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Packers have their chances, but falter late

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Christian McCaffrey scored his second touchdown on a 6-yard run with 1:07 to play, and the San Francisco 49ers mounted their first second-half comeback of the season to beat the Green Bay Packers 24-21 in a divisional-round playoff game on Saturday night.

After spending all regular season as front-runners, the Niners (13-5) needed to come from behind for a change, and Brock Purdy and McCaffrey did just enough on the last drive to send San Francisco to its third straight NFC championship game. The Niners will host the winner of Sunday’s game between Tampa Bay and Detroit next weekend for a spot in the Super Bowl.

“Losing this game, it certainly stings, and I think it’s going to sting for a long time,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur told reporters after the game. “But I was proud of the effort of our guys.”

The Packers ended their season with an improbable second half run that figures to leave them with optimism for the 2024 season, but missed opportunities in this game will also undoubtedly haunt them as well.

Packers quarterback Jordan Love went 21-34 for 194 yards, two touchdowns but also two interceptions in the loss. Running back Aaron Jones ran for 108 yards on 18 carries.

Purdy went 6-7 for 47 yards on the decisive drive, converting a third down to Brandon Aiyuk and then a 17-yarder to Chris Conley.

McCaffrey finished it off with his run on third-and-short and the 49ers’ defense held on from there, with Dre Greenlaw intercepting Jordan Love for the second time to seal San Francisco’s fifth straight playoff win over Green Bay (10-9).

That last throw across his body was one of the few mistakes by Love, who had given the Packers the lead with two TD passes in the third quarter.

“The play broke down, I was scrambling right,” Love recalled of his last throw. “I saw Christian (Watson) over the middle and I tried to force one into him.

“I thought I could make the play, but I didn’t see the back side.”

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