Quick takes: Packers rally, beat 49ers 33-30 on Mason Crosby last-second field goal
GREEN BAY - There was a time Monday when it wasn’t enough for the Green Bay Packers to just win their game against the San Francisco 49ers. Winning was almost an afterthought, more a consolation prize. Against a toothless 49ers team with only one win this season and no franchise quarterback, winning was exactly what the Packers expected to do.
To get back on track this season, the Packers needed something more than a win. They needed style, gravitas. They needed to improve. There was a time Monday when the real question was whether the Packers could do what’s expected of a good team, to put away an inferior opponent at home in prime time.
The answer: a resounding no.
The Packers, a 10-point favorite, trailed for much of Monday night’s game before squeezing out a 33-30 win. The victory set the Packers record at 3-2-1 entering their Week 7 bye. They have an extra week to prepare before traveling to the Los Angeles Rams.
Kevin King, the Packers' second-year corner, ended a potential game-winning drive with his first career interception after the 49ers had crossed midfield. King was in single coverage against speedy 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin deep down the middle of the field, but never gave up inside leverage and was in perfect position.
That left 67 seconds for the Packers, who took over at the 49ers’ 19-yard line. Plenty of time for Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers completed a third-and-2 pass to rookie Equanimeous St. Brown to extend the drive, then found Davante Adams to put the Packers inside the 10. Mason Crosby’s 27-yard field goal as time expired was the perfect way to cap a big-time rebound from last week’s personal debacle in Detroit.
Here are five observations from Monday night’s game:
Mason Crosby bounces back: When Mason Crosby’s first kick split the uprights, he might have received the loudest cheer following a first-quarter extra point in his career. Crosby recovered from his debacle in Detroit, making all seven of his kicks a week after missing five kicks in a game for the first time in his career. Four of Crosby’s kicks were field goals, the longest from 51 yards. After each make, the crowd let him know their appreciation, giving a resounding ovation that was hard to distinguish from a Bronx cheer. Either way, it was a rebound the veteran kicker needed.
Fool’s gold: Despite the Packers defense entering Week 6 ranked fourth in the NFL in yards allowed, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said he didn’t put much stock into the numbers. Maybe he knew something. Turns out, the Packers are nowhere near a top-five defense, or even top 10. The Packers allowed 24 points in the opening half alone, but it was even worse than that. At halftime, the 49ers were averaging 10 yards per play, 7.1 yards per rush and 15.2 yards per pass. As they’ve done at times this season, the Packers recovered in the second half and held the 49ers to six points. But a good defense doesn’t allow C.J. Beathard, the second-year quarterback drafted in the third round who entered with a 1-6 career record as a starter, to play like Steve Young, and that’s what the Packers did. Beathard finished 16-of-23 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and the interception. In two weeks, Rams quarterback Jared Goff will present a much stiffer challenge.
Red-zone issues continue: The biggest problem with the Packers' offense continued being the biggest problem Monday night. Through six games, the Packers have been unable to consistently finish drives. They were officially 2-for-4 scoring touchdowns inside the red zone, but that’s deceiving; a fifth drive stalled when they couldn’t advance the football given first-and-10 from the 21. The Packers entered Monday with a 50 percent red-zone efficiency, and that did not improve. In the first half, the Packers started one drive at the 49ers’ 34-yard line and another at the 44, and were held to field goals both times. Good teams find ways to punch those short-field possessions into the end zone.
Running back roulette: Aaron Jones got his first start of the season and appeared to be the Packers' featured running back, until he wasn’t. Jones’ production was no different than it’s been. He led the Packers with 41 yards on eight carries, a 5.1-yard average. By comparison, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery combined for 7 yards on six carries. Yet Jones still didn’t get more touches despite clearly having much better production. It has become a puzzling, repetitive theme the past couple weeks, and at this point it doesn’t appear a change is imminent.
This isn’t getting easier: The importance of Monday night’s game was really emphasized with what the Packers have ahead. After their bye, the Packers will play one of the most difficult five-game stretches they’ve faced in recent years. It starts in two weeks when they travel to the Rams, the NFL’s lone remaining undefeated team. Then it’s off to New England to face Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a home game against the 4-2 Miami Dolphins, a short-week trip to Seattle and a vicious road game at Minnesota. The Packers could lose any of those games. Winning two would be a decent outcome. So there was no understating what Monday night meant: With so many good teams up ahead, the Packers needed to find a way to beat a bad opponent.