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Winners and losers from the 49ers disappointing loss to the Packers

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If your opinion about the San Francisco 49ers before Sunday’s game was something along the lines of this team being elite, then that shouldn’t change after a tough loss to the Green Bay Packers.

We learned Sunday night that no matter how much talent is on this roster, the Niners can’t overcome that many mistakes. Turnovers. Not scoring until the final drive of the second half against a poor defense. Too many big plays were surrendered by the defense, which may have led to the passiveness on defense during the final drive.

The 49ers are 2-1. While it may seem like the sky is falling, they have two divisional opponents up next. If San Francisco takes care of business during the next two weeks, then Sunday’s loss will be much easier to swallow.

Here are the winners and losers from the 49ers/Packers game.

Winners

Deebo Samuel

If you didn’t watch the game, you’d look at the box score and see Deebo had five receptions on ten targets for 52 yards. What’s so impressive about that?

Samuel didn’t have the numbers as he did in other games, but Sunday night was his best performance in what’s been a stellar season so far. Samuel caught a four-yard pass on 3rd & 4 to move the chains. His 19-yard reception sparked the drive to open the second half. On 3rd & 9 during the same possession, Samuel caught a 16-yard pass for another first down.

Samuel’s role reverted to the Rams game of last year at home when he was catching swing passes out of the backfield at one point in the second half. I understand getting the ball into his hands, but Samuel’s far too talented and has made too much progress as a route runner to do this anymore.

Lo and behold, when the 49ers needed to make a play on 3rd & 10 with 1:53 to play in the game, he made one of the most difficult catches you’ll see while Pro Bowl CB Jaire Alexander was draped all over him.

We know how difficult Deebo is to tackle and how fast he is, but he made some spectacular plays as a receiver against the Packers. Samuel looks like a star in the making.

Trent Williams

Last season, Williams was voted the top left tackle in the league by his peers. Williams is better than he was last year:

He’s on another level than anybody else. You see it time and time again where Williams is pancaking defenders.

He rarely gets beaten as a run blocker or in pass protection and has been a big reason for the 49ers’ success. We never shout out offensive lineman. That has to change with the way Williams has played. He’s a unicorn.

Kyle Juszczyk

After the game, Juszczyk said he knew he’d have a more prominent role during the week with the 49ers’ lack of healthy running backs. Juice was the only running back to receive a carry outside of Trey Sermon. However, the stats don’t paint the picture for how big of an impact Juszczyk had on this game.

The “fullback” served as the team’s goal-line back, two-minute back- third-down back, and occasional slot receiver. This was in addition to Juszczyk’s usual fullback and tight-end roles as a blocker.

Juszczyk caught all four of his targets for 37 yards and a touchdown. Five of his touches went for a first or touchdown. He was the reason the offense converted a couple of first downs thanks to some quality blocking as a pass protector. Juice showed Sunday night that there isn’t a role that he can’t excel at.

During training camp, I thought that Juszczyk was one of the 49ers’ best 1-on-1 players. He’s always open, and he proved tonight to be a reliable, consistent threat. Juszczyk has Kyle Shanahan’s trust. I know that because he ran the same route that Sermon dropped earlier in the game.

Losers

Kyle Shanahan

Shanahan was a disaster against the Packers. Punt-punt-interception-punt-touchdown. After it seemed as though Shanahan played things close to the vest during the first two weeks of the season and would let off fireworks in the home opener, the offense fell flat on its face and lacked imagination and creativity during the first half.

The 49ers were 1-6 on third downs in the first half. They ran for 15 yards on 1.9 yards per carry. Deebo, the NFL’s leading receiver heading into Week 3, had two targets.

What felt like a significant momentum swing after the defense stopped the Packers on fourth down, Shanahan elected to punt the ball at midfield on 4th & 1. This was after not having a lick of success on offense and down two scores to Aaron Rodgers.

Consistently, Shanahan has struggled with clock management and fourth-down decisions. Snapping the ball with 12 seconds left on the play clock on Juszczyk’s touchdown reception in the fourth quarter is inexcusable.

Should the Niners’ defense hold with 37 seconds to play? Of course. These are not mutually exclusive. Nobody is arguing against it. We saw all night how aggressive the Packers were and how easily they moved the ball. Shanahan has failed to recognize the flow of the game, and its costs his team time and time again.

It shouldn’t take you being down 17 points to start challenging the Packers defense — a unit that was one of the worst in the NFL despite playing Jared Goff and Jameis Winston (they were also down their starting cornerback) — and throwing the ball down the field.

If you don’t trust your quarterback, play the one you traded three first-round picks for. If you’re not going to do that, then let Jimmy Garoppolo throw the ball. If not, teams will continue to play their safeties at ten yards, shrink the field, and erase your running game.

Shanahan needs to adjust in multiple ways. Being a head coach is more than calling plays. You have to handle players and also chime into what the defense is doing. San Francisco’s defense not doubling/bracketing Devante Adams on the final drive is a coaching issue. It starts at the top.

Jimmy Garoppolo

What makes Garoppolo so frustrating is that when he gives his receivers a chance to make a play, or when he hangs in the pocket, or even when he’s using his legs to buy time, this offense looks unstoppable. Unfortunately, that was the case for most of the second half.

It’s not fair to expect Garoppolo to hit every receiver in stride. The bar has to be higher for Jimmy G, though. On the play that was challenged where Mohamed Sanu had to catch the pass, there wasn’t a defender within 15 yards of Sanu. So if the pass hits him in stride, Sanu is still running.

Garoppolo took a sack earlier on the drive and missed Sermon to his right, his check-down wide open. You could tell Garoppolo was coached about this point on the sideline as it led to some dangerous throws behind the line of scrimmage to Samuel.

Misses are one thing. Turnovers are another. Garoppolo’s fumble in the fourth quarter was a backbreaker. It started with him turning the wrong direction — something he did last week against the Eagles. The 49ers’ defense had just gotten a stop against the Packers after scoring a touchdown on their previous drive. With a chance to take the lead in Packers territory, Garoppolo fumbled. Green Bay’s field goal on the ensuing drive was the difference in the game.

Jaire Alexander made a fantastic play on his interception. However, that doesn’t absolve Garoppolo from making that throw. While Jimmy was much better in the intermediate portion of the field, he could have easily had a few other interceptions with how he put the ball in harm’s way. The receivers made far too many plays to save Garoppolo Sunday.

His mistakes are consistent. That’s a problem, and the schedule isn’t getting any easier. But, if he doesn’t improve, Shanahan won’t have a choice to make a change under center.

Big plays on defense

The defense was put in some tough situations and held up well despite them and a porous first half where the offense couldn’t stay on the field. I don’t put all 30 points on one player or DeMeco Ryans.

What’s unacceptable where the number of big plays this unit gave up. That’s been a theme for three weeks. Ryans’ unit allowed 13 plays over ten yards, including two separate 40+ yard plays on the first two drives.

You don’t give yourself much of a chance against Rodgers and Adams if you’re surrendering that type of yardage. What’s scary about this is knowing the next two offenses the Niners face.

Winners

George Kittle

Kittle is a maniac as a blocker. He takes guys to the sideline, stays in at times on third down, and works his butt off in the running game. Kittle ran an end-around for nine yards and a first down.

He’s not the worst pass-catcher, either.

Kittle caught seven of his nine targets for 92 yards. The long 39-yarder saw Kittle break a tackle and outrun the defender to put the 49ers in a position to win the game. Earlier in the game, when the team needed a first down, Kittle took a short pass, broke another tackle, and tried to run another defender over. If we were ranking “football players” and their impact, you wouldn’t get far down the list before naming Kittle.

Outlook

It’s tough to name a winner when you make as many mistakes as the defense did — committing three pass interferences on third down, for example — or offensively outside the obvious stars.

In the same breath, this team is really, really talented. We still haven’t seen them start fast and finish strong. It’s the NFL, and you’re never going to play a perfect game, nor will you go through a season without any adversity.

What I’m interested in seeing is how this team responds to a loss. The Seahawks are coming off two, and they’re going to be ready to play next week. Can the 49ers respond?