49ers lose to Packers on final play; 5 burning questions answered

San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle is hit by Green Bay Packers’ Krys Barnes during their game in Santa Clara on Sunday, September 26, 2021. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

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

This article has 29 Comments

  1. Good write up Jack.
    Other than the obvious, Good Jimmy, bad Jimmy, and there’s no excuse for giving up a game winning drive with 37 seconds and no timeouts, these were the things I found most troubling.

    1. SF was beaten in the trenches on both sides of the ball, by an already unimpressive unit, missing their best Dlineman and Olineman. That is huge cause for concern considering the sledding will get much worse from here on out.

    2. Kyle, is an aggressive play caller that is situationally timid. In a game were the D was struggling to get off the field and offense was not consistently moving the ball sometimes you need to go for it on 4th down. I don’t want to jump the shark with this but it bears watching, and it appears to be a trend at this point. I would like for such an offensive mind to have a bit more faith in his ability to get 1 yard.

    3. This kind of ties in to point 1, but the running game has not been particularly good. While, I am not a fan of a 2 qb system if you can’t get the edge and you can’t get much push then you might need to rotate in Lance more often to help freeze the ends. Lets hope this was more of a Sermon issue and the return of Wilson and Mitchell will resolve it.

  2. Good writeup Jack. Right now the team is average on offense and below average on defense. They look like the 3rd best team in the division after 3 weeks. It is so frustrating to watch Jimmy G continue with the same footwork problems week after week. I don’t really have a problem with the pick. Good play design. Give the playmaker a chance to make a play but the Packers covered it. My issue with Jimmy continues to be his absolutely awful footwork on many plays. There was one play where he was set up to throw to his left and ended up throwing to his right without realigning his base causing the pass to be inaccurate and incomplete. I think the broadcasters actually spoke about that play. That example was one of many of the exact same issue. I’m sure that drives Shanahan crazy as well. Probably the most concerning thing to me is for the 3rd straight game it looks like the 49ers o-line and d-line were outplayed. That does not bode well for the season. Lastly, I just don’t understand the end of game defense. I get that you want to play a deep shell but leaving the best WR running free through a prevent defense for one of the best QBs to hit him like he’s throwing warmup passes on air makes no sense to me. Robert Saleh was able to grow into his role on a bad team no one expected to win. Demeco Ryans does not have that luxury. Demeco needs to be better.

  3. Jack, at what point do you think we will see Trey play more or start if we loose to Seattle ? It might appear we might not be as good as we thought and might as well get Trey some game experience?

  4. It appears the Niners aren’t as good as I thought they would be. Hopefully they will gel more as the season progresses. I don’t understand all the angst over the quarterback. He’s not the problem. Could he better. Of course and hopefully he will improve as the season goes on. The real issue in my mind are the O and D lines. It’s darn hard to win if you aren’t winning the line of scrimmage.

    1. Jimmy wasn’t covering Davante Adams last night and didn’t give up 100 yards in PI penalties.

      1. BOOM! People want to scapegoat, and its Jimmy, Kyle and John. Thats it and thats all.

        Also, GB was the 2nd team in the NFC Champ games last 2 seasons…Hello People! They’re good.

        Why are people acting like they lost to the Jags, Texans or Jets??

  5. Bitter loss.
    1. We need to fix the RB situation ASAP. As the “lead” back , Sermon was 10-31 or a 3.1 YPA. We need Mitchell back. Let’s see what Cannon can do as a change of pace back. I’m really looking forward to the return of Hasty and Jeff Wilson Jr. Our running game and play action sets up our passing game.
    2. We need to fix the CB situation ASAP. Johnson is a liability and everyone knows it expect Shanahan. He is worse than Witherspoon. We have some difficult QB WR matchups in the very near future.
    3. I watched and rewatched Jimmy’s fumble and still cant make sense of it. Either throw the ball out of bounds or take the sack. Jimmy is limited with his abilities. He puts our offense in a 15 yard from scrimmage box.
    4. Sanu is a good receiver. He should get at lease 5 targets per game.
    5. Activate Dre Kirkpatrick.
    6. Pass rush was non existent. Rodgers had all day.
    7. Twitter image below is what our coverage looked like on GBs final play before the field goal. WTF???
    8. Bottom line – if we are going to be a playoff team, we can’t let the opponent score with 39 seconds left and zero time outs

    1. One other thing – I’m glad Ward popped Davante. I hope he does the same thing to Metcalf next week. We need a hard hitting Safety.

      1. One final last thing – Raiders Solomon Thomas had two sacks yesterday . Good for him. He is a good dude and deserves the second chance he is getting .

    2. ^^ “Jimmy is limited with his abilities. He puts our offense in a 15 yard from scrimmage box.”
      This need to be addressed before we can even think of winning another SB.

  6. My daughter who has no football acumen made this observation:
    “Why does our QB have no time to throw the ball and the other guy does?”
    Jack you missed the obvious: Our OL sucks!
    Our D barely can make a fist.
    With the RBs out, this is going to be a long season…….

  7. Shanny’s offense completely depends on getting the run game going. Run outside until they stop the outside run. Then gash inside and pass on play action. Once the run game is stuck, his offense needs HoF-level QB play to score consistently on 40+ pass attempts. Jimmy is not that QB.

    ” 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, ….”
    Have to completely disagree with this take. This was a designed play and Jimmy put the ball pretty much where he needed to put it. Alexander did not “step in front”. He sprinted from the other side of the field and outran both Kittle and the other defender (safety?) and seemed to take it out Kittle’s grasp as the latter was beginning to grasp it. It was an all-Pro play. I don’t see how Jimmy deserves any blame for it.

    The backward pass, OTOH, was a bad decision and the Jimmy is the culprit on that TO.

    1. Agree with your take on the interception, Mood. It was a good pass but Alexander made an all-Pro interception. As I said in the previous post, I’m having concerns with the wide-9. The gaps are huge and teams are running through them with only mild resistance. Given the anemic pass rush, I don’t see any advantage that the wide-9 is bringing at this point.

  8. Back to back games now that the offense did not score in the 1st half until less than 20 secs left in the clock!!! Hard to win games like that.

  9. @Jack:

    Any comments on the wide-9. Seems like huge run gaps and the supposed advantage of a better pass rush, just doesn’t seem to be there (although Nick’s doing a pretty good job).

  10. Guys, guys… all valid comments re: running backs, QB, OL, play calls, fumbles, etc. But remember, even with all that, we had the lead! Refs call that blatant hold on Ebukam on Rodgers 25 yarder to Adams, then we are marveling at the comeback kids.

    But woulda shoulda coulda. I hope there is deep introspection in that defensive room this week. 37 seconds, no timeouts? Inexcusable.

  11. I’m not sure if the problem is as much with the pass rush as it is with the DB’s. Rodgers was getting rid of the ball consistently in about 2.5 seconds. If the DB’s cant cover for 2.5 seconds you need new DB’s imho

    1. Agree. Pass defense is a combination of pass rush and competent DB play. Rodgers was getting the ball out within 2 seconds without hesitation, pretty confident that either the receiver will get the ball or will get a PI call. An extra half second or a second would have made a significant difference to the pass rush. A Verett or a 2019 Sherman would have gotten Rodgers to hesitate on some of those quick passes with those CBs probably in trail position to defend the back shoulder throws.

    2. At this point, where are the 49ers and Tampa Bay going to find good D-backs? Both teams, with ambitions for a great season, are in a DB pickle given the number of good passing teams laying in wait.

      Defensive pass interference seems to have been more on the minds of the 49er game officials than offensive holding or offensive pass interference.

  12. Look at all the Chicken Littles, 1 close loss to the 2nd best team in the NFC two years running and everyone is ready to give up the ghost on the season.

    “Faithfu”, you are not.

    1. Are some of the Faithful saying “Faith? FU” ?!!

      All I say to the doom-and-gloomers (there is no shortage of them):
      It’s a long season.

      1. Exactly. Seahawks 1-2…they start seasons crappy and yet every year they seem to be there at the end ready for a playoff game. One game does not a season make, some level headedness is needed.

  13. So we have a 1st rd pick (whom we traded for 3 1st and 3rd) that barely see the field, a 2nd who is yet to see the field, a 3rd who just now seeing the field by default coz of injuries with the starters… And we have holes all over the places

  14. To read the comments, you’d think that we were the only team on the field….Give the Packers some love, they have one of the best OLines in FB…It was a good game, and for the most part…we won. It was just those final seconds that they won. It’s O.K…..

  15. Jeff Deeney
    Aaron Rodgers’ average time from snap to release last night was just 2.15 seconds, second-fastest of any starting QB in Week 3 (Big Ben 2.09). Definitely helped neutralize #49ers pass rush.

  16. I don’t think the team needs to sound any alarms or wave the white flag just yet. We barely lost against one of the top 3 teams in the NFC and came back from a big deficit.

    However, something needs to happen with Jimmy G. Either let Jimmy be the guy without looking over his shoulder or …. I don’t know. But this idea of mixing the two QBs was stupid from the start. I’m speculating whether it’s shaking Jimmy’s confidence or not, but if you look at the game objectively, you wouldn’t expect Jimmy to make plays so bad they remind you of Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble years ago.

    Clearly something is going on in the head. The mechanical issues have always been there and seems like they always will, but I didn’t expect the complete lack of presence of mind on the backwards pass fumble throw away. Especially in a big game.

    Kudos to him for getting the team ahead late in the game. I have a lot of respect for him clawing his way out of the miserable game he was having, even if I don’t see him as the answer.

    I think the more this dual QB scheme goes along, the more it’s going to affect both of them.

    The mental aspect of the game is as important as the physical element. They should have traded Jimmy away for whatever they could get prior to the season, or ensure that Lance comes in only in case of injury or garbage time this year.

    Trying to win every game based on situational decision-making may have worked well for them last night (Trey came in and scored rather easily after 3 failed attempts by Jimmy), but I don’t see this being good for either of them or team camaraderie/chemistry in the long run.

    I honestly don’t care what we do this year. The plan is obviously to become a perennial contender starting next year. So embrace it.

    1. I dont see the problem with the way Shanahan is using Trey. He’s using him situationally now and it’s not that often. I believe Jimmy when he says he’s too busy to think about Trey. As for his footwork, Shanahan has said he doesn’t have a problem with it because of the way Jimmy uses his body to make throws. I thought Jimmy played well with the exception of not taking a sack on the fumble. He had a split second to decide and made the wrong decision. It happens. There were a lot of plays left on the field by lots of different players and hopefully next week there will be fewer.

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