Sunday nights NFC showdown in Santa Clara, California was supposed to provide a measuring stick for both the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. It did just that, but it wasn’t the result the Packers or their fans had hoped for.
The 49ers put up a statement as they pummeled the Packers 37-8. Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 253 yards and two scores as San Francisco improved to 10-1.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers felt the 49ers defensive pressure and was sacked five times. He threw for just 104 yards and a touchdown, one of the worst performances of his career.
There’s a lot to be concerned about for the Packers. First and foremost, they were the healthy team with a bye week of rest. The 49ers were just the opposite but you wouldn’t have known by watching Sunday night’s onslaught. The 49ers were clearly the more physical team.
The Packers held a big time of possession advantage, 35:16 to 24:44, but the 49ers had a large advantage in total net yards, 339 to 198. And the Packers season long pattern of struggling to convert on third downs. The Packers entered the week ranked 19th on third down with a 37.2 percent success rate. Sunday night, the Packers went 1 for 15 on third downs, 0 for 13 while starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers was still in the game.
Rodgers lost a fumble on the opening drive and the 49ers recovered at the Green Bay 2-yard line. Tevin Coleman ran it in on the very next play to give San Francisco a 7-0 lead.
Back-to-back field goals by San Francisco’s Chase McLaughlin made it 13-0. Then came the 49ers first big pass play, 42-yards from Garoppolo to Deebo Samuel to make it 20-0. Another failed series for the Packers was followed by a poor punt by J.K. Scott and the 49ers quickly moved back into field goal range for McLaughlin to hit from 48-yards out to make it 23-0 at halftime.
The Packers scored their only touchdown of the game in the third quarter, a two-yard pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams. Rodgers two-point conversion pass to Adams made it 23-8 and the momentum was slowly turning.
But just as fast as the Packers scored, the 49ers bounced right back, this time with a Jimmy Garoppolo 61 yard pass to George Kittle for a touchdown to make it 30-8 and the rout was on.
Kittle led the 49ers in receiving with 6 catches for 129 yards and the Packers showed their continued inability to cover tight ends over the middle. In fact, over the last five games, the Packers have allowed tight ends 500 total yards of receiving and four touchdowns.
To make matters worse, the Packers lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga with a right knee injury in the first half. According to a ESPN report, the injury isn’t believed to be a long term one. Bulaga could miss a week or two, but he’s not expected to be out long term.
Alex Light took over at right tackle in Bulaga’s place and he struggled to hold off San Francisco’s rookie Nick Bosa.
Defensively, the Packers played well enough for most of the first half, but the big plays came back into play. With the offense unable to get anything going, the defense eventually gave way as well.
Special teams continues to be a sore spot for the Packers as well. J.K. Scott punted six times for a 37.2 average and a net of 34.8. His long punt for the night was 41 yards. For the first half of the season, Scott was one of the Packers top players at his position. But he’s in a slump of late and that continued Sunday night.
Throw in the fact that punt returner Tremon Smith lost three more yards on two returns and the Packers now stand at a negative 9-yards through 10 games this season. Earlier this season, the Packers traded Trevor Davis to Oakland. There, he’s averaging 9 yards per punt return and 22.3 yards on kickoff returns.
Fortunately the Packers are coming to the soft part of their schedule, starting with the 2-win New York Giants in the Big Apple this Sunday. But their ability to have any chance at a first round playoff by and a top two-seed may rest on their Monday night match-up against the Vikings on December 23rd.