Back in the primetime spotlight, the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium with a chance to rekindle their illustrious rivalry. It was also another showing for the 49ers to expose the "pretenders" narrative as nothing more than delusion. The 49ers not only exposed the narrative; they obliterated it. Green Bay was embarrassed in front of the entire nation on Sunday night with the 49ers winning 37-8.
The Packers were coming off of their bye week so they had plenty of time to rest and prepare. Clearly, it did not have any benefits with the 49ers completely smothering them. It was another fantastic win for the 49ers who showed us a lot about themselves. With that said, here are three things we learned from their 37-8 primetime win versus the Packers.
George Kittle is healthy
For the last two games, star tight end George Kittle had been missing in action with a knee and ankle injury. However, the extent of his injury was unknown until Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Kittle was nursing a broken bone in his ankle. The simple fact that Kittle was given the green light to play Sunday night felt reckless of the 49ers because it wasn't worth the risk.
Well after seeing the performance he put on display with the entire nation watching, it is pretty clear that Kittle is healthy. At the very least, he is healthy enough to wear he can be close to full capacity. The run game looked to have a boost with him back in the starting lineup as his blocking is a major key for sustained success running the ball.
The same way that his availability is a major key for sustained success throwing the ball. Kittle reeled in six receptions for a season-high 129 yards and a touchdown. Any concern about his ankle really should be minimal at this point. Not only was his performance an indicator of such, but he did not appear to limp at any point in the game. The 49ers are surely happy to have Kittle active again.
Daniel Brunskill can play at left offensive tackle
The 49ers' defense got to Aaron Rodgers six times in Sunday night's matchup and were battering him for most of the game. However, he was not the only one as Jimmy Garoppolo was taking shot for a good portion of the game. The majority of the pressure that Garoppolo saw against the Packers come from Justin Skule's left tackle spot.
Skule is back as the starter with Joe Staley absent to recover a fractured finger. Skule performed brilliantly prior to Staley's return in week 10, but against the Packers he struggled immensely. He was allowing too much pressure and was killing drives with his penalties. That is why Kyle Shanahan decided to bench Skule and insert Daniel Brunskill at left tackle for the remainder of the game.
It was a huge gamble because Brunskill hardly has any experience at left tackle. He takes all his reps at right tackle, so the mechanics he learned get flipped. Brunskill was put in a very tough spot, yet he was still able to step up and give Garoppolo a bit more time to deliver throws. As soon as Brunskill filled in, the passing game became effective. Going forward, the 49ers now know they can utilize Brunskill at left tackle when the need arises.
Fred Warner is a top linebacker in the league
When Kwon Alexander was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, the leadership on the defense would fall on Fred Warner. Production is not difficult to replace with Alexander since Dre Greenlaw has stepped in doing a tremendous job. It was the voice and energy that was the real loss to the defense. Warner has stepped up into that role and is becoming a top linebacker in the league.
It's difficult not to notice Warner on gameday, especially after the performance he put on against the Packers. If people were not aware of who Fred Warner is, I'm sure they are known to him now after the primetime beat down they put on Green Bay. Warner was all over the place Sunday night. What is starting to become noticeable is how improved he is against the run. His pass coverage was his strongest trait with his run defense lacking.
The last few weeks he has elevated his play. His speed when shuffling linear is top-tier and is a big reason why he can stuff the run so adequately. Warner does all of this so well and I haven't even mentioned how effective of a blitzer he is. His very first blitz of the game he causes a fumble on Aaron Rodgers that then turns into touchdown for the 49ers' offense. Warner is just a baller, plain and simple. It is plays like that strip-sack that have him as a top linebacker.