Game Recap: Packers Beat 49ers in 30-28 Thriller

Sarah Kelliher recaps the Packers’ week three win against the 49ers.    

What if I told you, it only took 37 seconds for greatness to happen?

That’s all it took for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (2-1, 1-0 NFC North) to seal the deal in a thrilling 30-28 win over the San Francisco 49ers (2-1, 0-0 NFC West) at Levi’s Stadium Sunday night.

This heart-racing matchup had it all, so let’s dive right in.

The 49ers won the coin toss and deferred, so Rodgers and the Packers were the first to take the field Sunday night. Things appeared promising for Green Bay after Rodgers connected with wide receiver Allen Lazard for a 42-yard pickup on 3rd and 3 and running back Aaron Jones rushed for 11 yards on the following play.

However, it didn’t take long for San Francisco’s star defensive end, Nick Bosa, to wake up and cause chaos against Green Bay’s left tackle Yosh Nijman. He blew by Nijman on multiple plays and even batted down one of Rodgers’ passes, ultimately forcing the Packers to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Mason “Money” Crosby was good from 54-yards out and Green Bay took an early 3-0 lead.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offensive squad took the field in their home stadium for the first time since the 2019 NFC Championship game against the Packers and struggled to find much of anything on their first drive. Garoppolo connected with tight end George Kittle for 8 yards and a first down on 2nd and 6 but, after that, Green Bay’s defense did exactly what they needed to do. Linebacker Preston Smith and defensive tackle Kenny Clark applied great pressure and forced a 3-yard loss and then cornerback Chandon Sullivan broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu which forced the 49ers to punt.

After a gift from the defense, Green Bay’s offense gleefully took advantage. Rodgers connected with WR1 Davante Adams for 12 yards and a first down. Then, after missing him multiple times in week two, Rodgers went deep to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and connected with him for a 47-yard gain on 2nd and 8 to put Green Bay at San Francisco’s 19. Two plays later on 3rd and 6, Rodgers escaped the pocket and connected with Adams for a 14-yard gain to put the Packers at the 1-yard line. And, to close out the four-minute, 80-yard drive, Rodgers connected with Adams for a 1-yard pass play off an artistic play call from Matt LaFleur to give Green Bay a 10-0 lead.

According to Packers writer Wes Hodkiewicz, Davante Adams has now caught at least one touchdown pass in 10 consecutive Sunday Night Football games.

From there, the defense continued to show up for the Packers in the first half, forcing an impressive three and out and putting the ball back in 12’s hands almost immediately.

With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, Rodgers connected with Lazard for another deep pass play and a defensive pass interference call on the 49ers earned the Packers 25 free yards. However, the momentum was short lived after San Francisco defensive end Arik Armstead got to Rodgers for a sack on the Packers’ next third down and Green Bay was forced to punt for the first time all night.  

Luckily, the Packers’ defense continued to answer the call. On the next drive, star cornerback Jaire Alexander came through with a jaw dropping interception and returned in 30 yards to Green Bay’s 42. From there, Rodgers and the offense did what they could to take advantage of this gift. 12 connected with Adams for 10 yards and first down, then Jones rushed for 10 yards and the first down, however, it still wasn’t quite enough. After failing to convert on third down, the Packers attempted to go for it on 4th and 1 and couldn’t convert after a clear miscommunication between rookie center Josh Myers and Aaron Rodgers.

Pinned deep in their own territory, San Fran struggled to get into a rhythm on their next drive. After converting for two first downs, the 49ers momentum was quickly squashed after linebacker Jonathan Garvin and defensive tackle TJ Slaton got to Jimmy G for a combined sack and 7-yard loss, which led to a big third down stop on the next play for the Packers.

After punting and turning it over on downs, the third time was the charm for Green Bay. After a 32-yard gain thanks to another defensive pass interference call on 3rd and 6, Rodgers and Adams rolled down the field for the Packers. Rodgers connected with Adams for 15 yards and then 19 yards before mixing it up with tight end Robert Tonyan for a 6-yard gain to give the Packers a fresh set of downs on the goal line. From there, Jones, with an assist from a just stellar block from Lazard, rushed it in for 3-yards and a touchdown to extend Green Bay’s lead to 17-0.

Just when it looked like the Packers were going to shut out the 49ers at half, good ole special teams had other plans. With 1:02 left in the half they allowed a 68-yard kick return where Crosby had to make the touchdown saving tackle. After that, the 49ers cruised to the red zone, with help from a defensive pass interference call from rookie cornerback Eric Stokes. And, as time expired, San Fran brought in rookie Trey Lance at quarterback to run it in for a touchdown to cut the Packers’ lead to 17-7 at the half.

After the half, you could almost feel the momentum shift through the television. The 49ers got the ball and wasted no time cutting the Packers’ lead to a field goal. On 3rd and 1, Lance came back in for a direct snap and moved the chains with a 2-yard pick-up. Then, San Fran converted for first downs on back-to-back plays. Green Bay’s defense wasn’t going out without a fight though; linebacker De'Vondre Campbell came up with two big stops on back-to-back plays. Sadly though, it wasn’t enough as Garoppolo connected with Samuel for 16 yards and a first down. Then, despite a heavy blitz Jimmy G still for the ball out in time to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk for an 8-yard touchdown. And, just like that, it was 17-14 Packers.

When both teams needed to produce to try and gain control, they each responded with three and outs. And, the Packers needed to swing momentum back on their side now more than ever. Thanks to yet another defensive pass interference call on the 49ers, the Packers were gifted 27 yards and an automatic first down. After that, Jones picked up 12 yards and the first down the close the third quarter, Then, on 3rd and 4, Rodgers continued to stay true to his word to “make it up” to MVS and connected with him on a 12-yard dime for a touchdown to extend Green Bay’s lead to 24-14.

San Fran was not going down without a fight though. After back-to-back sacks from linebacker Rashan Gary, the Packers were flagged for a questionable defensive pass interference penalty on Stokes and gave up 35 yards on the play. Then, another suspect call was made after Garoppolo connected with Sanu for a 16-yard pickup which, despite the challenge from the Packers, was ruled a catch. After that, Green Bay gifted San Fran with a defensive holding penalty which lead to running back Trey Sermon rushing in for a 1-yard touchdown to cut the Packers’ lead to 24-21.

Then, a nightmare scenario started to unravel for Green Bay. On first down, Rodgers went deep to Adams who was hit helmet-to-helmet and extremely shaken up on the play. Despite the clear contact in a defenseless position, the officials didn’t even throw a flag on the play. Thankfully, Adams walked off on his power and returned just two plays later. However, the Packers continued to find nothing with the deep ball and were forced to punt.

After what felt like a never-ending cycle of horrific calls from the officials that all fell in San Fran’s favor, Clark proved that the ball never lies and came up huge for Green Bay, sacking Jimmy G and forcing a fumble which was recovered by Campbell and the Packers at San Fran’s 38-yard line with about five minutes to play.

However, the Packers weren’t able to put the game away after throwing an incomplete pass on 3rd and 4 and using their final timeout. Crosby was able to extend Green Bay’s lead a bit after drilling home a 38-yard field goal to make it 27-21, but we all knew that wasn’t enough.  

With 2:39 left and all three of their timeouts, Jimmy G and the 49ers carved up the Packers’ defense. Garoppolo immediately connected with Kittle for a monstrous 39-yard pickup. Then, to pour salt in the wound, the Packers gave up two 3rd and 10’s to keep the 49ers in it. And, after that, fullback Kyle Juszczyk looked like he was the hero for San Fran after scoring a 12-yard touchdown to give the 49ers their first lead of the night at 28-27 with just seconds remaining.

So, with 37 seconds left on the clock, no timeouts, and backed up at their own 25, Aaron Rodgers did what he does best: close games out. Immediately, he connected with Adams for a 25-yard pickup to put Green Bay at midfield. Then, Rodgers and the offense sprinted to the ball to spike it dead and have a moment to regroup. After that, 12 looked to 17 again but threw an incomplete pass. Then, on 3rd and 10, Rodgers connected with Adams again for 17 yards and jetted to spike the ball to stop the clock.

With time ticking away in this insane primetime matchup, Green Bay put all its faith in the hands, or rather, the feet, of kicker Mason Crosby. His 51-yard field goal was good, and the Packers topped the 49ers 30-28 in what is sure to be a momentum-building win.

 

What we learned: This team can fight

After an energy-draining loss in week one, many people were left wondering if this Packers team had the “heart” necessary to be one of the NFL’s top teams and, a win over Detroit really wasn’t the best opportunity for them to build a strong case for themselves.

Sunday night’s game, however, proved that this Packers team has all the heart they need, and then some. This matchup truly had it all and Green Bay never stopped fighting. When the Packers get in close-game situations later this season, their ability to overcome adversity in this game will serve as a huge benefit to their confidence and play-making ability on both sides of the ball. For the first time all season, it felt like Green Bay had a heartbeat and it was awesome to watch.  

What went right: Keeping the play calling creative, first half defense, Mason Crosby

In order to have a fighting chance in this game the Packers had to keep it creative on the offensive side of things and, for the most part, they delivered. It’s no secret that LaFleur and Hackett have some tricks up their sleeve, and it was nice to finally see them dig deeper into the playbook Sunday.

Joe Barry’s first half defense also came up huge for the Packers and was a big difference maker in this game. They only allowed one touchdown in the half, and it really wasn’t there fault after special teams gave up such a horrific kickoff return.

Also, I hope Mason Crosby never retires. I’ve never even met him and he’s one of the most reliable people in my life. Thanking my lucky stars for him.

What went wrong: Abandoning the run and giving up third and longs

This was easily the best showing for the Packers this season but one thing that really stood out was how they continue to abandon the run at times. As I’ve mentioned in prior recaps, this offense is most efficient when it’s balanced. Forcing deep balls when the play isn’t there is just lethal at times for Green Bay.

The number of times the Packers gave up third and longs on defense was also painful, and extremely costly. Green Bay was fortunate Rodgers and Crosby saved the day, but they may not be so lucky every single time.

Offensive MVPs: Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams

The league continues to have virtually no answers for 12 and 17 and Sunday night proved they are back and better than ever.

Rodgers finished the day 22/33 for 261 yards and 2 TDS (ESPN stats) while Adams led the team in receiving with 12 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown (ESPN stats). I’m so glad Adams seems to be OK after getting shaken up late in the game. These two are just tremendous together.

Defensive MVPs: De’Vondre Campbell and Kenny Clark

Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell is proving that he is one of, if not the best, players the Packers acquired this offseason. He had a terrific game on Sunday and led the team with 12 tackles, 6 of which were solo (ESPN stats) and recovered Jimmy G’s fumble. So far, he’s proved to be a much-needed addition to this defense.

Although it won’t show up in the stat sheet too much, defensive tackle Kenny Clark was out there absolutely ballin’ on Sunday. He looked like a mad man applying pressuring at times and it was a sight to see. He finished the day with 2 total tackles, 1 of which was solo, and 1 QB hit that led to San Fran's fumble.

Linebacker Preston Smith also had a great showing Sunday as well.

 

Up next, the Green Bay Packers get a visit from the Pittsburg Steelers at Lambeau Field. Kickoff is set for Sunday, October 3 at 4:25 p.m. EST.

 

 

Sarah Kelliher is a contributor for CheeseheadTV and a podcaster with Pack-A-Day Podcast. She can be found via Twitter @sarahkelliher4

 

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Comments (17)

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Kevin Carpenter's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:05 am

I'm glad the Packers overcame everything from dirty plays coming from Ward to the horrific penalties and lack-there-of to come out with a W in one of the most spectacular finishes I've ever seen. Props to Rodgers, props to Adams, but most of all, props to Crosby. That man has ice water in his veins and he delivered on a monumental scale tonight. Great win, let's move on to Pittsburgh next week. Go pack go!!!

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SarahKelliher's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:05 am

Like I said. One of the most reliable people in my life! LOL

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ricky's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:14 am

Rodgers still has a tendency to go for TD's when he should be going for first downs. Especially at the end of the game, on their second last drive of the game. They were near the goal line, and needed four yards for a first down on fourth down. Rather than go for a short pass to secure the first, Rodgers predictably threw it to Adams trying for a TD. It didn't connect. SF then came back and scored the TD, forcing the Packers to perform their absolutely wonderful, thrilling and intensely satisfying winning FG. But what if Rodgers throws to someone other than Adams? Like Tonyan, or Jones to get the first down, and keep the clock moving, either forcing SF to use some TO's, or running the clock down before going for a much shorter FG if necessary? Because that is not what Rodgers does, and what he will never do. Excellent game, but frustratingly familiar when the game should have been iced much earlier.

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Kevin Carpenter's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:57 am

I've never seen a ball deflected in such a strange way before that throw. The defender flicks his hand straight down and the ball fell to the ground. I watched it 15+ times and still can't figure out if it was skill or luck. If he doesn't do that, it's sitting right in Adams' bread basket. That was the correct read, as it was for 80% of the night. Adams is almost always open.

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fordguy's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:25 am

What the fuck kind of make you want to throw up call was that for the Cali homer Al Michaels at the end of the game?

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Wrongbayfeldlman's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:51 am

Anyone else enjoy the guilty pleasure of entering the Bears forums after a Chicago loss?
I may require an intervention after their great hope at qb posted a 5.8 qbr. I may not be able to overcome this addiction.

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Dan Collins's picture

September 27, 2021 at 02:00 am

Don't forget to tune in to Chicago sports radio for the rest of the week.

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Tingham's picture

September 27, 2021 at 08:11 am

But wait. He is a HOF quarterback. Didnt you read all of the articles during the preseason?

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HankScorpio's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:25 pm

Has it been said enough times that the Packers gained 42 yards in 37 seconds with no time outs to win the game and the Bears gained 47 yards in offense for the entire game?

Silly me, there is no such thing as saying that enough.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

September 27, 2021 at 01:14 am

Big shoutout to the o line for the performance. A really young, untested group against a big time front and Jones ran for 82 yards and pretty decent protection overall. At the end of the game the 49ers were running twists and stunts as they were having such trouble getting to Rodgers. Cool stuff to see.

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NickPerry's picture

September 27, 2021 at 06:24 am

I honestly was worried about this game. I was worried about the O-Line, worried Rodgers would resort to hero ball especially when the game got close, and worried they'd get away from the run. MLF had an excellent game plan and Rodgers for the most part followed it. That final drive with 37 seconds left showed me A LOT about the fight in this team. I was concerned about the heart on this team after week one. BIT, what they'll showed the last 6 quarters of football they've played is they have TONS of heart.

I hate to be one of those guys who blame the refs, but this game shouldn't have been as close as it was. The intentional grounding that was called on Jimmy G was pathetic. That should have been 10 yards and loss of down but instead it set up the 49ers for a TD. The PI call on Stokes was just as bad despite what Collinsworth suggested on the play. Sometimes (most of the time) I just wish Chris Collinsworth would stop talking, especially when what he's spewing is BS!

I know the Packers are cap starved next year, but in NO WAY can Gute cut Mason Crosby to save a few bucks. I love that grey haired old fart!!!

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stockholder's picture

September 27, 2021 at 07:40 am

Kenny Clark was awesome. And what a game by this OL. Very impressive! Crosby - No need to cross fingers. Some very very nice catches by these Wrs. Arron Rodgers -Thank You. What a triumph.

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Norm's picture

September 27, 2021 at 11:31 am

Sarah, you named offensive and defensive MVP’s but not special teams MVP? I’ll give you a hint: I think he tied for the team high in special teams tackles with one.

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HankScorpio's picture

September 27, 2021 at 11:41 am

After that game ended, it popped into my head that once upon a time, nearly everyone wanted Crosby gone, me among them. He's been around forever so not only does it seem like a long time ago, it really was. Good move by TT to ride out those inconsistencies early, Crosby has been as clutch as it gets very a very, very long time. I have complete faith that he'll nail that 50+ FG to win the game with no time left. Just like he did yesterday.

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justjan's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Where is Taryn? She need to complain about something.

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HankScorpio's picture

September 27, 2021 at 12:22 pm

If you are homesick for her schtick, pop on a Winnie The Pooh flick and replay everything Eeyore says. Same schtick, same effect.

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cinpackback's picture

September 29, 2021 at 10:38 pm

I watched the game and came back here to read your recap. As usual you are spot on and I got excited all over again. My choice for MVP Period! is Mason Crosby 👍 GPG!

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