Before the 49ers took on the Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday night, I listed out three keys that would lead to a San Francisco victory. As I wrote it, I didn’t think that San Francisco would be able to execute on all three of those things.
As the 49ers leave Green Bay after a heart-breaking loss, I’m here to say that they didn’t lose, quarterback Aaron Rodgers just did what the great ones do. Let’s re-visit all three of those keys and see exactly how Kyle Shanahan’s squad did in all of those areas.
1. QB C.J. Beathard and the 49ers’ offense can’t turn the ball over.
After San Francisco managed to turn the ball over five times against the Chargers, they couldn’t afford to repeat that performance against Rodgers and Green Bay on Monday night.
Take away Beathard’s arm punt of an interception at the end of the game, San Francisco had one turnover on offense — a Kyle Juszczyk fumble in the first half. Kick returner D.J. Reed also had a fumble on a kick-off return that set up the Green Bay offense with a short field.
Shanahan’s team continues to shoot itself in the foot with self-inflicted wounds, but I thought the offense certainly did a better job of protecting the ball than last week. Even with the turnovers, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense had the same number of drives as the 49ers — so it wasn’t entirely damaging.
2. San Francisco’s defense needs to hold Rodgers and Co. to field goals.
Coming into Monday’s matchup, Green Bay was struggling to convert touchdowns in the red zone. While the Packers thrived in moving the ball between the 20s, they weren’t able to turn it into seven points as easily as in the past.
If the 49ers were going to have a fighting chance in this game, they had to make kicker Mason Crosby a key part of the game and keep the Packers’ receivers out of the end zone. On 12 drives, Green Bay managed three touchdowns and four field goals.
On numerous occasions, the 49ers’ defense would let Green Bay get deep into San Francisco territory, but hold them for only three points — a minor victory in the grand scheme of things.
Rodgers was going to get his, but the 49ers did an exemplary job of limiting his opportunities as much as possible on Monday.
3. Exploit Green Bay’s middling rush defense and win time of possession battle.
Packers were a middle-of-the-pack run defense coming into Monday night and they probably took a step back after this game. Running backs Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert ran wild over the Packers’ defense, gaining 174 yards on 30 rushing attempts.
Mostert — the third-stringer — ran for 87 yards on 12 carries, including a long of 26 yards. Even with a hampering injury, Breida managed to play on Monday, gaining 61 hard-fought yards on 14 attempts.
The 49ers’ run-blocking was spectacular on Monday, as it’s been all season long. Tackles Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley continue to earn their pay check, mauling opposing defenders and clearing lanes for the 49ers’ running backs.
I hoped that the 49ers’ rushing success would allow them to win the time of possession battle and play their best defense — keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. They barely lost the TOP battle, possessing the ball for approximately three minutes less.
Fans are going to be highly critical of Kyle Shanahan, Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ defensive backs, poor play-calling down the stretch and anything else they can get their hands on. I’m just going to chalk it up as one team had No. 12 on their sideline and the other didn’t. Time to pick up the pieces and focus on Los Angeles, I guess.