Facing a historically difficult three-game stretch, the 49ers (10-1) utterly dominated Green Bay Sunday night, shutting down the potent Packers offense early and often en route to 38-9 thumping of a fellow NFC playoff contender.
The 49ers defense recorded five sacks on Aaron Rodgers , while Jimmy Garoppolo (14-for-20, 253 yards, 2 TD) and the 49ers offense welcomed back George Kittle (6 rec, 129 yards, 1 TD) in a big way. A blowout win at home on a national stage lifted the 49ers to an NFL-best 10-1 on the season.
Upcoming matchups against the Baltimore Ravens (8-2) and New Orleans Saints (9-2) will complete the toughest three-game stretch this late in the season in NFL history. The 49ers playoff seeding will likely come down to these three games, all against elite teams.
Prior to Sunday night, the 49ers announced their inactives for the game, which featured one surprising name. Throughout the past few games, both Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis had barely seen the field. Sunday night, one of the two receivers would not suit up.
Rodgers and the Green Bay offense took the field first Sunday night after the 49ers won the coin toss and deferred. An immediate Packers 3rd-and-10 resulted in a sack of Rodgers, and a fumble forced by Fred Warner and recovered by Nick Bosa.
Warner, who had a monster game Sunday night, broke down the fumble on the Packers first drive of the game:
“Yeah, that was kind of just a crazy play. It was just, we had pressure on. It was effort. I just kept going. I got blocked at first and then I saw him kind of scrambling, so i just kept going, kept going. Finally got to him and kind of just, I saw him holding the ball close to his chest, so I just went after it. Nick [Bosa] picked it up so I’m thinking we have a chance at a touchdown. Afterwards I saw Nick’s little graphic showing up on the big screen and I’m like ‘So, did I get it or not?’ It was funny.”
The 49ers took over already inside the Packers 10-yard line. One handoff to Tevin Coleman got the job done, and the 49eers jumped out to a very early 7-0 lead.
The 49ers defense forced a punt from Rodgers and the Packers offense on the second drive following the fumble. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense took over on the 38-yard line and immediately converted after an eight-yard pass to Deebo Samuel and a 15-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders over the middle. Just barely into Packers territory, the 49ers drive stalled, resulting in a punt.
Another Packers drive, another punt. The 49ers defense through three drives absolutely shut down the future Hall of Fame quarterback and the Packers offense.
The 49ers began their drive near midfield and moved quickly into the red zone after a hands-to-the-face penalty on the Packers defense and a 25-yard rush by Jeff Wilson. An incomplete third-down pass from Garoppolo would set up a 49ers field goal attempt. Chase McLaughlin was good from 29-yards, and the 49ers had a 10-0 lead.
Green Bay made their first trip into 49ers territory to open the second quarter. Faced with a 4th-and-1 from the 49ers 28-yard line, they failed to convert, turning the ball over on downs, a perfect example of the bend-don’t-break style of defense the 49ers are so good at.
Offensively, the 49ers were unable to do much at all after the immediate touchdown to open the game. Garoppolo was constantly under pressure, and it led to four straight punts. The Packers defensive line, led by Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, was proving to be a big problem for Garoppolo and the 49ers offensive line.
The man of the hour got things going for the 49ers on their next drive. George Kittle caught an 18-yard pass to move the 49ers into Packers territory. The very next play, Kittle again, for 22 yards.
A run by Coleman gave the 49ers another red zone opportunity. Pressured once more, Garoppolo was able to dump a pass off to Coleman, giving the 49ers a 3rd-and-2. An incomplete pass led to another failed red zone appearance, and another McLaughlin field goal.
With less than three minutes remaining in the first half, and the Packers got the ball back down 13-0. Would you be surprised if the 49ers defense forced another punt? Well, they did, and the 49ers got one last crack at scoring before the half.
Raheem Mostert was the backup to Coleman Sunday night with Matt Breida nursing an ankle injury. On the very first play of the 49ers next drive, Mostert took a handoff 15 yards into Packers territory. Two plays later, the 49ers extended their lead in a big way. A 42-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Samuel gave the 49ers a 20-0 lead with 51 seconds left in the half.
It seemed as if there was no hope for the Packers on offense. Their possession after the 49ers touchdown ended on a Bosa sack of Rodgers, and with 33 seconds left, the 49ers put away a dominating first half of football.
Garoppolo completed one pass over the middle to Kittle, and the 49ers were once again in Packers territory. With four seconds remaining, the 49ers went up 23-0 on McLaughlin’s third field goal.
Rodgers and the Packers got to midfield on their first drive of the third quarter. A 2nd-and-6 resulted in a Rodgers sack by Arik Armstead, his second of the game and 10th of the season. With 4th-and-4, the Packers converted a dump-off pass to Jamaal Willimas into 49er territory. Just outside the red zone, the Packers offense was beginning to heat up. A few plays later, a face mask penalty on Dre Greenlaw moved the Packers down to the 49ers 11-yard line.
3rd-and-8 for the Packers resulted in a five-yard scramble by Rodgers, and an unnecessary roughness penalty on the 49ers. A new set of downs for the Packers resulted in their first score of the game. A two-yard pitch from Rodgers to Davante Adams resulted in a Packers touchdown. The Packers followed by going for two and converting on another pass to Adams. With 3:52 left in the third quarter, the 49ers now led 23-8.
Garoppolo and the 49ers began their next drive with a 14-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne. One play later, the 49ers busted through the Packers secondary when Garoppolo found Kittle wide open deep downfield for a 61-yard touchdown reception. After two plays and 75 yards, the 49ers extended their lead to 30-8.
The 61-yard touchdown pass to Kittle was nothing new for the 49ers offense. Kyle Shanahan expected a big gain on that play, as it was one that the offense practices a lot throughout the week. They practice it so much, that Kittle was often exhausted from running so far downfield.
Rodgers and the Packers marched to midfield after the big 49ers touchdown. Green Bay went for it on 4th-and-10, and a 49ers pass interference handed the Packers a new set of downs. A few plays later, a Packers 4th-and-8 resulted in Jaquiski Tartt and Armstead combining on the fifth sack of Rodgers.
Armstead is having himself a career year. Reaching double-digit sacks for the first time in his career, things are finally starting to click for the fifth-year defensive lineman. Armstead discussed post-game what it was like to sack Rodgers, a Hall of Fame quarterback, five times as a defensive unit:
“It is great. Going into this game we knew that it was going to come down to that. To first stop the run and then get after him and put them in bad situations, we were able to do that tonight. I am so proud of my teamamtes, so proud of everyone especially my D-linemen and the rest of the defense on how we played tonight.”
Into the fourth quarter, Garoppolo and the 49ers aimed to milk the clock. With just over five minutes remaining, A 15-yard Mostert run up the middle put this game away, giving them a 37-8 lead.
What was expected to be an electric back-and-forth ended up being a demolition job by the 49ers. The defense returned to its dominant and downright smothering form, while Garoppolo and the offense benefitted from the return of Kittle.
After the 49ers thumping of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, the team sets off on a very, very difficult two-game road trip. Next Sunday the 49ers take on Lamar Jackson and the host Baltimore Ravens (8-2). As one of the front-runners for MVP, Jackson will be yet another tough test for the 49ers defense. The team has struggled a bit against mobile quarterbacks like Jackson, and it may be another exhausting game on defense.
- Despite the 10-1 record, there has been plenty of criticism surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo this season. Warranted or not, Richard Sherman is tired of hearing about it.
- The 49ers defense has faced some of the most elusive quarterbacks in the league. Next week? They have Lamar Jackson, who is the most elusive quarterback, hands down. The 49ers defense is already focused on their next test.
- Finally! After eleven games this season, the 49ers escape with no injuries. It’s almost a miracle at this point, given the unfortunate luck they’ve had this season. Heading into two very tough road games, the 49ers will need to continue to get even healthier on both sides of the ball.
- One factor that allows George Kittle to have the success he does, is the run game on offense. After the game, Kittle talked about the importance of the 49ers run game, and how it sets up big plays like the one he had tonight:
“Oh, 100-percent. Yeah, the run game is the only reasons those plays work because when you’re in 13-personnel with three tight ends, most of the time you’re going to run the ball. You’re not going to have a tight end run a corner-post for a deep ball for 61-yards. So, our run game is definitely the reasons that i get open on those plays.”
- Jimmy Garoppolo played very well Sunday night. Kyle Shanahan gave his evaluation of his quarterback after the game:
“I thought Jimmy was great. I thought we did very well in the run and the pass game. The opportunities that he had in the pass game, from what i can think back to, seemed pretty flawless. I think he protected the ball, weren’t close to any picks. I thought he protected the ball when they did get there in pass rush and made some big plays when he had to.”
- After the game, Shanahan described Kittle’s pair of injuries in-depth and explained why he was in so much pain, and how he was still able to play.