The sky continues to fall for the San Francisco 49ers. Heading into their Week 9 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers continued to be decimated by injuries. San Francisco mustered a couple of garbage-time touchdowns Thursday night, but this game was all Packers from start to finish in a 34-17 walkover.
Earlier this week, both QB Jimmy Garoppolo and TE George Kittle were announced to have sustained big injuries, possibly season-ending. For Garoppolo, another high-ankle sprain to the same ankle he injured earlier in the season. For Kittle, a foot fracture that will likely keep him out two months.
As if those injuries were not crippling enough, the team suffered more bad luck. A positive coronavirus test for WR Kendrick Bourne resulted in the addition of Bourne, WR Deebo Samuel, WR Brandon Aiyuk, and OT Trent Williams on the Covid-19 List.
After the game Thursday, 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan discussed what the day leading up to the game was like after hearing about Bourne’s false positive:
“We found out when we came in, i got told Wednesday morning. We got in and then we focused on clearing out the building because we had to shut everyone down once we found out about [Kendrick Bourne]. I did everything from [home], i went back into my office that was set up from the draft and did all of the red zone stuff. I was at least able to meet with the guys through zoom and everything like we did in the offseason. We didn’t find out about [Brandon Aiyuk] and [Trent Williams] until after those meetings. We were allowed to come back here last night and walk through the red zone. We just had to do a bit of shuffling, there’s not enough time to change anything, it’s the night before the game.”
On game day though, news broke that Bourne’s positive test was a false-positive. Unfortunately for the 49ers (4-5), Bourne, as well as Samuel, Aiyuk and Williams were still unable to play Thursday night. Very frustrating for the 49ers who are now completely depleted on offense.
The 49ers won the coin-flip and deferred. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (6-2) began the game’s first drive from the 25-yard line. The 49ers defense, the much healthier half of the team, looked flat out of the gate.
Packers RB Aaron Jones was used heavily on the first drive of the game. Two short passes taken upfield and two rushing attempts all from Jones, moved the Packers into 49ers territory. A deep pass to Davante Adams gave the Packers a quick 7-0 lead following the extra point.
49ers QB Nick Mullens took shots through the air on the 49ers’ first drive. He did the same on their second. A pass over the middle to James was taken 43 yards upfield into Packers territory. Two running plays with Jerick McKinnon gave the 49ers a first down at the Packers 23-yard line.
They inched their way inside the 10-yard line. On 3rd-and-4 Mullens completed a pass to the corner of the end zone to River Cracraft who was just promoted from the practice squad. The initial call was ruled a touchdown, but it was overturned after the ball appeared to come loose after he hit the ground. The 49ers settled for a field goal, trailing 7-3.
After a second consecutive Packers punt, back-to-back runs with McKinnon gave the 49ers a first down. A pass to James over the middle gave the 49ers a first down in Packers territory. On 3rd-and-16, Mullens was hit as he threw, resulting in a Packers interception ran back to the 49ers 38-yard line.
The Packers picked up a quick first down, but then failed to convert on 3rd-and-8 a few plays later. On 4th-and-1, the Packers converted on a pass to Adams to the 49ers 14-yard line.
A pass interference penalty called on the 49ers gave the Packers a first down at the 1-yard line. A play-action pass to Marcedes Lewis for a touchdown gave the Packers a 14-3 lead following the extra point.
After a near-interception from Mullens and another 49ers punt, the Packers dinked and dunked their way to mid-field as the two-minute warning approached. The 49ers defense was falling apart very quickly. Rodgers fired a deep pass to the end zone. A 52-yard touchdown to Marquez Valdes-Scantling gave the Packers a 21-3 lead right before halftime.
With 1:47 left in the first half, the 49ers got the ball back. A quick three-and-out gave the Packers the ball back with 47 seconds remaining.
Newly-acquired DE Jordan Willis sacked Rodgers for a loss of 11 yards, sending this game to the half.
The 49ers received the second half kickoff. Mullens struggled immediately, almost throwing another interception. He faced constant pressure, and the 49ers were unable to move the ball. A punt to open the third quarter.
On their first drive of the second half, a 3rd-and-7 for the Packers resulted in a deep pass to Adams for 49 yards into 49ers territory. Rodgers continued to expose the 49ers defense.
Valdes-Scantling came down with his second touchdown catch of the game, a one-yard pass from Rodgers. At this point, the Packers were blowing out the 49ers 28-3.
Another stagnant drive for the 49ers offense. A first down and a personal foul penalty called on the Packers gave the 49ers a first down near mid-field before Mullens fumbled after getting hit very hard. The Packers defensive line was tormenting a 49ers offensive line that was missing its star left tackle.
On the Packers drive following the turnover, Rodgers completed a 24-yard pass to RB Tyler Ervin into 49ers territory. They were knocking on the door once again.
On the 49ers 1-yard line, Rodgers passed incomplete forcing a field goal that gave them a 31-3 lead.
The 49ers following drive consisted of another big pass to James. A 47-yard catch and run into Packers territory had the 49ers in business. At this point, James had caught five passes for 119 receiving yards. The lone bright spot.
Shanahan discussed James breakout game against the Packers, and how impressed he was that he even played coming off an ankle injury:
“I think the most impressive thing with Richie [James] was that on Monday we were told he had a fifty-percent chance of playing, because he was coming off an ankle injury, he wasn’t able to go last week…I was just thankful to have him. He got a lot of opportunities tonight, but before the game i told him that regardless of what happens, i know that he’s going in a bit beat up, i know he didn’t get to practice this stuff. He knew a lot of pressure was on him because he knew what the game plan was, he knew he was going to have those opportunities, i was just happy that he was able to get out there and make it through the game and do a really good job when we came to him. I have a lot of confidence in Richie, and i hope these three days away he heals up more.
Thankfully for the 49ers, the third quarter came to an end. On 4th-and-1 inside the 5-yard line, Mullens dove up the middle for no gain. A promising drive ended on a turnover on downs. Packers ball.
Rodgers completed another deep pass to Adams, this time for 34 yards into 49ers territory. Fortunately for the 49ers, there wouldn’t be more humiliation on this drive. The Packers were forced to kick another field goal, extending their lead to 34-3.
With 6:15 remaining, the 49ers (and the Packers) looked to wrap this game up. The 49ers following drive began at their own 20-yard line.
Mullens completed a pass to TE Ross Dwelley who ran for 36 yards into Packer territory. Another big chunk play gave the 49ers their first touchdown of the game. A deep pass to a wide-open James for a 41-yard touchdown cut the Packers lead to 34-10.
James discussed being thrust into the 49ers game plan on short notice:
“It was kind of hard, but i was prepared for it. I’m always looking at the situation like ‘if anyone goes down, just be ready as much as possible.’ But it was definitely a hard situation, but i made it work as much as possible.”
James was having a career game with 7 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown.
With five minutes remaining, the Packers removed some of their starters, including Rodgers. On 3rd-and-8, the 49ers defense forced a three-and-out. The 49ers looked to close the gap.
A pass to McKinnon, James and Hasty had the 49ers in Packers territory. The Packers defense was called for 15-yard penalty after a defender lowered his head to initiate contact. The 49ers had a first down from the Packers 20-yard line.
A few plays later, from the Packers 1-yard line, McKinnon scored another 49ers touchdown, cutting the Packers lead to 34-17.
The Packers took over with four seconds remaining and ended the Thursday night blowout.
Shanahan expressed confidence in the teams chances moving forward:
“Hopefully we get some guys back here moving forward, im really looking forward to these three days off for our players, i think its something thats needed pretty bad for us. Then we got New Orleans after that. We only have one game in the next 24 days, so hopefully we can take three off, take care of business versus New Orleans, get back on track and enjoy our bye week, and then come back and try to turn this around in the second half. It’s still early in the year, and i know we still have a chance to get in that tournament at the end of the year.”
Following the 49ers loss to the Packers in Week 9, San Francisco travels to New Orleans to face the Saints as they progress through the toughest part of their schedule.