January 20, 2020 | News | No Comments
SANTA CLARA —
Over the last three years, he has built the team that will now represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIV.
John Lynch’s long-term vision as general manager of the San Francisco 49ers cannot be doubted.
Nor can his short-term vision.
“The [Green Bay] Packers had a fantastic year. …We had a lot of respect for them,” Lynch said Sunday night. “We felt we could overwhelm them, though.”
Behind a little-known and often-doubted running back named Raheem Mostert, the 49ers overwhelmed the Packers in the manner that a steamroller would overwhelm a stuffed animal.
Mostert became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards and four touchdowns in a postseason game in a 37-20 San Francisco victory at rocking Levi’s Stadium.
His 29-carry, 220-yard effort helped the 49ers win with a markedly lopsided offensive attack. Of their 51 plays, 42 were runs. Jimmy Garoppolo threw only eight passes, completing six for 77 yards.
The last time a starting quarterback threw fewer passes in a postseason win was Miami’s Bob Griese in Super VIII. Griese finished six for seven in a victory over Minnesota in January 1974.
“We got in there and we were going eight, nine yards a pop,” Lynch said. “So, why not, you know? Make ’em stop you.
“That has nothing to do, I promise you, with our belief in Jimmy Garoppolo and our passing attack. It’s just, if you can run it, why throw it?”
San Francisco will make its seventh Super Bowl appearance Feb. 2 in Miami against Kansas City. The 49ers most recently played for the NFL title in 2013, losing to Baltimore.
In his third season, Kyle Shanahan is looking for his first Super Bowl championship as a head coach. His father, Mike, won two Super Bowls while coaching Denver in the 1990s.
San Francisco’s great day running the ball actually began with a glaring failure. Green Bay stopped the 49ers on third and one by stuffing Tevin Coleman to force a three-and-out on the game’s opening series.
But, with Mostert then grabbing the game — and the Packers — by the throat, San Francisco scored on its five remaining possessions in the first half to open a 27-0 lead.
“It seemed like every run he did he was about to score every time,” rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel said. “I was just out there going crazy.”
Mostert moved into the No. 1 running back role after Coleman left the game in the second quarter because of a shoulder injury, and behind a line that was opening gaping holes and with the help of receivers neutralizing defenders downfield, he barreled around and over whatever resistance Green Bay offered.
“I can’t believe that I’m in this position right now and I did the things that I did tonight,” said Mostert, who signed with Philadelphia in May 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Purdue.
“I can’t believe it. This is so surreal.”
Mostert, 27, has been with seven teams and cut multiple times. He also has played with Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore and Chicago. The Eagles and the New York Jets had him and released him before he appeared in a game.
Mostert has been with San Francisco since November 2016, mostly as a special-teamer. He had only 42 career carries until emerging this season as one of the 49ers’ main three options at running back.
“He’s just resilient and never gives up,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “All you need is one person to believe in you and one person to give you an opportunity.”
The 49ers had the NFL’s No. 2 running game during the regular season, averaging 144.1 yards, thanks to a committee approach. Mostert was the team’s top rusher with 772 yards, which ranked 26th in the league.
They certainly advanced to Super Bowl LIV on their soles. In a divisional-round victory over Minnesota, the 49ers rushed 47 times for 186 yards. On Sunday, they totaled 285 yards in 42 tries.
“I don’t know if you ever truly envision rushing for 300 yards in a game,” Juszczyk said. “We felt like we could be successful, definitely. But I don’t think you ever anticipate that kind of success.”
Facing a massive halftime deficit, the Packers did respond enough to close to within 34-20 midway through the fourth quarter. But that’s when their unlikely comeback stalled.
Aaron Rodgers finished 31 for 39 for 326 yards and two touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions, turned the ball over when he couldn’t handle the center exchange and had two fumbles that Green Bay recovered.
The victory came eight weeks after San Francisco dominated the Packers at Levi’s Stadium in the regular season. That final, on Nov. 24, was 37-8.
“Both wins feel really, really good,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “But the timing of this one feels a little better.”
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