San Francisco49ers

Kittle knew Deebo would deliver key third-and-7 to beat Packers


GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- The minute the 49ers broke the huddle, George Kittle knew they had the Green Bay Packers right where they wanted them.

With their NFC Divisional Round Game tied at 10 at Lambeau Field with 1:03 remaining, the 49ers faced a third-and-7 from the Packers' 38-yard-line. They knew exactly how far they needed to get to give Robbie Gould a chance to deliver an upset win that seemed impossible for most of the night as the offense spun its wheels on the frozen turf in northern Wisconsin.

They needed 4 yards for Gould to have a chance. That was the end of his range in the freezing Green Bay conditions. They wanted 7 to get Gould closer and also make sure they wouldn't give the ball back to Aaron Rodgers. So, coach Kyle Shanahan did what he has done numerous times over the last two months. He put Deebo Samuel in the backfield and called his best player's number.

As the 49ers lined up for the biggest play of their season, Kittle saw what was about to materialize.

"Oh, I knew we were getting it," Kittle said after the 49ers' 13-10 win. "They came out in nickel. I saw the backer I had to block was a safety. This is money. As long as we take care of the interior, Deebo just has to run in a straight line for a first down, and that's exactly what he did."

Samuel didn't see it quite like that, but the outcome was exactly as Kittle foresaw. Samuel took the handoff, burst through the hole, and slipped a tackle before finally being dragged down after a 9-yard gain and a first down.

"I just knew I was going to hit the hole full speed, and whatever happens at that point is going to happen," Samuel said.

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Stuck in no man's land on the field and facing a third-and-7 with Rodgers waiting on the sideline, Shanahan went into his bag and pulled out one of his late-season hits. A simple trap for Samuel and the NFL's most dangerous offensive weapon did the rest, getting Gould all the yardage he needed to pierce the icy Green Bay air with a 45-yard game-winning kick that sent the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

"It was as simple as that a lot of times today," Shanahan said after the game when asked if the plan was just to give his best player the ball. "Just the type of game it was. You guys saw Deebo when he went back to return kicks. He had a chance every time. The fact that he has that skill set makes it a lot easier to get him the ball.

Last Sunday, Samuel called his shot in the 49ers' wild-card win over the Dallas Cowboys, scoring what would be the decisive touchdown at Jerry World. Samuel didn't find the end zone Saturday, and there was no prophetic message about the play he was about to make.

But there was no doubt Samuel would do what was required for Gould to finish off an unlikely playoff upset.

Once the 49ers broke the huddle to face their season-defining moment, they had already won.

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