SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — From No. 2 pick in the draft to one of the last two teams standing.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers.
Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns to make quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo mostly a spectator, Nick Bosa harassed Aaron Rodgers from the start and the 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 37-20 for the NFC championship on Sunday.
The 49ers (15-3) advanced to their first Super Bowl in seven years and will play the Kansas City Chiefs in two weeks in Miami for the championship.
The Niners won just 10 games in the first two seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, going 4-12 last season after Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
Now, San Francisco is one of two teams remaining after delivering a second thorough beating of the season to Rodgers and the Packers (14-4). The 49ers are the third team to make it to the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games, joining Cincinnati (1988) and the Rams (1999).
Bosa, the prize for last year’s rough season as the No. 2 overall pick, helped set the tone when he ended Green Bay’s second drive of the game with a 13-yard sack of Rodgers.
Mostert, a former special teams standout, did much of the rest in a remarkable redemption story for a former surfer who was cut seven times and carried the ball only eight times in his first three seasons in the NFL.
But he has become a key part of the NFC’s top team this year, leading the Niners with 772 yards rushing in the regular season and delivering a performance for the ages in the NFC title game.
He had the second-most yards rushing in a playoff game to Eric Dickerson’s 248 for the Rams on Jan. 4, 1986, and was the first player to rush for at least four TDs and 200 yards in a playoff game.
He got started when he burst 36 yards on a third-and-8 trap play to open the scoring on San Francisco’s second drive and kept ripping off long runs behind impressive blocking.
He added TD runs of 9 and 18 yards in the second quarter and had 160 yards rushing at the half, becoming the only player in NFL history to rush for at least 150 yards and three TDs in the first half of a playoff game.
Mostert added a 22-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Rodgers and the Packers were unable to match that performance as they got overwhelmed by San Francisco’s dominant front for a second time this season.
Rodgers had a career-low 3.15 yards per attempt in a 37-8 loss here back in November and wasn’t much better in the first half of the rematch.
He lost a snap from center to end Green Bay’s only promising drive of the half, threw an interception to Emmanuel Moseley late in the half and didn’t convert his first third down of the season against the Niners until connecting on a 6-yard pass to Aaron Jones on the opening drive of the second quarter for his first third-down conversion in 18 attempts this season against the Niners.
Rodgers capped that drive with a 9-yard TD pass to Jones, but the game was too far out of hand by that point.
He led Green Bay to two more TDs and finished with 326 yards passing, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Packers lost the NFC title game for the third time since their last Super Bowl trip following the 2010 season.
The Niners asked very little of Garoppolo, who threw only eight passes thanks to the big-play running game and lopsided score. He went 24 minutes of game time between his sixth and seventh passes and finished with six completions for 77 yards.
Rodgers’ two TD passes gave him 40 in his playoff career, breaking Brett Favre’s franchise record of 39. Rodgers also has seven straight playoff games with at least two TD throws, one shy of Joe Flacco’s record.
Packers: S Adrian Amos left after injuring his pectoral muscle in the first half. … CB Jaire Alexander left in the second half with a thumb injury.
49ers: RB Tevin Coleman left in the first half with a shoulder injury.
49ers: The team’s seventh appearance in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.