SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the tone was set for the 49ers 37-20 punishing of the Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game at Levi’s Stadium — a resounding victory that sends them to a delicious Super Bowl 2020 showdown against the Chiefs.
It could have been Nov. 24, when the 49ers tore apart the Packers 37-8 in a Week 12 meeting at Levi’s Stadium.
It could have been this past week when the Packers watched film of that game and realized they would be no match for the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the rematch.
It could have been when the Packers exited the team buses Sunday and trudged into the visiting locker room to prepare for their impending execution.
It could have been the sight of former 49ers legends Steve Young and Jerry Rice kibitzing with current 49ers players on the field during warm-ups, with Rice at one point breaking into a 100-yard dash, from one goal line to the other, while wearing a suit — stirring the home fans into a pregame frenzy.
It could have been the 36-yard scoring run by Raheem Mostert (29-220 yards and four TDs in the game) — the first of his four rushing touchdowns — on a third-and-8 play that gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead they’d never relinquish.
It could have been Nick Bosa’s 13-yard sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the ensuing Green Bay possession.
It could have been the 54-yard field goal 49ers kicker Robbie Gould nailed true though the center cut of the uprights for a 10-0 lead after Gould had been 0-for-4 on field-goal attempts of 50 or more yards this season entering the game.
It could have been the 15-yard sack of Rodgers and forced fumble by 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams ending the ensuing possession after the Gould field goal.
It could have been the six-play, 37-yard 49ers drive, during which they ran the ball on all six plays, to take a 17-0 lead on the Mostert’s second TD, this one from 9 yards out with 9:12 remaining in the first half.
It could have been the fumbled snap exchange between Packers center Corey Linsley and Rodgers that was recovered by 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner with 5:39 remaining in the first half.
It could have been the 34-yard run by Mostert two plays after the Packers turnover.
It could have been Gould’s 27-yard field goal that gave the 49ers a 20-0 lead with 1:57 remaining in the first half.
It could have been Packers kick returner Tyler Ervin fumbling and recovering the ensuing kickoff and leaving Green Bay with possession of the ball on its own 8-yard line with 1:51 remaining in the first half.
It could have been 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley picking off a Rodgers pass and giving San Francisco the ball on the Green Bay 30-yard line with 1:01 remaining in the first half.
It could have been Mostert’s 18-yard scoring run — his third TD of the game — that gave the 49ers a stunning 27-0 lead at the half.
Chances are, the answer to the above question is all of the above.
The game was effectively over by halftime.
By the time it was officially over, Mostert finished with 220 yards and four TDs on 29 carries.
Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers quarterback, might as well have taken a seat in the stands with family and friends for the game, because he was a spectator.
One week after the San Francisco running game gashed the Vikings for 186 yards on 47 carries, Garoppolo was not needed Sunday. He threw the ball six times in the first half, completing four for 48 yards.
And Garoppolo did not throw his first pass of the second half until eight minutes remained in the game — a 19-yard completion to tight end George Kittle one play after the Packers cut the lead to 34-20 with 8:13 remaining.
The Packers scored on the opening possession of the second half, on a 9-yard Rodgers scoring pass to Aaron Jones to cut the 49ers lead to 27-7.
The 49ers’ response?
A seven-play, 79-yard drive — on which they ran the ball on all seven plays — that ended in a 22-yard Mostert TD, his fourth of the game, for a 34-7 lead.
At that point, with 4:49 still remaining in the third quarter, the 49ers had run the ball 29 times for 264 yards and passed it six times for 48 yards.
The 49ers are now 15-3 this season and seeking their first Super Bowl title since 1994.