San Francisco 49ers relish how special it is to beat Green Bay Packers in January at Lambeau Field
GREEN BAY - Robbie Gould had dreamed of the moment and even texted Lawrence Tynes just before kickoff to ask about winning a game at Lambeau Field in the snow.
Tynes kicked the longest field goal in Lambeau Field’s playoff history at 47 yards in the 2007 NFC championship.
George Kittle’s dad reminded him this week that the opportunity to suit up for a playoff game at Lambeau against the Packers was one others only dreamed of having.
Jimmy Garoppolo was as ethereal as the falling snow, despite getting down early and being sacked often in the first half.
In other words, after a season in which the Green Bay Packers had talked ad nauseam about embracing the moment and relishing each second, it was the San Francisco 49ers who walked off the field having captured the magic. Then they walked back on the field, soaking in their 13-10 win over the Packers in the NFC divisional playoff with San Francisco fans who refused to leave, even as snow fell harder and harder.
This 49ers team, counted out after starting 3-5, seems to find a way to knock the Packers out of Super Bowl contention year after year. This time it happened on the Packers' turf, with Green Bay kicking off as the No. 1 seed. But the team that 49ers players call “gritty” knew there were areas that could be preyed upon.
“We said it on Tuesday when we started, we thought our special teams had an advantage in this game," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we thought they had an opportunity to possibly win us the game.”
Not only did San Francisco think their special teams could win them the game, they planned on it. Safety Jimmie Ward, who blocked a Mason Crosby field goal attempt to end the first half, saw the coverage on tape during the week and knew he could take advantage.
“That’s the area where we knew we had to win the game,” Ward said of special teams.
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The 49ers' special teams has been embattled this season as well. Yet they knew in a must-win game, the Packers special teams unit, embattled as well, could make the difference.
“To redeem ourselves on special teams, to be able to come out with a big win at Lambeau is pretty big for us but it’s (also) pretty unique,” Gould said. “This is a historic place and a historic rivalry so I’m just glad we could play a huge part in that.”
Earlier this season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called Crosby and Gould the two best kickers he’d seen during his time in the NFL. On Saturday night, Rodgers was relegated to the sidelines, watching Gould prove him right as time expired. Yet it wasn’t until that moment, as Gould sent one inside the uprights, that Erik Armstead saw any defeat from the Packers sideline.
“I think they were feeling pretty comfortable,” Armstead said. “I didn’t really see a lot of letdown on their part.”
This was a testament to the Packers, considering the offense sputtered after an incredible opening drive. Green Bay also lost AJ Dillon, their power running back built for cold games, to a chest injury.
“AJ Dillon, respect, he’s a great player. But yeah, that definitely could’ve changed things,” Armstead said.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers' defense looked like world-beaters, reunited with linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Za’Darius Smith. The latter got the first sack of the night on Garoppolo. In the end, Green Bay’s front would bring him down four times. But the 49ers' front kept pushing.
“That was a good front they were going against (but our front) got the run game going,” Garoppolo said.
As countless 49ers players filtered through the postgame, Rodgers outlasted them all in his own postgame room, conducting a long press conference. Rodgers has outlasted a lot of players on the field as well, playing late into a historic career, which is why he’s been adamant about savoring what could be final moments all season.
But he won’t get a chance to capture any more special moments with this 2021 Packers team. That run is over, coming to an abrupt halt just short of its goal. Instead, he had to watch as the 49ers, his postseason foil, relished in what was supposed to be his storybook ending.
“We come in to Lambeau against the No. 1 seed in the NFC, snowing, MVP quarterback, one of the best receivers playing the game, high-powered offense and we hold them to 10 points, that’s incredible,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said. “Especially with the way it started. That’s really, it’s one of those things that we’ll remember forever for sure. I don’t think everybody kind of knows the gravity of it now, but it’s something we’ll look back on for sure.”