Green Bay Packers' next opponent: Quick takes on the San Francisco 49ers

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard gestures  against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Carson, Calif.

The Green Bay Packers have won exactly one game over the last month, a 22-0 victory over Buffalo two weeks ago. Fortunately for the 2-2-1 Packers, who lost Sunday at Detroit, they return to Lambeau Field where they are unbeaten to host the San Francisco 49ers (1-4), who are flying across the country for a showdown Monday night.

Basics on the 49ers

Last week

Five turnovers and a missed field goal proved to be San Francisco's undoing in a 28-18 home loss Sunday to previously winless Arizona. Quarterback C.J. Beathard, who inherited the starting job when Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in Week 3 against the Chiefs, threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns, but he also tossed two interceptions. Unbelievably, the 49ers ran 92 offensive plays, controlled the ball for over 40 minutes and converted 10 of 17 (59 percent) on third down – but the turnovers just killed all momentum.

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Head coach Kyle Shanahan runs a “West Coast”-based scheme, which flows off quicker passes with timing routes. He also believes in utilizing two running backs in his offense, but they are more complementary options in the pass game. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is in his second year in that role and runs a 4-3 scheme, coming up in the league learning under Frank Bush in Houston and Gus Bradley in Seattle and later in Jacksonville.  

Key numbers


League rank of the 49ers' rushing offense, at 136.2 yards per game.


C.J. Beathard’s touchdown and interception percentages since taking over at quarterback for the 49ers. He has four of each in just 91 attempts.


Rank of the 49ers' rush defense, limiting opponents to 94.6 yards per game.  

Players to watch

Alfred Morris, RB

Morris is a familiar name, but he’ll be a bigger factor Monday night than normal for the 49ers. Starter Matt Breida (7.5 yards per carry) suffered an ankle injury against the Cardinals last week and the 30-year-old Morris stepped in. He is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and has also caught six passes for 66 yards. Morris is a two-time Pro Bowler and has three 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He has been more of a complementary back the last few years but in his six starts since 2017 he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry. The 49ers lost Jerick McKinnon, their big free-agent acquisition running back, to a knee injury before the season opener.

George Kittle, TE

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 250-pound tight end leads the 49ers in targets (35), catches (23) and yards (399). Drafted in the fifth round out of Iowa in 2017, Kittle had a solid rookie season with 43 catches for 515 yards. But with Garoppolo early and now Beathard under center, the 25-year-old has emerged as a favorite target for 49ers quarterbacks. He also has some long speed, with an 82-yard touchdown catch this season. He has been dealing with a knee issue but it hasn’t seemed to drastically limit him.

DeForest Buckner, DT

Buckner is in his third year after being the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft out of Oregon, and it seems like he is finding his footing. He has 3.5 sacks through five games, which is more than he had all of last season and has him on pace to top his career high of six takedowns. He has hit the quarterback nine times as well, and has also impacted the run game with five tackles for loss.

Reasons to worry

Even without Garoppolo, the 49ers' offense is still moving the ball and finding the end zone – when they don’t turn it over. They are 15th in the league in scoring (23.6 points per game) and 15th in total offense (378 yards) behind a strong rushing attack. They’ve scored 27 or more points three times and have four explosive touchdowns of over 20 yards. The Packers' defense has only been able to limit the Bills and rookie Josh Allen, and remains susceptible to the big play, so the fact Shanahan has managed to create offense without starters such as Garoppolo, Breida and receivers Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon could be concerning .

Reasons to relax

The 49ers have a hard time keeping other teams out of the end zone. They enter the week 29th in scoring defense, allowing 29.2 points per game. Every opponent they’ve faced has scored at least 24 points, which would match the season high for the Packers. They not only turn the ball over (seven interceptions, four fumbles) but two of those have been returned for touchdowns. Their total defense has impressive rankings (No. 11 overall, No. 7 against the rush, No. 15 against the pass) but they allow a touchdown to an opponent 63.2 percent of the time once they reach the red zone.

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