The spiraling San Francisco 49ers will be on display for the whole nation to see in Week 6, as they take on the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. The team heads over to Lambeau Field for its first Monday night game since Week 1 of the 2016 season.
The NFL definitely didn’t plan on a hobbled Aaron Rodgers and an injured Jimmy Garoppolo when putting together the schedule. They didn’t expect two struggling teams to headline their primetime matchup. Nevertheless, that’s what they, and the rest of the country, are going to get.
The 49ers (1-4) are coming off an extremely disappointing loss to a previously winless divisional rival in the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers are 2-2-1, and also coming off a disappointing to loss to a divisional rival; one where they saw their kicker miss four field goal attempts and an extra point against the Detroit Lions.
Both teams have been bit bad by the injury bug, and are trying to make due with what they have. The 49ers have seen multiple starters go down in every game this season, and the Packers are playing with a one-legged Rodgers and reserve receivers. However, even when injured, as long as Rodgers is on the field, the Packers have a chance.
For as disappointing as the Garoppolo injury was, CJ Beathard and the rest of the team have stuck around in every game they have played. The very next play after Jimmy G’s injury, Beathard tossed a touchdown pass that would’ve put them within one score of the Chiefs with plenty of time left, but it was ultimately called back because of a penalty.
In both games against the Chargers and Cardinals, the 49ers had the ball with a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Beathard was hit and fumbled in both games.
Injuries and turnovers have been the story of the season so far. There isn’t much the team can do about the injuries, but turnovers can be fixed. While it’s common sense, if the 49ers really want to pull off the upset Monday night, they have to win the turnover battle.
Last week against the Cardinals, the 49ers doubled Arizona’s yard amount (447-220), had more than three times the amount of first downs (33-10), and had the ball for twice as long (40:12-19:48). But they also had five turnovers.
The week before that against the Chargers, the 49ers had the ball in the red zone; Beathard threw a pass to tight end Garrett Celek that subsequently bounced off his chest and into the hands of a defender, who then nearly ran it back for a touchdown. The 49ers lost that game by two points. It’s these mistakes that lose football games. These are the mistakes that bad teams make.
The 49ers can’t expect Mason Crosby to have a game like he did last week. It’s only happened once in his career. So it's on them to play sound football. In last week’s loss to Detroit, the Packers turned the ball over three times. Two of those were from Rodgers fumbling.
The Aaron Rodgers playing now is not the usual Aaron Rodgers. He’s practically on one leg and is throwing to first-year receivers. Rodgers can’t scramble and extend plays as much as usually does. The Lions were able to take advantage of this. They got pressure on him and made him uncomfortable. Everyone knows that pass rush and pass defense are not the 49ers' strong suit. The defense did play well last week, but that was against what might be the worst offense in the league.
Even with an injured Rodgers, the Packers have a potent scoring attack. The defense needs to step up and start making plays. The entire defense has just one interception in five games. Just one.
They also only have two fumble recoveries. That is good for dead last in the NFL. The next worst has two more turnovers.
The 49ers offense is also second-worst in the league at giving up turnovers with 11, which when put together equals the worst turnover ratio in the entire league at -8. So the offense is giving up turnovers, and the defense isn’t forcing any. That is not a recipe for success.
If the 49ers have any hope of winning this game, they need to get to Rodgers early and often. And if they don’t, the secondary needs to take advantage of the receivers' inexperience.
Despite all the injuries to his No. 1 QB, Nos. 1 and 2 RBs, Nos. 1 and 3 receivers, and a rash of injuries on the offensive line, Kyle Shanahan has put the offense in the position to win every single game this season. It’s just about executing. As mentioned before, the 49ers have had the ball and a chance to win or tie late in the game in three of their four losses. All three of those chances have ended with turnovers.
The 49ers need to begin executing. If they are able to take care of the ball and stick to Shanahan’s game plan, they can still be a competitive team in this league.
Media courtesy NFL, Wikimedia