Aaron Rodgers did it again.
Once again, Rodgers brought his team back from behind with a series of absurdly difficult throws into tight windows, marching them right down the field for game-tying and game-winning scores. The Packers racked up over 190 yards of offense and 17 points in the first quarter, but sputtered for the better part of the rest of the game after that. From the time Davante Adams scored with 1:58 left in the first quarter until Green Bay got the ball back down by seven points with 2:59 left in the fourth, the Packers had drives on which they ran 46 plays, gained 184 yards, and scored just six points. Green Bay was at one point 3-for-13 on third and fourth downs, with eight of their 11 third-down tries needing 10 or more yards to go for a first. They were bogging down, big time.
And then, as if flipping a switch, Rodgers took the Packers a combined 139 yards on 14 plays to score 10 points and turn a 30-23 deficit into a 33-30 victory, all inside the final three minutes of the game. Along the way, he hit Davante Adams (10 catches, 132 yards, two scores) and Equanimeous St. Brown (one monster 19-yard grab to put the Packers in field goal range) with a smattering of preposterous lasers over the top of outstretched defenders and inside windows that seemed impossible to hit until Rodgers actually hit them. It was, as they say, vintage Rodgers.
Rodgers' final laser-show brought the Packers from their own 10-yard line to the 49ers' nine-yard line, setting up kicker Mason Crosby for a game-winner from 26 yards out. Crosby had missed five kicks a week ago, and when the Packers lined up for one more play on first and goal from the nine with six seconds left on the clock, it looked like the team had not yet regained full confidence in him even after Crosby had nailed his first five kicks in this one. But all the Packers did on that snap was throw the ball out of bounds to ensure that Crosby's game-winner would go through with no time on the clock, which is exactly what happened on the very next snap.
That final drive was set up by a huge play from cornerback Kevin King, who picked off 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard when San Fran was facing third-and-3 from the Green Bay 46-yard line. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine brought the house on a blitz, and Beathard attempted to find Marquise Goodwin down the field for a score, as he'd done twice already on the evening. But King got great position, boxed Goodwin out, and came down with the ball. Rodgers took it from there, as he's done so many times before.
Here are a few more things to know about Green Bay's rollicking comeback win.
Off to a fast start
This game was a track meet right from the jump. The 49ers started the game with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on which the Packers provided precious little resistance. C.J. Beathard completed all three of his passes, each to a different receiver, while Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert carried the load on the ground.
Breida finished things off with a touchdown run to make it look easy.
It took the Packers no time at all to answer. Their first play of the game was a 60-yard catch-and-run by rookie wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling, with Rodgers hitting the youngster on a crossing route off a naked bootleg. Aaron Jones looked for a moment to have scored on the very next play, but the touchdown was overturned on review. After Jones was stuffed on first and goal, the Packers broke out a diamond formation and swung the ball out to Ty Montgomery, who had three blockers against two 49er defenders and walked untouched into the end zone.
That was the Packers' first opening-drive touchdown of the season, and they were just getting started. Green Bay put up 17 first-quarter points -- more than they scored during the first quarters of their first five games of the season combined. San Francisco, by the way, put up 14. The two teams combined for a ridiculous 366 yards in the first quarter, as well as those 31 points. Both of those figures were NFL highs for the 2018 season.
A game of big plays
There was an almost preposterous amount of big plays in this game. The Packers got their evening started with a 60-yard pass play to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They later hit a 54-yard pass play to Jimmy Graham.
Valdes-Scantling later had another 30-yard grab on -- stop me if you've heard this before -- a ridiculous throw on the run from Rodgers.
When the Packers needed to get moving on the drive that eventually ended with the game-tying score, Rodgers stepped up through the pocket and found Adams over the middle, working against linebacker Reuben Foster. This one went for 38 yards.
And it wasn't just the Packers. San Francisco hit on some big plays as well. Marquise Goodwin did the heavy lifting, starting things off with a 67-yard touchdown, burning past Blake Martinez and Kentrell Brice.
He later smoked Tramon Williams for a 30-yard score as well.
Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk and Kendrick Bourne all had 20-plus-yard plays for the Niners. And Rodgers even had a 21-yard run for the Packers, which set them up near midfield on the final drive of the night. These guys were moving the ball with ease.
Injured 49ers step up
It was in a losing effort, but San Francisco got nice contributions from a few players who were coming off a week filled with limited practices and questionable designations. Two of the three made major impacts in this game, while the third contributed in a different way than he had been early in the year.
Breida got the 49ers' scoring started with an early touchdown, and he ended up totaling 61 yards on 14 touches on the night. He and Raheem Mostert powered a surprisingly effective 49ers rushing attack that gashed the Packers for 174 yards on the ground. Their effectiveness kept Beathard in manageable down-and-distance situations for most of the night, and that allowed him to be efficient.
Nearly all of San Francisco's offensive explosion came courtesy of Goodwin, who broke a couple of monster plays for touchdowns. He torched Blake Martinez and Kentrell Brice deep for a 67-yard score and later spun Tramon Williams into an early grave on a post-corner route for his second score of the game.
Kittle had been one of the most effective receiving tight ends in football heading into this matchup, but his major contributions on Monday came as a blocker. He repeatedly sealed the outside edge for Breida and Mostert, helping them get to the second level for solid gains. You don't often hear tight ends single out for their blocking these days, but Kittle's was excellent.
Last week was a nightmare for Mason Crosby. The Packers' veteran kicker missed four out of his five field goal attempts as well as his only extra point. Prior to last week, Crosby had missed more than one field goal just seven times in 180 career games. He'd missed 10 extra points in 522 career tries. So, expecting him to bounce back with a better performance was reasonable.
And bounce back he did. Crosby made all three of his point-after attempts, as well as four field goals -- including the game-winner with no time on the clock. He started with a 29-yarder early, moved out to 39 yards, and then banged a 51-yard bomb through the uprights.
And of course, he hit the game-winner.
49ers' turnover issues
The 49ers have a turnover problem.
They gave the ball away three times in this game, and now have an NFL-worst minus-11 turnover margin. Kick returner D.J. Reed fumbled right after the Packers drove down the field to tie the game at 7-7 on their first drive, and the Packers got a field goal out of it. Later, Kyle Juszczyk fumbled on a long catch-and-run, and again the Packers turned the fumble into a field goal. Those two giveaways were the 49ers' 14th and 15th fumbles of the young season.
And of course, King's interception of Beathard late in the fourth quarter turned into the eventual game-winning field goal. The 49ers had turned the ball over on 19.3 percent of their possessions coming into this game -- tied for 30th in the NFL. They proceeded to turn it over twice on 11 drives and another time on a kick return. You're not going to win games like that.
The Packers head into their bye week with a record of 3-2-1. They come back in Week 8 with a matchup against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams in L.A. The 49ers, meanwhile, are 1-5 heading into a date with those same Rams next week. Unlike the Packers, the Niners at least get to deal with Todd Gurley and company at home as opposed to on the road.
Feel free to check out our live blog of the festivities.
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