Brock Purdy leads heroic late drive, 49ers stop Packers in final minute to clinch trip to NFC title game


If you ask any San Francisco 49ers fan, their season will be a failure without a Super Bowl.

They were just about 60 seconds away from their season being cut short, but in the most important part of their season, their quarterback, once Mr. Irrelevant, stepped up.

The 49ers fought back from a fourth quarter deficit to take down the Green Bay Packers, 24-21, to earn a trip to the NFC championship.

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Brock Purdy throwing

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass during the first half against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Levi’s Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Green Bay missed a field goal for a chance to go up seven, giving the Niners the ball from their own 31 with 6:18 to go. That was more than enough time, as Brock Purdy, who had missed throws all night, had a heck of a drive, completing six of his seven passes (the one incompletion was a George Kittle drop) that ended with a Christian McCaffrey score from six yards out – his second of the night – giving San Fran a 24-21 lead with 1:07 to go.

The Packers, the youngest team in the league, had all three timeouts, but after using their first, Jordan Love threw on the run across his body – a big no-no. It was picked off by Dre Greenlaw, which all but ended it. Purdy took a knee to send the clock to triple zeroes, and his team to their fourth NFC championship game in five years.

Niners celebrate CMC touchdown

Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammates after scoring a 6-yard rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Levi’s Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Santa Clara, California.  (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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Green Bay opened up the scoring with a field goal, and they were this close to a pick-six to go up double-digits, but it was dropped by Darnell Savage. To make matters worse, the Packers failed to convert on a fourth down (on a questionable spot), and the Niners answered with a 12-play drive that ended with Purdy finding Kittle for a 32-yard score. Green Bay settled for another field goal in the second quarter, and San Fran attempted to match it, but their field goal was tipped at the line and no good, so the game remained 7-6 at half.

Deebo Samuel was ruled out for the game with a shoulder injury at halftime, and the Niners felt his lack of presence with a three-and-out to open the half. A costly third-and-long penalty put the Packers inside the red zone, and they took advantage with Love finding Bo Melton in the end zone to take a 13-7 lead. The Niners answered with, fittingly, a 39-yard rushing touchdown by McCaffrey, but the Pack returned the call. 

Green Bay took the ensuing kickoff to the opposing 20 (after recovering their own fumble), and then Love found Tucker Kraft for a touchdown – their two-point conversion was good, so it was 21-14 late in the third.

But that was the last time Green Bay would score, as San Fran would outscore the Pack, 10-0, in the fourth quarter to come away with the comeback victory.

CMC celebrates

Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring a 6-yard rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Levi’s Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Santa Clara, California.  (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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Purdy, with his ups and downs, finished with 252 passing yards on 23-for-39 passing – McCaffrey rushed for 98 yards on 17 carries, two of which were touchdowns.

The magic carpet ride is over for Green Bay, but their future is certainly bright after making the playoffs a No. 7 seed and being oh so close to an NFC championship game.

Meanwhile, the Niners will host the winner of Sunday’s Lions-Buccaneers game in the NFC championship next Sunday.

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