View Original Notice ? Inman: 49ers going deeper into NFC playoffs with relentless mentality
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Advancing to the NFC Championship Game, and doing so with a walk-off win in the snow at Lambeau Field, shouldn’t really surprise anyone anymore about these 49ers.
Count on them for drama. Highs. Lows. Unlikely heroes. Clutch stars. Down-to-the-absolute-wire finishes.
Elimination games? Pfft. Two wins to go for that sixth Lombardi Trophy. It’s been 27 years since they won it all, before half this roster was even born.
Before getting too far ahead of ourselves (again), a look back at Saturday night’s 13-10 divisional win over Green Bay:
— Jordan Willis, despite his heroic block of a fourth-quarter punt, wasn’t among the 49ers brought into the media room for postgame interviews. He wasn’t muted, necessarily. In the locker room, after being awarded the ceremonial game ball by coach Kyle Shanahan, Willis was egged on by teammates to give a speech. He replied: “We’ve been through a lot this year, and we kept battling, so let’s keep going.” The crowd went wild.
— Willis is 6-foot-4. He has an 80-inch wingspan, according to his 2017 pre-draft file. He used that length and blocked the punt with his left hand. But, first, he overpowered the long snapper to close in on that season-saving swat.
— “I think we ain’t done yet. I think we ain’t done yet.” — linebacker Fred Warner, in breaking down the locker room’s huddle.
— Still think Jimmy Garoppolo is done with the 49ers? Think again. His influence on this franchise isn’t summed up by an end-of-the-world-again interception. His ability to lead end-of-the-game scoring drives is a gift, that keeps on giving the 49ers another game.
— This sums up the locker room’s feelings for Garoppolo: “Honestly I’m impressed with his demeanor as a leader. A lot of people give him crap or whatever, but he’s as cool and collected as a quarterback that I’ve ever had, and he is the perfect guy to lead us to where we need to go.” — Nick Bosa.
— Nobody has quarterbacked more games for Shanahan than Garoppolo (35-15). “I don’t think people understand what that’s kinda like out there.” – Shanahan. (Trey Lance may not understand, either. He didn’t take a snap for his 13th game, nor should he have.)
— The last time the 49ers blocked a postseason punt: Spencer Tillman for the 1989 team’s divisional-round win over Minnesota, en route to the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl win.
— The 49ers reached the final four for the 15th time since 1980. That’s tied with the Patriots for the most in the NFL.
— Was Saturday’s winner the biggest kick in Robbie Gould’s career? In the playoffs, in the snow, in Lambeau, from 45 yards? He surprisingly told me it’s not. He flashed back to the second season of his 17-year career: a 49-yard field goal in overtime lifted the 2006 Chicago Bears to a divisional win in their playoff opener against Seattle, en route to the Super Bowl.
“Chicago hadn’t won a playoff game in 11 years, so that being my first game-winning playoff kick, it’s probably my biggest,” Gould told me outside the media room. “Just because I was young and kind of calmed myself down, because I didn’t know what was going on. As you get going, experience helps you in situations like this.”
— Twenty years ago, I covered another 45-yard field goal in the snow of a divisional playoff game, that being Adam Vinatieri’s kick, five snaps after the “Tuck Rule” kept alive the New England Patriots’ rally against the Raiders, who then fell in overtime on Vinatieri’s 23-yard encore.
“He had a lot more snow than I had tonight,” Gould said. “He’s a guy I call all the time. I talked to him in the middle of the season, talked to him about how I should be kicking at this age and things to do to prime up for Sundays.”
— Long snapper Taybor Pepper sprinted to recover the ball for Gould, who’s kept all his game-winners – except one. After an epic win at New Orleans in 2019, Gould gave that ball to the York family, which was mourning the loss of Tony York, the youngest son of owners Denise DeBartolo York and Dr. John York.
— “Man of the hour. Good job, brother.” — Garoppolo to Gould as they crossed paths outside the media room.
— Warner and George Kittle were the last 49ers off the field, reluctantly leaving only after bear hugs and a few primal screams. “It was incredible. That’s one of my best friends,” Warner told me outside the interview room. “The adversity he went through early on with that drop, then he goes and makes a spectacular one. It means a lot to both of us. We’ve been in this thing for a while now. I wanted to take it all in, for sure. It was special.”
— Kittle may have dropped a first-quarter pass in the open field, and he may have been woefully targeted on the game’s lone interception, but he had 63 key yards (after just 78 yards the previous four games).
Rekindling his connection with Garoppolo is a great sign going forth, not that he ever doubted his QB. “The (stuff) that he takes, excuse my language. We just see, consistently, just people try to pull him down, and all he does is try to deliver. He leads his team. He’s the sense of calm in the huddle.”
— It’s fitting the Packers had only 10 players on the field for Gould’s kick. A missing-man formation could define their offseason if Aaron Rodgers pursues the exit strategy he plotted last offseason.
— Not only did Talanoa Hufanga score the tying touchdown – claiming he heard the ball bounce before spotting for the scoop-and-score – he helped Dontae Johnson double cover Adams on Rodgers’ incomplete heave, perhaps Rodgers’ final throw in a Packers’ jersey.
— Bosa jokingly scoffed at Hufanga beating him to the postgame media podium. Rookies. Sheesh.
— Worst postgame sight: Trent Williams walking out of the locker room on crutches with an ankle injury. He miss just one snap. Stay tuned if he’ll miss his first conference title game. (Coolest offensive play: Williams going in motion as a blocking back.)
— Deebo Samuel walked fine out of the interview room, as opposed to hopping off the field after injuring his right ankle on a third-down conversion run, three snaps before Gould’s kick. Samuel took a hard hit to his right shoulder earlier in the game, and his right elbow bled through his white sleeve. All for 142 all-purpose yards – and a chance to go all the way.
— If Arik Armstead’s pair of fourth-quarter sacks weren’t his two best in his 49ers’ tenure, don’t spoil this and remind me of any better. He did have 2 1/2 two weeks ago at the Rams, and he has six sacks the past four games (after seven his previous 32 games).
— Leave it to 49ers’ all-time rushing king Frank Gore to mix a congratulatory tweet with a motivational message: “Great @49ers win!! Lot’s of work to be done!! #FTTB #KeepGrinding #DoitfortheDoubters.”
— Yes, the 49ers are at work again on an NFC Championship, two years after winning the Halas Trophy. “People like to talk about ’19 a lot. I don’t really like to compare,” Warner said. “They’re both very different. (In 2019), we were the No. 1 seed and everything ran through S.F. back then. Now we’re the sixth seed. We have to go on the road and win tough games. It is very rewarding when you’re the underdog and you take it from somebody.”