The Green Bay Packers cruised to a 34-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, to move to 6-2 on the season and maintain its first-place standing in the NFC North. While the Week 9 opener was technically a rematch of the NFC Championship last year, this wasn't the most highly contested affair -- even less than the final score shows -- as the 49ers have been decimated by injuries along with COVID-19 related complications. This loss now moves for reigning NFC champion Niners back under .500 for the second time this season, leaving this contest with a 4-5 mark which is good for last place in the NFC West.
Nick Mullens started in place for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo and the 25-year-old struggled for the bulk of this game. He finished with a respectable state line that featured a 62% completion rate for 291 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, but most of that was done when the game was out of reach. The running game, one that totaled 285 yards and four touchdowns against this Green Bay defense in the NFC title game a year ago, was silent without Raheem Mostert (on IR) and Tevin Coleman (knee) as the duo of Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty combined for 55 yards and a garbage-time touchdown in the losing effort.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense couldn't do any wrong. Rodgers finished with 305 yards passing and four touchdowns. His go-to weapon was, of course, Davante Adams, who had 10 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown in the win. Running back Aaron Jones made his long-awaited return from a calf injury that sidelined him for the previous two contests and didn't seem bothered by it at all, rushing for 58 yards while catching all five of his targets for 21 more yards.
This game was all but put to bed by halftime, but to see how things specifically broke down, check out our main takeaways from this contest below. To see how all the action developed in real-time, you can also scroll through our live blog from the evening as well.
Why Green Bay won
The Packers simply didn't beat themselves against a hobbled 49ers team. Aaron Rodgers was hot out of the gate, completing all three of his passes -- including a 36-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams -- on the opening drive and that was essentially all they needed for most of this contest. Rodgers completed throws to eight different pass catchers and the 49ers secondary didn't have an answer for the veteran quarterback, who is now in the thick of MVP conversations.
This was really an immaculate game from wire-to-wire by Matt LaFleur's club, outside of some garbage-time touchdowns. The Packers didn't commit a single turnover and just a handful of innocuous penalties throughout the game en-route to the blowout. Green Bay also capitalized on Nick Mullens' mistakes, including a touchdown drive that was sparked from an interception in the first half, which you'll read more about below. In all, the Packers were able to create 10 points off 49ers turnovers.
While the 49ers were clearly not at full-strength, this was as dominant of a display as you can ask for by a club.
Why San Francisco lost
Because of the myriad of injuries and a number of inactive players due to COVID, this result was feared prior to kickoff. The 49ers simply didn't have enough experienced horses to keep pace with the Packers. That was evident early when San Francisco burned two timeouts before the first quarter was up and struggled with choppy play throughout the night.
Even in the first half when they were threatening to find the end zone, the Niners offense couldn't find a way to punch it in from the Green Bay four-yard line and had to settle for three points. That's especially egregious when factoring in that the Packers ranked 28th in the NFL in opponent red zone touchdown scoring percentage coming into tonight. That said, when you're rolling out players who are typically backups those results are somewhat expected.
One bright spot for the 49ers that deserves an honorable mention is wide receiver Richie James, who finished with nine receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown. That type of contribution was much-need for a San Francisco receiver unit that was erased due to injuries and COVID. Unfortunately for Kyle Shanahan and his club, it just wasn't enough to carry the entire offense when it counted.
The absence of star left tackle Trent Williams was evident for the bulk of this game, but arguably no more pivotal than what happened with11:42 to play in the first half. It was at that point when Mullens dropped back to pass and Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith was able to beat Williams' replacement on the blindside, Justin Skule, on a swim move and immediately applied pressure. Mullens then threw a wobbler intended for running back Jerick McKinnon, who should have chipped Smith at the line before making his break, in the flat that was easily picked off by safety Raven Greene. The Packers then went on a nine-play touchdown drive to go up 14-3 and score another touchdown at the half to go up by 18. That was more than enough to get the win.
Applying pressure was going to be a key factor in Green Bay, who were applying the fewest pressures in the NFL through Week 8, taking care of business. Heading into this start, Mullens did lead all quarterback in yards per attempt (9.6) when not pressured (min. 50 attempts), so it was imperative to not give him a clean pocket and allow an upset to possibly creep into his mind.
Play of the game
Davante Adams just continues to do insane things on the football field. The star receiver capped off Green Bay's opening drive with a wildly impressive 36-yard touchdown reception. Adams ran a simple go route, beat his defender upfield, and not only was able to make the turnover catch but was able to get his foot and elbow inbounds to secure the score. The timing, concentration, and wherewithal are simply off the charts on a play like that. Coming into this game, Adams had 21 touchdowns vs. single coverage dating back to 2017, which is the most in the NFL. That grab on Thursday only extended that lethal one-on-one record.
From here, the Packers will look to carry this momentum as they head back to Lambeau Field and await the Jacksonville Jaguars. Meanwhile, the 49ers will begin a tough two-game road trip that starts with a Week 10 trip to New Orleans to face the Saints and wraps up in Week 11 when they head to Los Angeles for an NFC West showdown with the Rams.