Don’t be fooled by the closer score. The Green Bay Packers got rocked — again.
For the second time in two months, the San Francisco 49ers chased the Packers out of California with an explosive offense that once again racked up 37 points on Mike Pettine’s defense. Raheem Mostert shook tackles and fired through gaps all night with ease, rushing for a ridiculous 220 yards and four touchdowns to carry the 49ers into the Super Bowl for the first time since 2013.
According to ESPN analyst and former quarterback Dan Orlovsky, the difference was 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his superior playcalling — “the best playcaller in the NFL” — against the Packers and Pettine. Orlovsky pointed to San Francisco’s first touchdown as an example of how Shanahan exploited his past experience with Pettine to create a 36-yard scoring run for Mostert on 3rd-and-8.
Orlovsky posted a clip of the play with his breakdown on Twitter, but it wasn’t the only time Sunday night where he shared some commentary on Shanahan vs. Pettine. He also isolated Mostert’s second touchdown run on 2nd-and-5, which he argued was Shanahan putting on a “run game clinic.”
For those who don’t remember, Shanahan was Pettine’s offensive coordinator during his one and only season with the Cleveland Browns. Their relationship could best be illustrated with a single clip that captured them disagreeing with an offensive playcall on the sideline. Shanahan ended up resigning from the position after the season over with the front office’s decision to roll with Johnny Manziel its starting quarterback.
While old history likely didn’t play too much of a factor, Shanahan certainly proved his superiority over Pettine and Packers first-year coach Matt LaFleur, who saw his record-setting debut season end with another disappointing loss.
The 49ers rushed to a 27-0 start behind Mostert and finished with 354 yards of total offense despite quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes. San Francisco also played a cleaner game in terms of penalties and turnovers, winning a 3-0 margin in the latter behind Aaron Rodgers’ fumbles and two interceptions.
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Packers Fans Call for Pettine’s Firing After Loss
While fans have a tendency to overreact, there was quite a bit of talk in the aftermath of the NFC Championship about the status of Pettine’s job with the Packers. Some people are hoping his second year in Green Bay proves to be his last.
LaFleur retained Pettine for the sake of “continuity” when he took over as head coach last January, but there have been valid concerns about the Packers defense during his tenure despite a consensus that 2019’s version was an improved product. The worst of those issues — allowing explosive plays, crumbling against the run, failing to produce turnovers — crawled to the surface in both of this season’s games against San Francisco.
The Packers overhauled Pettine’s side of the ball during the offseason, spending more than $155 million on a trio of high-profile free agents and devoting both of their first-round draft picks to defensive players. But the results have become inconsistent, sometimes playing great as they did against Chicago while other times falling limp as they did in all four of their losses.
“Going into these types of games, we know the ball was going to be a big part of whoever was going to win this game, and we didn’t win the turnover margin,” LaFleur said in Sunday’s postgame. “The other thing that we knew they were going to try to do was run the football and they absolutely got after us in the run game, and it was not good enough.”