The Green Bay Packers fell to the San Francisco 49ers in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday Night. It was a low-scoring, hard-fought game. What should have been a blowout came down to the wire due to poor special teams play and a stagnant offense for much of the game.
Rashan Gary had the best regular season of his young career this year. With Za’Darius Smith sidelined all season, Gary stepped in and became one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. Gary continued that dominance in the Divisional Round against the San Francisco 49ers. Before halftime, Gary had recorded two sacks.
Rashan Gary continued to be a menace all night long. He was consistently in the backfield making life uncomfortable for Jimmy Garoppolo. In the fourth quarter, with the 49ers driving, the Packers forced a fourth down and short. San Francisco went for it. Elijah Mitchell got the handoff and was met by Rashan Gary, who tackled him for a loss and a turnover on downs.
Aaron Jones is such a great offensive weapon. The packers were able to utilize him in both the running and passing game to great effect all night. The problem was that they did not always go to him.
When AJ Dillon exited the game with a chest injury, the Packers started to run the offense through Aaron Jones. While it did not result in the high number of points Green Bay would have liked, it moved the chains and took time off the clock. Jones ended the contest with 170 all purpose yards in a losing effort.
Over the course of his career, Davante Adams has owned the San Francisco 49ers. Entering tonight’s game, he averaged 10 catches, 120 yards, and a touchdown in the five games he played against them. Adams had another big game against San Francisco, hauling in nine catches for 90 yards.
Name anything that special teams could have done wrong in this game and they did. Poor kick returns, poor punts, and allowing long kick returns. This unit has been the obvious weak link of the Packers team all year long. Green Bay was fortunate to escape with a victory tonight despite the poor play. However, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that does not bode well for the Packers going forward.
Just how bad were they? Here is a replay of the blocked field goal at the end of the first half.
In the fourth quarter, the 49ers blocked a punt and returned it for a short touchdown. The blocking up front has been terrible all year long. It is a miracle more kicks and punts have not been blocked. Make no mistake, the Packers will almost certainly be looking for a new special teams coordinator this offseason.
Mason Crosby did hit a field goal in the fourth quarter to give the Packers a 10-3 lead. Amari Rodgers also had a nice return after the 49ers kicked a field goal of their own. However, the overall performance by the special teams was concerning.
After the Packers scored on their opening drive, they got the ball back again after a quick three-and-out. Again, the Packers started moving the ball at will. However, Marcedes Lewis fumbled a catch and turned it over to the 49ers. The momentum was sucked out of the offense and did not return for the rest of the game.
The Play Calling
All year, it seems, Packers fans have been frustrated by the inconsistent offensive play calling. When something works, the Packers will mysteriously abandon it for long throws. The result is almost always a punt or a turnover on downs.
Tonight, Aaron Jones was moving the ball at will. For whatever reason, the Packers left that plan behind in favor of forced throws downfield. Had there been more short passes and runs, this game could have been over earlier in the contest.