The 49ers are only one win faraway from the Super Bowl. they’re back within the NFC Championship Game, for the 16th time as a franchise.
And, as you would possibly know, No. 16 has been quite a lucky number for this organization.
After an extended, long await the postseason, Levi’s Stadium is getting broken-in pretty rapidly. On Jan. 19, the 49ers will host the winner of Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff between Green Bay and Seattle.
In Saturday’s game, with No. 16 Joe Montana together of the honorary captains, the 49ers used the tools they’d been perfecting all season to eliminate the Minnesota Vikings, 27-10. A dominating defense, solid run and efficient passing led to the primary lopsided outcome of the playoffs, perhaps not surprising because the Vikings had a brief week, a second consecutive away game and a cross-country trip.
This was the primary 49ers game outside the town limits of San Francisco. Maligned Levi has been blamed for the curse that has hung over the 49ers since leaving the town of their birth, and therefore the building has been waiting six years for its home team to deserve hosting a game.
This team is worthy. and therefore the stadium was worthy.
“The energy was unbelievable, the gang was awesome,” said Joe Staley, playing in his first home game since January 2013. “This whole season it’s quite been building.
“Playing here, you usually quite wondered what it might be like with the energy that we had at Candlestick those previous couples of years. It’s very very comparable. If less .”
There were a replacement and festive feeling in Santa Clara. the good America parking zone was rocking four hours before kickoff, with fans wearing jerseys of past greats also because the current top-sellers: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, end George Kittle and defensive end Nick Bosa. Inside, the players seemed particularly amped browsing their warmups. Jerry Rice posed for photos and chatted with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Bryant Young joined Montana as an honorary captain.
The 49ers, in their first game in six years and just their fourth home game since 2003, answered tons of questions.
Garoppolo starting his first playoff game? apart from one lousy pass that was intercepted within the second quarter, he was cool. He was physical, with a lead block that toppled Vikings linebacker, Anthony Barr. He was ready for a large moment.
Kyle Shanahan coaching his first game since the Super Bowl debacle against the Patriots, when he was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator? He dialed up a deceptive, run-centric game plan that put Minnesota immediately on its heels. His team, after a bye, was prepared, healthy and dialed in.
Is Bosa ready for his first NFL playoffs? The rookie was everywhere, rushing the quarterback, dropping into pass coverage, a part of a defensive position that overwhelmed Kirk Cousins with six sacks. When Bosa had the wind knocked out of him after a sack early within the fourth quarter, the gang started a deafening “Bosa, Bosa, Bosa” chant. After a flash — Shanahan joked that his young star was “milking it” — Bosa jumped to his feet and pumped his fists in response.
“That was a very cool moment,” said Bosa, who confessed to some nerves because of his older brother Joey, the l. a. Chargers’ star defensive lineman, was — during a rare instance — available to observe him play.
And Levi’s in its debut as a home playoff venue? it had been packed. it had been loud. The building is finally beginning to create memories of its own.
The 49ers didn’t take long to christen the stadium. The defense forced the Vikings to travel three-and-out on the initial drive. Then Garoppolo marched his team down the sector for a score during a little over four minutes to require a 7-0 lead. And set the tone within the game.
“It’s huge,” Shanahan said. “We didn’t play all last week. We had our home crowd. you’ll hear the fans in pregame warmups: The stadium was electric. it had been different. Our defense holds them and that we were ready to get seven.”
Shanahan’s game plan sounds simple: Run the ball 30 times or more. If the 49ers could do this, they might control the sport, allow their defense to dominate and make the Vikings one-dimensional. Mission accomplished: The 49ers ran 47 times while the Vikings had just 10 rushing attempts.
It was a matter of 1 team imposing its will. By the top of the sport, the Vikings were tired and frustrated.
“Later within the game, they were beginning to jaw at one another,” Bosa said. “We were bringing it on them. that they had some frustration.”
The 49ers had a cool little bookend moment, though only a couple of of the players on the team realized it. Their last game, in 2014, ended with an interception within the Seattle end zone by Richard Sherman. one among the key moments on Saturday was an interception by Sherman that led to a 49ers touchdown, giving them a two-touchdown lead.
“In big games, I show up,” Sherman said. “Year in, year out.”
That was once how to explain the 49ers. Year in and year out, game after game, they showed up within the playoffs and balled out. It’s been a short time, but this team is like some past 49ers teams.
Staley could see that when he got into the room.
“I was excited because guys were excited we won, but nobody was really celebrating,” Staley said. “We realize how special this team is and what we will do that year.
“Guys are really focused on moving on.”
The 49ers are moving on. To their 16th NFC Championship Game, to be played against a well-known opponent, whomever it’d be.
One win is faraway from the Super Bowl.