49ers’ Mostert bullies Pack with 220 yards, 4 TDs

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — To take the biggest step toward completing one of the most dramatic turnarounds in NFL history, the San Francisco 49ers did what they’ve done so often throughout the season: They rode the wave provided by an unlikely hero.

With Raheem Mostert, the journeyman running back/accomplished surfer putting together one of the most dynamic rushing performances in playoff history, the Niners on Sunday throttled the Green Bay Packers for the second time this season, this time 37-20 on their way to their first NFC championship since 2013.

The 49ers’ dominant performance earned a spot in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

In the eighth postseason meeting between these storied franchises, the Niners leaned on the formula they used to dispatch the Minnesota Vikings last week, with a different star in the lead role.

Last week it was running back Tevin Coleman carrying the freight. This game belonged to Mostert, who ran over, around and through Packers defenders on his way to 220 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns.

The rushing yards are the second-most by a player in postseason history and the most in 49ers franchise history. His quartet of touchdowns ranks as the second most by an individual in a playoff game.

In the first half, Mostert rushed for 160 yards on 14 carries and three TDs. Those 160 yards were the most in the first half of a playoff game since the San Diego Chargers’ Keith Lincoln had 176 in the 1963 AFL Championship Game against the Boston Patriots, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

With the convincing win, the Niners became the third team in the Super Bowl era to go from four or fewer wins in one season to a Super Bowl berth the next, joining the 1999 St. Louis Rams and the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals. Those Rams went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV, while the Bengals, who played only 15 regular-season games that season because of a strike, lost Super Bowl XXIII to the 49ers. That game was also played in Miami.

It’s the Niners’ first NFC championship since after the 2012 season when they went to Super Bowl XLVII and lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.

Mostert’s career game is the culmination of a breakout season in which he went from reliable special teams player to leading rusher, as Coleman and running back Matt Breida dealt with injuries. Since ESPN began tracking tackling statistics in 2001, Mostert is the only player to lead his team in special teams stops and rushing yards in a season.

This comes after short stops in Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, the New York Jets and Chicago lasting less than a combined two years. In many of those places, Mostert didn’t make the active roster.

At one point Mostert considered walking away from the game before a pep talk from his wife, Devon, convinced him to stick with it.

“Everything is, like, finally soaking in and it actually is surreal,” Mostert told ESPN last week. “Especially with what I’ve been through these past five years. It’s just been an unbelievable ride and I’ve got to keep it going. We still have one goal, and that’s to get to the Super Bowl. We’ve got to win the rest of these games, so I’ve got to do my best and try to help the team out as best as I can.”

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan leaned on Mostert and the offensive line to get it done. They focused on the run and attempted just two passes in the second half. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finished 6-for-8 for 77 yards as the Niners rushed for 285 yards on 42 attempts as a team.

Garoppolo’s eight passes left the Niners as one of just four teams with fewer than 10 attempts in a postseason game.

Shanahan carved out his in place in history, joining Bill Walsh and George Seifert as the only coaches in franchise history to go to the Super Bowl in their first postseason appearances. Also, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Shanahan will join his dad, Mike, to form just the second father/son duo in NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL history to appear in at least one title game.

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