Stick to baseball. Sunday night’s Packer- 49er game turned into a game for the ages. It had a bit of everything. Fantastic plays executed to perfection. Blunders and failed strategy. Four sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception by the defense. Questionable calls by the officials on both sides, enough to get every fan screaming at their TV, computer, or iPad. Eight first downs in the game came from penalties, three for the Packers and five for the 49ers. The Packers were flagged for seven penalties for 87 yards. San Jose had four flagged penalties for 86 yards. If you are a Packer fan, the calls and non-calls seemed to go against the Green and Gold at crucial times, adding to the nail biting. Yet in the end, on the road, trailing by one point with 37 seconds left on the clock, facing first and ten at their own 25 yard line, Aaron Rodgers and company awed a national audience. Mason Crosby’s 3-3 night was capped off with the 51 yard game winner as time expired.
If you are a Packer fan full of angst over the special teams kickoff coverage, the referees and the questionable decision to go for it on fourth down at the three yard line when up ten; let it go. Enjoy this victory. It was hard fought. There were plays on both the offense and defense that were impressive.
The Packers had to overcome an injury to Kris Barnes and scary hits to Davante Adams and Chandon Sullivan. The Packers started the game without their two best offensive lineman, David Bakhtiari and Elton Jenkins. Their best pass rusher, Za’Darius Smith, is also sidelined. They started an offensive line that had little NFL starting experience. From left tackle to right guard the Packers starters had the following NFL starting game experience prior to this game. Yosh Nijman: zero; Jon Runyan: one; Josh Meyers: two; Royce Newman: two. This group, I dub them, “The Newbies” faced one of the most feared defensive front sevens in the NFL. It wasn’t perfect, but they should be proud of this victory. They battled, they allowed Rodgers to stay clean almost the whole game. Let’s be honest, Packer fans who saw the starting lineup pregame and predicted this win were too inebriated to read the lineup card. Did any fan look at that fledgling o-line and predict they would give up only one sack for 8 yards? If you now are claiming clairvoyance like that you better have said it out loud and can name the person who heard you because most of us had visions of Rodgers on a stretcher.
Then the game started. The Pack started fast and were ahead 17-0 until the kickoff team gave up a 68 yard return that ended with a Crosby push out of bounds at the GB 32. This began a momentum change that allowed the 49ers to score two touchdowns in the next 8 minutes and twenty seconds of the second and third quarters. The Pack increased their lead to ten points on a ten play, 86 yard, touchdown drive ending with a nice TD route and catch by Marquez Valdez-Scantling. They held onto their lead until late in the fourth quarter. Then Aaron, Davante and the “Newbies” pulled out a miracle. MVS had a nice game. Three receptions for 59 yards and a TD. Lazard opened the game with a great catch and sold a PI call later to keep a drive going. But this night belonged to Davante Adams. Twelve catches for 132 yards, one TD and two crucial catches after being targeted in the head by 49er Jimmy Ward. Adams was laid out for over two minutes. Flashes of previous hits that Adams has taken ran through Packer fans’ minds. He seemed to lay on the turf for an eternity and the first TV shot of someone trying to manipulate his neck was sickening. For that man to get up and return to make the clutch catches that set up Mason Crosby’s winning field goal just added to the magic of this win for coach LaFleur and the Packers.
On defense, Rashan Gary stepped up his play even if the stats don’t show it. The entire defensive line seemed to rise to the challenge. Garoppolo had pressure on a regular basis. His fumble will go down in the stat book as unforced, but it was Kenny Clark in his face that caused the turnover. Rookie Eric Stokes took over at corner and played like a rookie with real promise. One flag seemed questionable on the replay and he did have one pass defensed.
Garoppolo had some nice passes but made just enough bad plays to justify the 49ers failed attempt to cast him off for Rodgers and then draft Trey Lance to replace him. His line: 25-40, 257 yards, an interception and a fumble lost. His QB rating was 87.2. Rodgers QB rating was 113.3. Tonight, 113.3 was the lucky number. The Packers, behind “The Newbies” out rushed the 49ers 100 yards to 67 yards. LaFleur and Rodgers stuck to the run even though it was slow going in the first quarter. Then, as the game wore on the the defense from San Jose wore down, and holes began to open for Jones. (19 carries for 82 yards, a 4.3 average) A.J. Dillon had six carries for 18 yards and two catches for 8 yards.
The Packers now lead the North with a record of 2-1. Enjoy this week Packer fans, next up: the Steelers at Lambeau.