bay, the 49ers had been 0-31 in those circumstances, per CBS Sports Research.
San Francisco had been the only NFL team without a single win in that category since 2017, including playoffs. It’s fair to say, then, that Saturday’s comeback registers as one of the most impressive — and potential narrative-shifting — displays of resilience by both Shanahan and Purdy, the contender’s top two figureheads. Both the coach and QB made questionable decisions throughout the contest — Shanahan leaned into conservative fourth-down and red zone calls early, and Purdy nearly threw multiple interceptions — before tightening up on the 49ers’ final drive, a 12-play, 69-yard series that lasted 5:11 and ended with a Christian McCaffrey score.
The Packers led 21-14 entering the fourth quarter of the game, after Jordan Love found Tucker Kraft for a touchdown just over halfway through the third. A Jake Moody field goal cut Green Bay’s lead to three just four seconds into the fourth, and then McCaffrey’s touchdown with 1:07 left put the 49ers ahead for good.
Was the final drive enough to put San Francisco back on track, rid Shanahan and Purdy of any late-game, come-from-behind skepticism, and perhaps propel a trip to Super Bowl LVIII? They’ll have a chance to prove it next Sunday, when they host the NFC Championship against the winner of this Sunday’s clash between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.