by Mark Metzler
As the Green Bay Packers prepare for the playoffs, the team faced its first big test of the year and failed miserably against the San Francisco 49ers, 37-8. It was ugly.
It started poorly with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Davante Adams that stalled a drive before it started and quickly devolved with Aaron Rodgers fumbling. The 49ers recovered and quickly converted. After that awful start, it did get worse.
The 49ers poured on the pressure with a great push from a talented defensive line. When right tackle Bryan Bulaga went down with a knee injury, Rodgers’ short time in the pocket got even shorter.
Again, the Packers decided to go for it on fourth and one instead of kicking a field goal. The 49ers stuffed the run. With the score 10-0, I would have taken the points that time, or come up with something more creative.
The Packers’ defense did bend, but didn’t break in the first half until the long touchdown pass from Jimmy Garapolo to Deebo Samuel near the end of the half. The 49ers even tacked on another field goal before the half to make it 23-0.
The play in the first half seemed very lopsided, but the defense didn’t play that bad. The offense did though. As they say in baseball, good pitching will beat good hitting any day. The same is true in the NFL with a good defense beating a good offense any game. Any game.
The Packers played better at the beginning of the second half, holding the 49ers after the kickoff and then driving down to momentarily put the team back in the game at 23-8. That didn’t last long though, with Garapolo hitting George Kittle with a 61-yard touchdown pass that caught the Packers flat-footed.
What did we learn? For one, the 49ers are for real, especially with that defense. They may very well be the best team in the NFC. The 49ers’ offense is good enough, and Kittle is a great tight end. We also learned that there isn’t any quit in the Packers. The team didn’t give up. That plays well for the long haul. And the long haul is going to include a big game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are going to need to play well over the next two weeks against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. The team should win those two games. Then comes a big game against the Bears. Then, the Vikings.
So, if you take a look at the Packers’ three losses, the earlier loss against the Eagles was one the team could have won, but the last two – against the Chargers and 49ers – have been flat-out bad. How do you cure it? Stay out of California as announcer Al Michaels suggested. Not a bad idea, but not very realistic. It looks as if any sort of road to the Super Bowl in the NFC is going to go through San Francisco. Let’s hope the Packers figure it out because the loss against the 49ers will likely mean the team will miss a first-round bye and will need to play against the sixth seed in the playoffs. If the Packers beat the Vikings in week 16, that sixth seed will probably be the Vikings. If the Packers lose in week 16 against the Vikings, that sixth seed will likely be the Packers. And a playoff game in Minnesota isn’t my idea of fun.