The game didn’t start so hot for the banged-up San Francisco 49ers as Devante Adams scored on a deep bomb from Aaron Rodgers over Emmanuel Moseley. A three-and-out from the Niners offense followed that. Moseley was always going to be targeted after what happened during Week 8. The good news is he bounced back on the ensuing drive with a nice pass breakup, which forced the Packers to punt.
The next drive was everything the 49ers wanted except a touchdown. The offense kept Aaron Rodgers off the field for six minutes. An end zone pass to River Cracraft fell incomplete as Cracraft couldn’t keep control of the catch to the ground — it was ruled a TD on the field, but overturned on replay. San Francisco settled for a point-blank field goal from Robbie Gould to make it 7-3.
There was a change along the offensive line outside of Justin Skule taking Trent Williams’ spot. The 49ers also benched Hroniss Grasu, after a disastrous game against the Seahawks where he had five blown blocks, including a sack. Daniel Brunskill slid over to center, while Tom Compton got the start at right guard. The line was doing fine until they weren’t. Skule was beaten in pass pro, which led to his man hitting Mullens. As a result: interception.
The defense had an opportunity to get a stop, but Rodgers made a perfect throw on fourth down to Adams. The refs missed a delay of game on the next play where Jason Verrett was flagged for a questionable pass interference call. One play later, the Packers punched it in to make it 14-3. The moral of this story? You can’t turn the ball over. On the following possession, Mullens almost threw another interception.
The Packers took advantage of a Jaquiski Tartt injury and caught Marcell Harris in coverage deep against a speedy receiver. Harris had his eyes caught in the backfield, was late to get out of his backpedal, and put himself in a bad position. The 52-yard touchdown put the Packers up 21-3. A Richie James drop stalled a 49ers drive before the half.
The second half was no better than the first. The 49ers punted, and the Packers marched the field on nine plays for 80 yards that took six minutes off the clock. Rodgers found Adams for yet another big gain. This one was 49 yards. For the second time in the game, Green Bay attacked Verrett with a double move. In this play, Marcell Harris was caught in no man’s land.
The ensuing drive for the Niners ended like a previous drive in the first half. Za’Darius Smith beat Skule for a sack, and Mullens couldn’t hold onto the ball. This game will be used in Trent Williams’ negotiation talks when it comes time for a potential extension. The defense held the Packers to a field goal, though I’m sure Green Bay would’ve gone for it on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line in a close game.
James took a screen for 47 yards. Aside from the drop, he was one of the few productive 49ers on offense. Mullens’ sneak on fourth-and-short was stuffed, and the Niners turned it over. Mullens stood straight up, and the play didn’t have much of a chance. The Packers turned that into points. Their drive was 12 plays for 60 yards that took over eight minutes off the clock. The lone bright spot on defense was Fred Warner.
James added a garbage-time touchdown, and you can’t help but wonder why he hadn’t seen snaps over Trent Taylor this season when he was healthy. Yes, it came once the game was decided, but it’s evident that James has more “juice.” Then again, trust and consistency matter. It may say more about James than anything. His late touchdown made the score 34-10.
The game was going to be close if the 49ers didn’t do two things: Turn the ball over and give up big plays. Neither of those happened. The outcome wasn’t surprising. The 49ers had mostly backups playing on offense. Moving the ball would have been difficult. Many fans used this game as a reason to prop up Jimmy Garoppolo because Mullens couldn’t get the job done tonight with practice squad receivers. These two things are not exclusive, but it doesn’t appear that the argument will die anytime soon.
A late score by McKinnon made the final 34-17. The Niners should remain competitive moving forward, but they can’t afford to turn the ball over and make the mistakes they did on defense. The margin for error isn’t there anymore with the rash of injuries. Would this outcome have been different had the game been moved to Sunday? It’s possible. The point remains that the 49ers made too many errors to win against the Packers.