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Grades for the 49ers 24-21 Divisional win over the Packers


The grades for the 49ers might not be pretty, but as far as I'm concerned you can hang them in the Louvre because San Francisco is back in the NFC Championship Game for the third straight season.


Let's go to it.


Brock Purdy: B-

If there was any doubt before, there is none now: Brock Purdy struggles in the rain. First, he started the game with a glove. He was inaccurate. Then, he took the glove off. He was inaccurate.


Then there's this:




I have been watching football for more than 30 years and I've never seen a QB wipe his hand off in the middle of a drop.


Between the weather and the fact that he hadn't played in a football game since New Year's Eve, Purdy was not himself. His throws were inaccurate and his decision-making was poor as well. Had Darnell Savage been able to catch, Brock would have thrown an interception on the first possession of the game - and could have had others as well.


However.


He also led the offense to 17 second half points, including some massive throws on third down to keep drives alive. Like this work of art to Jauan Jennings.




On the final drive, Purdy took the ammo away from many of his doubters. Not only did he play from behind, he led a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, and he did it with big completions to guys that weren't wearing 11, 23, 85, or 19.


The great ones win their clunkers. Now Purdy gets a chance to actually play in an NFC Championship Game next week.


Christian McCaffrey: A+

When is the last time Christian McCaffrey had a bad game with the 49ers? Has he ever had one?


Not only does he show up every week, McCaffrey absolutely shines in the biggest moments of the biggest games of the year. Last year in the the NFCCG against the Eagles, McCaffrey broke three tackles on a 25 yard touchdown run to tie the score with Josh Johnson as QB.


On Saturday, McCaffrey answered the bell again. First, he broke two tackles through traffic for a 39 yard touchdown run to tie the game at 13 in the third quarter. Then, on the final drive of the game, he took the ball in from six yards out to put the 49ers ahead for good.


On the day, CMC touched the ball 24 times for 128 yards and those two scores. He's a brilliant player, and the only thing that stops him is Kyle Shanahan taking the ball out of his hands.


Let's hope that doesn't continue on Sunday.


Receivers: A-

This grade is more about quality than quantity. Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, and George Kittle made some unbelievable catches and plays in this game, despite the conditions.


Kittle absolutely dominated man coverage in this one. He ran away from his defender on the 49ers' first scoring drive for a 32 yard reception. Later in the game he converted a third and six, broke the tackle of his defender and rumbled for 32 yards down the sideline. The next play was CMC's long TD run that tied the score. I will continue to scream it from the mountaintops: Blocking is still the second best thing George Kittle does. Keep feeding that man the football.


Brandon Aiyuk only caught three passes in the game, but they were some of the most impactful play of the night. On third and nine late in the third quarter, Aiyuk reached behind his body at full speed to haul in the ball and run for a first down. The 49ers would only gain one more yard on that drive, which ended with a 52 yard Jake Moody field goal to make it 21-17 Packers.


Then, on the game-winning drive, Aiyuk made a sliding third down reception on a perfectly placed low and outside pass from Brock Purdy with a defender draped all over him. In the biggest moments on Saturday, Brandon Aiyuk made #1 wide receiver plays.


Finally, I have to mention the incredible contributions of Jauan Jennings. With Deebo Samuel out, Jennings stepped up to catch a playoff-career-high five passes for 61 yards. Four of those five catches went for first downs, including the one I embedded earlier in this post that moved the chains on a 3rd and 10 late in the game. Third and Jauan is a real thing, and he's very valuable to this offense.


Defensive Line: C

It's time to face reality when it comes to the 49ers defensive line - it's not that great. They've invested a ton of capital in the unit and have not received anywhere close to the same value in return.


If you can only get sacks when your team has the lead, you don't have a good pass rush. The 49ers didn't register a single sack on Saturday. Part of that is due to a good game plan by the Packers, but part of that also falls at the feet of Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, and Chase Young.


The Packers also ran for 136 yards on the day, though I admit most of that came on one 53 yard rush by Aaron Jones that can't totally be blamed on the defensive line.


Regardless, there have been too many times this year where the foundation of this defense hasn't been able to get it done.


Jared Goff stands between San Francisco and a Super Bowl next week. When he gets pressured, he is a shell of himself. I don't care that Detroit has a great offensive line. Great players are at their best against the best competition. It's about time Nick Bosa and company step up not just with pressures, but also with actual sacks.


Linebackers: A

Dre Greenlaw is a menace. He was a menace to the Packers with a team-leading eight tackles and two interceptions, and he was a menace to the 49ers by intentionally staying up during his second interception return because he wanted to score a touchdown. A double-edged sword, to say the least.


Still, this defense would not be nearly as good without 57 in the middle of the field. When the Packers tried a QB sneak on fourth down, Greenlaw was there to help keep Jordan Love inches short of the sticks. He was questionable coming into the game with Achilles tendonitis, and he ended up making the three biggest plays of the night.


Fred Warner was right when he said, "Whatever you think of me, think that of Dre Greenlaw."


Secondary: B

Mooney Ward was his usual excellent self. Deommodore Lenoir was outstanding. Ambry Thomas was hideous.


Let's start with the good. Lenoir absolutely brought the physicality in this game. He made a nice legal hit on Jordan Love near the sideline during a scramble that led to offsetting unnecessary roughness penalties. Later in that drive he stopped Aaron Jones for no gain in the red zone which helped hold Green Bay to a field goal. He also helped prevent Aaron Jones from scoring on his 53 yard run, and the Packers ended up getting zero points on that drive thanks to a missed field goal. Incredible performance from Deommodore, who seems to raise his game to another level in the playoffs.


Ambry Thomas, on the other hand, was a disaster. He reverted to the Ambry of old in this one. Any time the Packers needed a big play, they targeted #20. When the ball was in the air Thomas panicked, stumbling into receivers like a drunken sailor. Thomas committed two pass interference penalties in the game, including a 41 yarder on 3rd and 15 that led to a go-ahead score in the third quarter. I don't know what happened to the guy we saw earlier in the season, but he needs to come back quickly.


Overall, the unit does deserve credit for helping to short-circuit some promising Green Bay drives in the red zone, but they will be tested again next week against a talented Detroit offense.


Special Teams: B

Jake Moody had a field goal blocked at the end of the first half, but that may have been the result of an uncalled leverage penalty on the Packers. More importantly, Moody returned in the fourth quarter to nail a 52 yard field goal that made the game 21-17 and helped complete the comeback.


When his team needed him, Jake Moody answered the bell. When Anders Carlson's team needed him, he missed a 41 yard field goal. That's got to count for something.


Unfortunately for the 49ers, their poor kickoff coverage reared its ugly head again in the form of a 65 yard return immediately following Christian McCaffrey's long TD run that gave the Niners the lead. Credit to Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles for forcing a fumble at the end of it, but that simply cannot happen. It cannot be allowed to happen, which brings me to...


Kyle Shanahan: D-

Without question, this was one of the worst games Kyle Shanahan has had as the head coach of the 49ers. He was unprepared to call the offense without Deebo Samuel, he butchered the clock management at the end of the second quarter, he refuses to kick the ball out of the endzone every time, and he ignored his best offensive player at critical junctures in the game.


I'm going to write a larger piece on Kyle's blunders a little later, so I won't dive into them here. Let me just say that Shanahan was completely outcoached in this game and he needs to be a lot sharper next week against the Lions if the 49ers are going to get back to the Super Bowl.




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