The 49ers had to contend with the blessing and curse of securing the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed.
After securing a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, San Francisco had to go from its regular-season finale on January 7, Week 18 against the Los Angeles Rams to its divisional round matchup on January 20 Balancing between rest and rust with the Green Bay Packers.
Although the two-week break was clearly evident as San Francisco began Saturday's game against Green Bay, 49ers tight end George Kittle downplayed any rust concerns during a recent appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.”
“We get the one seeding and then, hey, the next game against the Rams. Although every game is important, it has no impact on our seeding,” Kittle said Tuesday. “So we had some players who didn’t play much. It's like we have the mindset of, 'Hey, we need to flip the switch to play a football game this week that ultimately has no impact on our season.' And all we're really trying to do is get through the crisis healthy without rusting. It's a really strange way of thinking.
“So whether you can look at it like that, that we had a two-week break, most of the players had a similar situation. Could there be a bit of rust? I don't know, maybe. I think just playoff atmosphere, being back out there. “With those guys, it just took a couple of rides to get going and we finally got it done.”
San Francisco came out of Levi's Stadium with a 24-21 win on Saturday, but the road to victory wasn't pretty. All three phases of the 49ers game appeared to be out of sync, with rainy weather conditions clearly being a reason why.
Second-year quarterback Brock Purdy wasn't having his best performance, to say the least, but when it mattered most, he led a game-winning drive and gave San Francisco the lead late in the fourth quarter. The 24-year-old finished Saturday's win over Green Bay completing 23 of 29 passes for 252 yards, a touchdown and 14 rushing yards.
Kittle finished the game with four receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. And in the end, despite the slow start, the 49ers made it to the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time in five seasons.
But the 49ers better hope the rust is completely shaken off as they prepare to welcome Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions on Sunday with a trip to Super Bowl LVIII on the line.
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