The team beat out the competition with a tale of grit and determination. The players fought through adversity to bring home their first championship in franchise history.

George Kittle is a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. He has been on the team since 2017 and is one of their best players. In 2018, he had over 1,000 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns.

'This Is a Gritty Team. It's a Salty Team, and We Just Keep Bouncing Back'

The NFL playoffs are all about momentum, and George Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers have it in spades. As if the road victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Super Wild Card Weekend wasn’t remarkable enough, the 49ers went to Lambeau Field in the Divisional Round and stunned the top-seeded Green Bay Packers.

All of their hard work has earned them a rematch in the NFC Championship Game against a familiar divisional adversary, the Los Angeles Rams.

Regardless of the opponent or the setting, this 49ers team has the mental toughness to succeed.

The San Francisco 49ers counterpunched the Packers’ finest punch.

It was always going to be a fight to the death. Kyle Shanahan enjoys running the football, which isn’t surprising, but his former protege, Matt LaFleur, has noticed many of his habits.

Both coaches wanted to outmuscle their opponents, and the Packers appeared to have the upper hand on their first drive. Green Bay scored on a ten-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that ended with A.J. Dillon’s hard run into the end zone. It was a game that set the tone for Green Bay.

The Packers seemed to be a well-oiled machine, ready and prepared to capitalize on their home-field advantage in the snow. Green Bay’s offense, on the other hand, could only manage approximately that much.

The 49ers deserve credit.

San Francisco’s defense forced a turnover and three consecutive punts from the Packers before blocking a Mason Crosby field goal that would have put the Packers ahead 10-7 at halftime.

In the second half, Green Bay got a field goal, but the 49ers pushed Aaron Rodgers and company into three more punts, one of which was blocked in the shadow of Green Bay’s end zone. San Francisco’s sole touchdown of the game came when Talanoa Hufanga picked it up and ran it in, but it was the turning point and momentum change that Shanahan and his team needed.

“It didn’t seem like it was that difficult for them (the Packers) with those components after that first drive, the way we started off.” The defense, on the other hand, was incredible. And the Special Teams stepped it up — the blocked kick, the blocked punt for a score, Robbie [Gould] being 100 percent on those field goals – that was huge,” Shanahan said after the game, according to the official website.

TE, George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

TE, George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers End of the rope During the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field, George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs the ball after making a grab as cornerback Eric Stokes #21 of the Green Bay Packers defends | Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Early in the season, a participation in the NFC Championship game felt like a pipe dream.

With a 3-5 start to the season, the 49ers seemed to be headed for a down year. The Packers were responsible for one of their early-season defeats, which came down to a last-second field goal. San Francisco was swept by both the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, and they finished the NFC West with a 2-4 record.

Normally, defeat in the division means missing out on the playoffs, but the NFC West was packed this season, and everyone save the Seahawks made it.

But that doesn’t mean the 49ers have an easy road ahead of them. To even have a chance, they had to go on a run and win six of their last eight games.

That chance came down to the Niners’ season finale against the Rams, which they needed to win in order to advance. They made it intriguing, as is typical of this season. The 49ers were down 17-3 at halftime before storming back to force overtime and win the game, securing their spot in the big dance.

The 49ers have had an up and down season, but tight end George Kittle believes the journey has made them a difficult team to play against.

“This group has been through a great deal. We’ve faced a lot of difficulties. We’ve dealt with a number of situations. We’ve lost games due to blunders and won ones via cheating. This is a tough group. It’s a sassy group. After the victory against Green Bay, he observed, “We just keep rebounding back.”

“We don’t let anything frighten us… I won’t claim we don’t flinch; rather, we maintain our composure. We have faith in each other and in the coaches. This whole squad is made up of football players that really like playing the game. They don’t give a damn about what happens during it; we’ll simply keep fighting.”

The 49ers and Kittle are road warriors.

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers In the first quarter, George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The last time the 49ers played at SoFi Stadium, it was a packed house. It was so loud that Deeboo Samuel questioned whether the Rams were pumping in noise over the loudspeakers since there looked to be more 49ers supporters in attendance than LA fans.

He added after the game, which San Francisco won 27-24 in overtime, that he felt like the Rams pump noise since there weren’t very many Rams supporters present.

The 49ers will be looking for the same edge in the NFC Championship game, but it’s worth remembering that they won’t necessarily need it.

They upset Jerry Jones and the Cowboys in Dallas, defeating a squad that seemed to be a serious Super Bowl contender on paper.

Then they went to Lambeau Field and made Rodgers look pedestrian, despite the fact that he could win his second consecutive MVP award. He was held to only 225 yards passing by the 49ers, and he failed to reach the end zone. After the game, Rodgers and the Packers spoke as if they had already planned their Super Bowl afterparties before facing the 49ers. Green Bay made a mistake by overlooking the 49ers, and the 49ers made the Packers pay for it.

That is unlikely to be the situation in Los Angeles. The Rams are well aware that they will be up against a formidable opponent in the 49ers. It’s difficult to beat a squad three times in a season, but if there was ever a team that was gritty and tough enough to accomplish it, it’s this one.

“On that squad, we had a number of people that I like to refer to as “real football players.” ” It’s a big hit with them.” Shanahan explained. “They have a good time watching it.” They look forward to practicing. They also like playing.”

Next Sunday at SoFi Stadium, the 49ers will get another chance to play the game they love. They’ll be back there in a few weeks for Super Bowl 56 if things go their way one more time.

ESPN and Pro Football Reference provided the statistics. 

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