SANTA CLARA, Calif. —Coach Kyle Shanahan received the NFC championship trophy from his Super Bowl-winning father Mike and raised it to the sky.
The San Francisco 49ers have gone on a surprising journey from No. 2 pick in the draft to one of the last two teams standing. They have one of the most unlikely playoff heroes to thank for it.
Journeyman 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.
“I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers,” said Mostert, who has been cut seven times in his career. “Now I get to actually tell them, ‘Look where I’m at now.’ I never gave up on my dreams.”
The Niners (15-3) also had their skeptics after winning just 10 games in the first two seasons under Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
But they put pieces and systems in place during those rough two seasons and now have advanced to the franchise’s first Super Bowl in seven years. The Niners will play the Kansas City Chiefs in two weeks in Miami when Shanahan tries to join his father as coaching champions.
After giving 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.
Cincinnati did it in 1988 and the Rams in 1999, with the Rams the only team to go from four wins to a championship in one year.
“It’s still kind of surreal,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “With the stuff this team has gone through, this organization, it’s special. Its the pinnacle of football right here.”
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 carried the ball only eight times in his first three seasons in the NFL while bouncing between teams.
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.
This will be the 49ers’ seventh appearance in the Super Bowl.