We’ve already witnessed a whole season’s worth of classic primetime games through three weeks in the NFL. Week 1 provided a classic between the Buccaneers and Cowboys. A few nights later on Monday Night Football, the Raiders and Ravens played a back and forth overtime thriller. Week 2 gave us the controversial Dexter Lawrence offsides call on Thursday Night Football. That Sunday night, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were finally able to get the monkey off their back. They beat Mahomes’ Chiefs in a 36-35 shootout that certainly didn’t disappoint. Last night’s Packers vs. 49ers showdown in Cali may have been the best of them all.
I think it’s safe to say Green Bay’s Week 1 performance was a fluke. In the last two weeks, Aaron Rodgers and company have looked much more like last year’s 13-3 juggernaut. After a woeful 36.8 passer rating against the Saints, Rodgers has completed 45/60 passes with 6 touchdowns and no picks the last two weeks. More importantly, the Packers are now 2-1 and have silenced the critics that have been flooding the media ever since that Week 1 meltdown.
As for the Niners, every loss hurts when you’re in a division with the Cardinals, Rams, and Russell Wilson. Losing in the fashion they did, however, makes it sting even more. After the Garoppolo to Juszczyk go-ahead touchdown with 37 seconds remaining, only one question remained: Did they leave too much time for Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams? That question was answered shortly, and in the blink of an eye, the Niners suffered their first defeat of the new campaign. While set up by Rodgers and Adams, it was the foot of Mason Crosby that provided the knockout punch.
Packers Won The Line Of Scrimmage
If you told me one quarterback was sacked once and the other was sacked 4 times, I would’ve been confident that Rodgers was the one sacked 4 times. That wasn’t the case. With All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and 2nd-year guard Elgton Jenkins out, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw should’ve had a field day against a young and experienced Green Bay offensive line. Unfortunately for the Niners, they struggled to put pressure on #12. Time was all Aaron Rodgers needed to carve up a depleted 49ers secondary. LaFleur’s Packers also had success running the ball. Aaron Jones scampered for 83 rushing yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
On the opposite side, the Packers were able to get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo without star edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary stepped up in a big way, combining for 5 QB hits and 1.5 sacks. The Packers hit Jimmy G a total of 10 times, the most of any game in his career. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell is starting to look like one of the most underrated signings of the offseason. He and Kenny Clark provided a big spark for a Green Bay run defense that has been vulnerable in recent years. That said, the Niners backfield is even more depleted than their secondary, so I’m not completely sold on their ability to stop the run just yet.
Jimmy G’s Impressive Outing
Outside of two mistakes, Garoppolo played like a franchise quarterback last night. If it wasn’t for the quarterback on the other sideline, we’d be talking about Jimmy G’s final drive all week. With very limited success on the ground and the offensive line struggling to protect him, Garoppolo made some huge throws down the stretch. In a 2-minute drill, he and the Niners went 75 yards in just 8 plays, including two big 3rd and 10 conversions to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. He finished the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown toss to Kyle Juszczyk, which would’ve been the game-winner against probably any other team in the league.
Through three games, Jimmy Garoppolo is completing over two-thirds of his passes with a passer rating over 100. As I mentioned, though, he turned the ball over twice, something you can’t do against Aaron Rodgers. The Niners will need him to limit the mistakes going forward, especially in a brutally tough NFC West.
Eric Stokes Is the Real Deal
At this point, I’d be surprised if Kevin King starts another game at corner for the Packers, barring any injuries. It’s early, but 1st round pick Eric Stokes looks like he could be a shutdown corner in this league. He’s been targeted 10 times and has only allowed 3 receptions. He also has an impressive 4 pass breakups, tied for 5th in the NFL. A physical, athletic cornerback, Stokes could create a lethal one-two punch with Pro-Bowler Jaire Alexander, who picked off Garoppolo last night. With an already dynamic safety duo of Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos, Green Bay should have an elite secondary for years to come.
San Francisco Injury Woes Continue
After a devastating number of injuries in 2020, I was excited for a healthy Niners team to bounce back and compete for an NFC West title. They certainly still could, but the injury bug has carried over to the 2021 campaign. Having already lost their top corner for the season in Jason Verrett, the secondary keeps taking more and more hits. Emmanuel Moseley hasn’t been 100% healthy, while K’Waun Williams and Josh Norman both suffered injuries last night.
At running back, Raheem Mostert is out for the year, while Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty are out for significant time. Elijah Mitchell looked like he was primed to step into that number one role, but he’s now banged up as well. The inability to run the ball last night against a normally mediocre run defense was worrisome, especially considering Shanahan’s offense revolves around the run.
#12 to #17 Is Dangerous
Even when the whole stadium knows Davante Adams is getting the ball, he still finds a way to get open and Rodgers keeps finding ways to get him the ball. Their unmatched chemistry and elite-level talent make them the best QB-WR duo in the NFL right now. Last night Rodgers targeted Adams 18 out of 31 times and the Niners still couldn’t stop him. Adams caught 12 of those 18 targets for 132 yards and a touchdown. He also forced a key pass interference penalty that kept an eventual touchdown drive alive. And of course, the final 37 seconds was the Rodgers to Adams show.
This felt like a playoff game, and it could very well end up being one come January. With two great performances in the last two weeks, Packers fans can now relax after a stunning 38-3 Week 1 loss to the Saints. As for the Niners, I’m worried about the injuries to the secondary and the backfield. That said, this team has elite talent at several key positions, and even if they don’t win their division I expect them to be a wild-card team in the NFC.
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