The San Francisco 49ers lost their home opener for to the Green Bay Packers 30-28. For the second week in a row the 49ers offense couldn’t get in gear until the end of the first half, but unlike last week when they were able to come back against Philadelphia, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense made them pay. By the time San Francisco scored at the end of the first half they were already down 17-0.
A spirited second half comeback would see Jimmy Garoppolo hit Kyle Jusczcyk for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers a 28-27 lead with only 37 seconds remaining.
The lead was short lived however as Rodgers would twice find Davante Adams over the middle of the field to set up Packer’s kicker Mason Crosby for a 51-yard field goal attempt. Crosby would nail the kick to win the game for Green Bay.
Let’s take a look at the answers to the burning questions that I asked on Saturday to see how this game slipped away from the 49ers.
1. Will the 49ers run defense improve? YES and NO
Run defense had been an issue for the 49ers in each of the first to games this season and Sunday night was more of the same. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined to gain 100 yards on 25 carries, including a touchdown by Jones and 8 attempts which gained five or more yards.
San Francisco was able to balance out some of the big runs with stops for short gains or losses, but things play out a little differently when facing a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers.
2. Can the 49ers defense contain Aaron Rodgers? NO
Despite Green Bay being down to their third option at left tackle, San Francisco could not generate any pass rush. Rodgers dropped back to pass 34 times in the game and the 49ers defense was able to hit him only twice.
Rodgers would finish the game 23-33 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers quarterback took a number of deep shots with three resulting in defensive pass interference giving the Packer another 81 yards.
The Packers quarterback routinely got the ball out of his hands quickly to help negate the pass rush and with the game on the line he showed how why he is among the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Down by two with no timeouts and only 37 seconds left to play Rodgers hit Davante Adams deep over the middle of the field for a 25-yard gain to get the ball out to the 50-yard line. Three plays later, facing third and ten, Rodgers would again find Adams near the left hash for 17 yards to set up the game winning field goal.
The San Francisco defense has been living by bending without breaking which works against quarterbacks like Jared Goff and Jalen Hurts. Rodgers exposed them throughout this game with a lot of help from Davante Adams.
3. Who will be running the ball for San Francisco? Trey Sermon and a host of others
The 49ers had four running backs active for the game, but Trey Sermon was the only one that played on offense. San Francisco used Sermon, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Trey Lance and Deebo Samuel to run the ball, and for the most part it didn’t work as they would finish the night with only 67 yards on 21 carries. The 49ers are not going to win many games with 45 call pass plays and only 20 call running plays.
4. Can Jimmy Garoppolo keep winning on Sunday night? NO
For the first time in his career Jimmy Garoppolo lost a start on Sunday night football.
The “Jimmy Garoppolo Experience” was on full display in this game. As I mentioned last week, watching Garoppolo can be maddening. Throughout much of the first half the 49ers offense looked like it was trying to run uphill in the rain.
The 49ers were able to achieve a first down on their opening possession of the game, but after that they were stuck sliding back down that wet hill. On their first three possessions of the game the San Francisco offense ran nine plays, the same number as the first three possessions last week in Philadelphia.
It was on the third possession of the game that Jimmy Garoppolo would throw his first interception of the season. On first down, Garoppolo would try to hit George Kittle deep down the middle of the field but Jaire Alexander would step in front of the tight end to take the ball away.
As bad as the interception was, the big play that went against San Francisco came with just over five minutes left to play. With the ball on the Green Bay 44-yard line Garoppolo would be pressured on a screen pass, and instead of taking the sack he would try to throw the ball away. This sounds like a good idea except he threw the ball backwards and it was recovered by the Packers at the 49ers 38 yard line. Green Bay would convert this turnover into a FG. Those three points would prove to be pivotal at the end of the game.
On the next possession Garoppolo would lead the offense on a 75-yard touchdown drive, culminating when he hit Kyle Juszczyk for a 12-yard touchdown pass. The key play on the drive was a completion from Garoppolo to George Kittle over the middle of the field for a 39-yard catch and run.
Overall Garoppolo would finish the night 25-40, 257 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and one backwards pass.
5. Will Trey Lance get into the game? YES
The rookie quarterback made his presence felt on his first play of the game. With only seconds remaining in the first half and no timeouts, Lance took the shotgun snap and outran the Packers defense on a quarterback sweep. The play was a gutsy call from Kyle Shanahan because the 49ers had no timeouts remaining.
49ers 30 Packers 24