Silverstein: Packers escape with victory, but prove they still have multiple flaws
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are not a good team.
They are a team with some good players and that’s about the best you could say about what separates them and the 1-5 San Francisco 49ers, who marched into Lambeau Field and showed they could coach better, compete harder and play smarter than their competition.
The only thing they couldn’t do is put Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams in their huddle late in the game.
The 49ers walked out of the stadium with their heads down after a crushing 33-30 loss only because their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garappolo, is out for the season with a knee injury and their best receiver, Marquise Goodwin, is a speed demon but nowhere close to being an elite player.
The Packers were once a perennial playoff team and among the cinders that still burn hot for them are their quarterback and wide receiver, who together can take over a game with the snap of their fingers.
The pair owned the final 3 minutes of what looked like an impending Packers loss, connecting four times for 81 yards on two drives that covered 139 yards. The first drive ended in a game-tying 16-yard touchdown pass to Adams and the second ended in kicker Mason Crosby’s 27-yard game-winning field goal.
Just like that, the Packers were 3-2-1 instead of 2-3-1.
“We have a pretty good player at quarterback,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “He’s been pretty successful in those situations.”
Taken in its entirety, however, the Packers’ victory over the 49ers was a showcase of why they are not going anywhere this season. They were playing a team that wasn’t half bad until it lost its quarterback in Week 3 and injuries started to pile up in other areas.
But last week, the 49ers lost at home to the lowly Arizona Cardinals and were traveling cross country to play in 30-degree temperatures that the Packers had practiced in during the week. They were facing a team who had held the Detroit Lions to 264 yards last week and the New York Jets to 145 yards the week before.
This game should have been a cakewalk for the Packers, a get-well game heading into the bye and the meat of their schedule.
Instead, it was a relief.
“Hey, I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss,” Bakhtiari said.
The problem is that the Packers were in this game only because the 49ers made a couple of critical errors in the beginning of the game and didn’t have the horsepower to win it at the end. In between, they exposed just about every weakness the Packers have shown this season.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan, who as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator had knocked the teeth out of Dom Capers’ defense multiple times, made current defensive coordinator Mike Pettine look helpless.
On the opening drive, the 49ers marched 75 yards on seven plays for a touchdown, mixing the run and the pass in astonishingly efficient fashion. After the 49ers fell behind, 17-7, due in part to a special teams turnover, C.J. Beathard hit Goodwin on a 67-yard touchdown in which it’s anybody’s guess what defense the Packers were playing.
It might have been the first time in history an inside linebacker was matched up against a receiver with 4.27-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
Even when the 49ers turned the ball over again in the second quarter, it was after a 21-yard completion in which a receiver was left wide open. On the very next series, Shanahan got Goodwin matched one-on-one against cornerback Tramon Williams and the result was a 30-yard touchdown.
No matter what Pettine did, Shanahan got the best of him.
The 49ers came out of the gate running stretch plays that the Packers had no clue how to stop. Then they ran inside when the Packers tried to counter. They finished the day with 174 yards rushing on 30 carries (5.8-yard avg.).
“Everything they were doing was working,” Williams said. “Anytime they can run the ball like that, it’s going to be hard to stop anybody. If you look at the stats, it’s about balance. You can live with pass yards being high, but rush yards high like that is kind of tough.
“Every player who plays in his system, they love it. They love it. He gets the best out of them and he knows how to scheme things.”
When it comes to balance, coach Mike McCarthy could learn a few things from Shanahan. Once again, his run game never got off the ground even though Aaron Jones averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his eight attempts.
Take away Rodgers’ 34 yards rushing on three scrambles and McCarthy called just 18 running plays that netted 82 yards. Rodgers needed 46 passing attempts to complete 25 passes for 425 yards and two touchdowns and for a while it looked like defensive coordinator Robert Saleh had his foot on the neck of McCarthy’s system.
Saleh was so tuned into what McCarthy was calling that he had his backside defensive end stop chasing down runs to stymie all the bootleg fakes Rodgers was trying to run. It wasn’t until the game-winning drive that the Packers finally outwitted Saleh by giving the ball to running back Ty Montgomery instead of having Rodgers keep the ball on a play-fake.
Montgomery gained 14 yards on the first play of the drive to get things moving in the right direction.
“David Bakhtiari actually suggested the first play, so I’ve got to give him credit or else he’ll tell me about it tomorrow,” Rodgers said. “He suggested that play and then Ty obviously ran the ball well and got out of bounds.”
It was a testament to the entire offense that it played as well as it did the final two drives, but it takes players like Rodgers and Adams to finish them off. Others on offense made some clutch plays along the way and deserve credit.
But when the Packers get back from the bye, they travel to Los Angeles to play the 6-0 Rams, who are averaging a league-leading 464.3 yards per game and a third-best 32.7 points per game. The following week they travel to New England, to face the 4-2 Patriots, who are averaging 381.2 yards and 29.3 points per game.
Will the Packers be able to overcome another stupid penalty from cornerback Tony Brown, who a week after committing a taunting penalty that wiped out a third-down stop hit returner D.J. Reed out of bounds, giving the 49ers a first down at their own 47 with the game tied and 1:49 remaining?
If the Packers can’t beat a mediocre Lions team one week and barely beat a bad 49ers team the next week, in what bizarre world can they compete with the Rams and Patriots?