We all knew the parts of this game to expect, Rodgers was going to be slinging the ball and the front four of San Fran were going to be fierce. We all knew Aaron Jones was going to get his touches and we all knew that San Fran was going to rely heavily on their run game. This game was going to be a show down between a wily vet for GB that has been there and done that vs an up and coming highly regarded QB who was never given his shot in New England and now wears a chip on his shoulder for being traded away for no more than what was given up for him. What we didn’t know was how this game was going to unfold, who was going to come out on top, and which one of these young and talented coaches were going to lead their team to the Super Bowl after both had come so far in such a very short time.
Starting the game San Fran took the opening kickoff, they were looking to strike quick and hard in order to get their home field crowd fired up and to hold Rodgers and the Packers to the highest disadvantage they could. Doing this in hopes to sway the momentum early and hopefully never give it back. Well things did not go their way early as they quickly found themselves in a third and short early. Handing the ball off to Coleman (remember in my pre game break down article I stated one back for SF always seems to have the other teams number) on a third and one he was quickly met in the backfield by Z. Smith, one of GBs highly regarded defensive ends. In their own end of the field and the game being but a pup SF punted the ball away, playing the numbers game and counting on their defense to keep them square in this battle.
Green Bay and the Aaron brothers took the field hoping to jump out to a lead and quiet an already restless crowd in Levi Stadium. Things looked to be going as planned as Aaron Jones gashed the San Fran defense between the tackles for close to a first down which they would eventually pick up. On their next set of downs though things did not go as well as they found themselves in a third and two. Coming to the line Rodgers was alone in the backfield (Why they would not line Jones up in the backfield I do not know) San Fran knowing it had to be a pass prepared to defend the sticks as Rodgers took the shotgun snap. Playing man across the board the defense played assignment sound football (or so it appeared) and as the ball left Rodgers hand you could tell that it would not be enough for the first down, tackled a yard short of the line to gain the Packers would face fourth down. Remember how I said it seemed that SF played assignment sound football? In reality it seems that Rodgers actually had already decided where he was going with the ball. The Packers ran a flood concept play and if you re watch this play you will see that it actually worked, two SF players jumped the under route and left number 80 standing past the line to gain showing his numbers to Rodgers and Rodgers simply did not see him. This is eerily familiar to the play against Philadelphia where GB ran a pick play at the goal line, Rodgers threw to a double covered receiver while an uncovered receiver stood in the back corner of the end zone and watched as a batted ball was intercepted by Nigel Bradham and the game was sealed.
On the very next drive SF did exactly what they needed to do. With a short pass to Samuel that broke for about 15 yards up the left sideline they started to find their groove. Shortly there after Garropolo found Samuel again for a big gain and if Samuel had not lost his balance after trucking a GB safety he most likely would have scored. The Fans loved it, Levi Stadium went wild! What happened next was something else I touched on in the pregame breakdown. The hot hand of the SF back field was discovered. Raheem Mostert (4 years ago an undrafted FA of the Philadelphia Eagles) was handed the ball on a dive to the left. The red seas parted and Mostert was off to the races. Bad angles taken by GB defenders and a top gear of Mostert lead to only one thing a lead taking TD early for SF.
On the next possession Rodgers looked to even things up. Making a nice throw to the sideline Rodgers seemed to be getting comfortable and that could spell trouble for a young SF defense. But just as quick as Rodgers seemed to find his stride the SF pass rush decided to clip his wings (really it was his foot but it works for the metaphor). Bosa (a strong candidate for ROY) came off the right side and had Rodgers under immediate pressure, and it was too much. Rodgers in earlier years may have been able to escape but not today as Bosa latched onto Roders foot and simply did not let go. This forcing fourth down GB was forced to punt.
A strong punt return had SF starting near mid field and a SF offense licking its chops at the opportunity to put the Pack down multiple possessions. On second and six Garropolo dropped back and fired a wild ball to an area of the field where nobody was. This was quickly followed by a flag and a roughing the passer penalty for hitting Garropolo low on the leg that he had already had ACL reconstructive surgery on just one year ago. Extending the drive the GB defense looked like they were in trouble and doomed to give up points. On the next set of downs though the GB defense did what every cheese head was praying for and stopped SF by sacking Garropolo on third down and forcing SF to put their kicker on the field who as of late has been reliable but had missed six field goals earlier this year. With his first attempt over fifty yards this year and in one of the highest pressure situations you could be in Robbie Gould lined up and absolutely drilled a fifty four yard field goal to go up two possessions.
Ok so now is the time when Rodgers shows up right? On second and four Rodgers drops back and throws a screen to his running back who was quickly met in the back field and stopped for a three yard loss. Struggling to get anything going the Packers put the ball in their best players hands and looked for Rodgers to make a play. On third and seven Rodgers dropped back and as it had been up to this point was under immediate duress this time having the ball punched from his hands, GB fell on the fumble luckily for them but the drive had been ended quickly as those that had lead up to it.
On SF’s next drive the coach that is known for riding the hot hand did exactly that! Raheem Mostert began to run wild with two runs to the right that each eclipsed the ten yard measure GB did not seem to have an answer for a RB that smelled blood in the water. No matter what they did he was gashing them and you could feel the panic starting to emerge from GB fans everywhere. From the nine yard line Mostert took the hand off on a misdirection run which started right as his other big runs had but quickly cut back to the left, fooling the now over reaching GB run defense Mostert using Samuel as a lead blocer easily found his way into the end zone to make the score a three possession lead and score his second TD of the evening.
Being down seventeen in the first half was not where GB or Rodgers wanted to be but the game was not over yet but they needed to score and they needed to score quickly. Rodgers once again started to look like he was settling in, on a play action pass Rodgers stepped up in the pocket avoiding pressure from the defensive end and found a WR open in the middle of the field for fifteen yards. Quickly to the line Aaron Jones burst through the line for twelve yards and another first down. Then mayhem struck (haha that’s an insurance joke… get it? Rodgers is State Farm… ok fine) Rodgers under center ready to finally get his team on the board and the snap is bobbled, Rodgers loses the ball in the feet of his offensive linemen and SF jumps on it giving them the ball back.
Given a gift and not looking to squander any opportunities given to them SF once again rode the hot hand of Mostert. Ripping off huge chunks at a time Mostert single highhandedly got SF in FG range to the tune of a thirty six yard run followed by a twelve yard run. After failing to produce a first down on a pass to the left sidelines SF was forced to settle for three and go up twenty to nothing.
With a minute and a half left in the first half and what seems to be a very one sided game the Packers had to do something, SF kicks the ball off and what happened? The return man mufs the kick and leaves an already dejected GB defense to start their drive at their own eight yard line. It was do or die at this moment! Rodgers dropped back and delivered a beautiful touch pass across the middle to Lazard who was graciously up ended by a SF defensive back. On Rodgers next pass attempt under pressure once again Rodgers fires an under thrown ball to the left sideline and is picked off by Mosely setting the SF 49ers up for the kill shot.
Already at the thirty yard line with just over a minute to play, you guessed it. Ball is snapped and Mostert takes the ball up the middle for twelve yards and a new set of downs. On the very next play due to a gaping hole created by the SF offensive line, bad angles taken by the GB safeties, and a quick burst once in the secondary Mostert took a run up the middle eighteen yards for his third house call of the night.
Coming out of half time, GB after being a punching bag for a fired up SF team it was time to get going. There was one name for GB that had not been mentioned nearly enough in the first half and he was looking to make his presence felt. The Rodgers to Adams connection needed to get going and it needed to happen fast! For only the second time all night Adams was targeted and it was a completion for fifteen yards. Two plays later it was Adams again taking a WR screen one handed and hurdling one of his own downed blockers for another twelve yards and another first down. Finding themselves in the red zone after a surprisingly methodical drive Rodgers found his outlet pass to Jones in the middle of the field who set up his blocks and took it in for a twelve yard TD.
SF getting the ball back after surrendering their first points of the night to GB had no intention of slowing down and giving Rodgers an opportunity to catch them. A SF running game that had been destroying an already leaky GB run defense was ready to open the flood gates. GB selling out to stop Mostert up the middle lined up with eight in the box. The ball is snapped and it appears to be another run up the middle except its a fake and Samuel takes the ball around the left side on a jet sweep for a first down. GB knowing that SF will not run the same play twice lines up to stop the run up the middle and low and behold SF ran the same play twice this time the jet sweep going right instead of left and Samuel takes the ball to GB’s twenty two yard line for a gain of thirty five. Ready to put this away SF lines up, GB knowing this could be the end of their season lines up weary of the sweep, SF snaps the ball and this time does hand the ball to Mostert who takes the ball twenty two yards around the left side of the line for yet another TD and a record breaking night!
Down thirty four to seven, a dejected, demoralized, deflated, and whatever other term you can think of to describe a dead in the water GB team took the field. Slowly making their way to the fifty yard line this game looked as if it were all but over. Did I mention that Rodgers was a wily vet? Well there happens to be another wily vet that plays for this team and he is very used to catching long TDs. He goes by the name of Jimmy Graham and he wanted the football. Rodgers took the snap, dropped back, and unleashed a dime of a pass to a Graham who was streaking up the seam scoring what appeared to be a TD. After further review it was deemed that he was down just inches short (Sorry fantasy owners who took Graham and not Aaron Jones). On the very next play Jones took the plunge into the end zone for his second TD. Going for two in order make the game only another TD with a two point conversion and a field goal away from tied Rodgers dropped back and threw yet another uncharacteristic off target throw to Adams which was dropped and the try was no good.
A quick three and out by SF gave GB the ball back and looking to put up more points it was time to start taking shots! Rodgers takes the snap and unleashes a deep ball down field. A beautiful arching throw that seemed to take forever to drop into the awaiting hands of Adams who had beaten Sherman over the top. The cameras zoomed in on Sherman’s face as Adams caught the ball and you could almost sense the disgust the former Seahawk had in himself that he had given up such a big play. Quickly there after Rodgers took a snap, scrambled around in the backfield for a few seconds and delivered a dime to one of his receivers in the back of the end zone to cut into the lead some more.
SF up fourteen with just over six minutes left in the game was starting to feel the pressure of such a big game. What do you do in that moment you may wonder. Give the ball to your QB who hasn’t thrown a ball in over an hour and a half and tell him to go win you the game. Garropolo drops back and finds a wide open Kittle for his seventh completion and Kittle’s first catch of the night which provided a fresh set of downs. Just into GB territory Garropolo drops back and throws to where Kittle would have been if he had not been held. The penalty gifted SF a new set of downs once again. After two more plays and nine yards gained Mostert may have had his biggest run of the night. Plowing for two yards behind the left side of his line he gained the first down which made GB burn their time outs on SFs next three plays. With time winding down to four minutes left SF called on Gould once again and you could say he was as good as Go(u)ld as he drilled his kick to make it game three possessions once more.
With time winding down and hope fading by the second Rodgers went on the field for one last attempt do bring his team back. Bosa had other intentions. Rodgers dropped back and was crushed by Bosa, the ball came free but GB was lucky enough to get back ontop of it. On fourth and thirteen Rodgers released a dart to Adams who caught the ball seventeen yards down field but in trying to make it a larger play actually lost a few yards and at one point seemed like he may run so far backwards that they would not get the yards needed to convert the first down. Soon there after Rodgers dropped back (and did I mention there was a third wily vet in this game?) and unleashed another arching deep ball. Only this time there was another set of hands waiting on the other end. Sherman had seen this attempt before on the play earlier where he was beat by Adams and this time made sure to stay ahead of the receiver. Picking the pass off, effectively ending the game, redeeming himself for the bad play earlier which cost his team points, and notching his third trip to the SB Sherman laid out for the pass and made the interception.
My Takeaways from this game
- San Fran is for real, as much as people don’t want to admit it. They have a great coach, with a great system. They have extremely talented players on both sides of the ball. And they have a QB that is willing to do whatever it takes to win games and is not upset when he is not the star of the game.
- San Fran is a young and talented team that is trending in the right direction and I don’t see any glaring holes in any position on their roster. Look for them to take best player available in the draft.
- Green Bay is a very young team, other than Rodgers, Adams, Jones, and Graham the average person would have a hard time naming any of their players. This looks good for GB as they will only get better in years to come and this was excellent experience for all of their young players.
- Green Bay has to get some more WR talent on this team. Besides Adams they are void of players who can make big plays at the WR position. Jones (RB) had the second most receiving yards on their team this year. With a QB that is in the tail end of his career but still as talented as Rodgers you need to give him something to work with to see if he can get you another championship before he moves on from football. Look for GB to target a WR early in this years draft and possibly add another in FA.