San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. Alamy Stock Photo

Purdy leads 49ers past Packers, Ravens down Texans

Quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two more to leave Baltimore one win away from the Super Bowl.

THE SAN Francisco 49ers overturned a fourth-quarter deficit to beat an inspired Green Bay squad 24-21 in the NFL playoffs on Saturday, returning to the NFC Championship game for the third straight season.

In the AFC, quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two more to leave the Baltimore Ravens one win away from the Super Bowl thanks to a 34-10 home victory over the Houston Texans.

The top-seeded 49ers were staring at defeat to the seventh-seeded Packers until quarterback Brock Purdy led a 69-yard drive that culminated in Christian McCaffrey’s game-winning touchdown with just over a minute remaining.

The Green Bay Packers, who had upset the Dallas Cowboys in the first round, were left to rue two crucial errors — a missed 41-yard field goal attempt from Anders Carlsen in the fourth quarter and an interception thrown by Jordan Love on their final possession.

Purdy saved his best for last as the 49ers ended Green Bay’s dreams, with the quarterback keeping his cool throughout the crucial 12-play drive.

“It’s like calm down, go through reads, take what they give you and put this game together. We needed it. The season was on the line,” said Purdy.

San Francisco had led 7-6 at half-time thanks to a 32-yard touchdown pass from Purdy to George Kittle but Love shined in a thrilling third quarter.

First, facing intense pressure, he floated a pass to Bo Melton, wide open in the end zone, and after a 39-yard McCaffrey rushing score kept the 49ers in touch, Love connected with Tucker Kraft on a two-yard pass and a successful two-point conversion made it 21-14 Packers.

Jake Moody’s 52-yard field goal brought the ‘Niners within striking distance before Purdy’s perfectly executed drive set up the impressive McCaffrey for his second rushing score.

Green Bay had one last possession but Love’s calmness departed him at the worst moment with an ill-judged pass towards Christian Watson picked off by Dre Greenlaw to seal the victory.

The 49ers will host the winner of Sunday’s game between the Detroit Lions and the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game on 28 January.

 - Knockout blow -

NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner Jackson tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the second quarter and showcased his feared running game with a 15-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter of the Ravens’ triumph.

Jackson then delivered the knockout blow early in the fourth quarter, cleverly wrong-footing the Texans defence before hitting Isaiah Likely in the end zone for a score that left Baltimore ahead 24-10 before scampering over for his second touchdown to seal victory.

The top-seeded Ravens will host next weekend’s AFC Championship against the winner of Sunday’s clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

“This is just the first playoff game. We’re finally in the AFC championship game — we’ve still got more work to do,” said Jackson, who finished with 152 passing yards as well as 100 rushing yards.

The Texans were left reflecting on a disappointing end to a dazzling rookie season for quarterback C.J. Stroud.

The 22-year-old from California struggled to get Houston’s offence moving in the face of Baltimore’s rock-solid defence, finishing with just 175 passing yards.

Houston’s points came from a Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal in the first quarter and a 67-yard punt return from Steven Sims in the second quarter.

Justin Tucker’s 53-yard field goal kicked Baltimore into an early lead before Fairbairn answered with his own 50-yard effort.

The Ravens were rocked when Sims sliced through the Ravens’ defence for his punt return touchdown with 4:17 remaining in the second quarter as Houston equalised 10-10 at half-time.

Until Saturday, Baltimore had not been past the divisional round in five playoff appearances since the team won the 2012 NFL season crown.

But Jackson glided 15 yards into the end zone to cap the opening drive of the third quarter for a 17-10 Ravens lead and marched the team 93 yards upfield on a 12-play drive that ended with Likely’s touchdown.

Jackson capped a superb individual performance with his second touchdown after another long drive, his eight-yard run making it 31-10 and Tucker added a late 43-yard field goal.

– © AFP 2024

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