Although the 49ers dominating the Packers in the divisional round would have been easier on the heart, here's why the ugly 24-21 victory only benefits San Francisco.
The San Francisco 49ers played arguably their fourth or fifth worst game of the entire season in the divisional round of the playoffs against the visiting (and seventh-seeded) Green Bay Packers.
The Niners offense amassed a total of just one touchdown in the first half, their defense allowed three straight red-zone trips in that same first half, they had back-breaking pass interferences, and they were down by more than five points entering the fourth quarter.
It is rare for the 49ers to be the worst team on the field this year, but just watching the game, the Packers looked like the No. 1 overall seed between the two teams instead of San Francisco, which was the top seed and should have been well-rested after a first-round bye.
But, despite all that, the 49ers won their playoff game by a score of 24-21, coming from behind and earning the right to host the Detroit Lions for a shot at the Super Bowl.
In the aftermath of their victory, head coach Kyle Shanahan described the game his team just played (h/t 49ersWebzone):
""I thought that was as big of a mental challenge and just a character game as any game I've been a part of. I mean, when things aren't going how you want on offense, defense, special teams, the rain, guys slipping a lot, losing [WR] Deebo [Samuel] early, having to change some things with that, and just some of the mistakes we made [and had] to overcome. It was a gut check for everybody, and I couldn't be more proud of the people in there and just how they persevered.""- Kyle Shanahan
it was a "character" game, one the Niners have often lost this year.
Just this season, kickerJake Moody missed a field goal against the Cleveland Browns that could have stolen a road victory in the rain, quarterback Brock Purdy threw two interceptions on back-to-back drives to doom San Francisco in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings a week later, and backup quarterback Sam Darnold failed to resuscitate the 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day.
In perhaps the most glaring stat from Shanahan's tenure, the Niners were 0-30 when trailing by five or more points...
Until this game.
Why an ugly victory over Packers benefits the 49ers
In the quote before the one mentioned, Shanahan noted the desire for his team to always play their best football. Obviously, winning against the Packers 56-0 would have been ideal. But, things do not always go according to plan.
The one knock on the 49ers this year, if there has been one, was the fragility of their dominance. One player injured, one weather condition a little off, one week too many without rest, or even one bad play, and the team seemed to falter, not always able to pick themselves up.
As the playoffs continue, things will always go wrong. Better teams await with the ability to go punch for punch.
But the Niners took the Packers' best shot, and they came out on top.
That type of experience cannot be manufactured. Teams need to face these challenges and know they can overcome them. The 49ers got the monkey off their back, and since the only thing that matters in the playoffs is a victory, getting that experience will prove valuable in the next two games to follow.