On an evening that saw the NFL record for longest field goal broken in Detroit as time expired, the San Francisco 49ers lost their own matchup to the Green Bay Packers 30-28 on a game-winning, 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as the clock ran out in Levi’s Stadium Sunday night.
Heading into this clash of two NFC titans, the 49ers were well aware they’d have their hands full with one of the best QBs to ever slang the pigskin setting up shop from them across the line of scrimmage. Northern-California-born Aaron Rodgers, despite being the focal point of his own controversies this season, has been dialed in as of late, having rattled off 255 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in his last performance.
Despite playing in front of their fans at Levi’s for the first time since beating the Packers in the NFC Championship in 2019, the 49ers got off to an extremely slow start offensively Sunday. After the opening drive of the game for Rodgers set up a Packers’ field goal, the 49ers accumulated just 25 total yards from scrimmage in the first quarter on two separate drives.
Jimmy Garoppolo looked pedestrian for most of the day, again missing open receivers downfield, and the 49ers’ starting QB opened up the second quarter for San Francisco throwing an interception on an attempted deep bomb across the middle to George Kittle. With no reprieve for the defense and an inability to get anything going offensively, the 49ers looked to be in serious trouble.
please pic.twitter.com/rxdrnYGizo— KNBR (@KNBR) September 27, 2021
However, down 17-0 and in danger of suffering a blowout loss in their home opener, newly acquired RB Trenton Cannon took the last punt return of the second quarter 68 yards to set up a quick Trey Lance rushing touchdown just before halftime, keeping the 49ers in the game and entering the tunnel at the break down 17-7.
Fire up the Cannon! @cannnon25 turned on the jets for a 68-yard return 💨— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 27, 2021
📺 #GBvsSF on NBC pic.twitter.com/Fbhnp73RNQ
WHOOMP! There it is! @treylance09 runs it in for the TD 🙌— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 27, 2021
📺 #GBvsSF on NBC pic.twitter.com/Ch1jBI68bp
Lance so far this season has shown an ability to stay ready and make an impact at any moment, despite not knowing when or if he will be called on.
“I do everything I can during the week to be as prepared as I can,” Lance told the media after the game Sunday, “so I can go into those situations and be ready. Because that's what they count on me to do.”
Just as many 49ers fans spent the halftime break wondering if Shanahan had had enough of his starting signal caller’s sub-par performance, preferring to ditch Jimmy for the franchise’s future in Lance, Garoppolo took the field to start the second half, immediately leading his team on an 83-yard scoring drive that culminated in WR Brandon Aiyuk’s first touchdown of the year and cutting the 49ers deficit to just three points.
Despite having trouble stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the first two quarters, the 49ers secondary made adjustments to negate big-yardage plays in the second half, while the front four remained committed to putting pressure on Rodgers and the Packers’ O-Line.
After trading touchdowns and forcing Green Bay to punt the ball on a three and out midway through the fourth quarter, establishing some positive momentum for the 49ers and a chance to take their first lead of the day, Garoppolo promptly handed the ball back to the Packers on a head-scratching fumble for his second turnover of the contest.
Following the costly mistake that set up another Packers field goal, the Green Bay lead sat at just six points with 2:39 left to play, encouraging an almost undeserved opportunity for Garoppolo to drive down the field and win it at home.
After a few big plays by TE George Kittle and WR Deebo Samuel brought the 49ers within 12 yards of a touchdown, Kyle Juszczyk took a pass from Garoppolo into the endzone with 37 seconds remaining to give the 49ers their first lead of the game at 28-27.
FOR THE LEAD!— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 27, 2021
📺 #GBvsSF on NBC pic.twitter.com/Ms6OZlO9Ez
Unfortunately for the 49ers, 37 ticks on the clock was all Aaron Rodgers needed, as he connected with Devonta Adams twice for 42 yards, clocking the ball at the Niners 33-yard-line with just three seconds remaining and allowing Mason Crosby to drill the game winning 51-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired.
Most teams up a score with less than a minute left in the game would feel pretty confident in securing the victory. However, Aaron Rodgers is no stranger to late-game theatrics, and some were left wondering if maybe Juszczyk should have fallen down before going into the endzone in order to take more time off the clock and negate any opportunity for Rodgers and the Packers to come back down and win it.
“I didn't really have a lot of time to think about it,” Juszczyk said in his postgame presser. “It wasn't really something that was on my mind during the play as well. You know, we were down six, we needed a touchdown, so I was trying to score.”
When asked about what he thought of his chances with 37 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Packers head coach Matt Lafleur was candid, telling the media, “This might shock you, but I was actually kind of cautiously optimistic.”
WR Deebo Samuel registered five catches and 52 yards on 10 targets while TE George Kittle caught seven passes for 92 yards on nine targets to lead the 49ers on offense. Garoppolo finished the day throwing the ball for 257 yards, two touchdowns, two turnovers, and a QBR of 87.2.
Much has been said during the Shanahan Era in San Francisco regarding the 24-hour rule, in which the players and coaching staff take a full day to watch film from the previous game, examining their flaws and opportunities for improvement, before flushing it entirely in preparation for the next week’s matchup.
“We talk about a 24-hour rule,” 49ers LB Fred Warner told media after the game Sunday. “You have to really look at yourself hard and see how you could have done better. That is exactly what I am going to do because at the end of the day, I need to make plays for this team especially in those moments.”
“I have to take it on the chin every time," Warner continued. "If you want to point fingers at anyone, point them at me. I don’t have any problems with it. I know that I am built for it and I know that I am going to be better.”
“Whether it's riding the high of a win or mourning the loss, you got to flush it after the 24 hours and get ready to go after it again,” Kittle added. “And yeah, like I said, if you mourn on it too long, it affects your next week and then you're a day behind.”
After this loss, the 49ers cannot afford to be a day behind, as they get ready for a blockbuster battle against their perennial rival Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at Levi’s at 1:05 p.m. PT.
Top Image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images