Looking ahead to Sunday night’s heavyweight showdown at San Francisco, Aaron Rodgers knew the reality for the Green Bay Packers.
“The way I look at it, we’ve got to beat them once at their place at some point. It would be nice to do it now,” Rodgers said on Wednesday.
It certainly didn’t happen on Sunday night. The Packers were destroyed 37-8 by the 49ers. Offensively, Rodgers had one of the worst games of his career and the team didn’t convert a third down for the first 59-plus minutes. Defensively, it didn’t get close to making a game-changing play and gave up its usual barrage of chunk plays. The special teams once again gave away field position with unwelcome generosity.
The Packers, with a healthy roster and a bye week to prepare, were beaten in every way imaginable in a not-ready-for-prime time showing. If they do make a return trip to San Francisco, it’s hard to see how the outcome will be 30 points different. The gulf just seems too great between the teams.
“You’ve got to give the 49ers a lot of credit,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “That’s a pretty darn good football team. Disappointed with myself, with how we got outcoached and we got outplayed. Bottom line. And it’s unacceptable and we’ve got to look at ourselves and there’s a lot to correct if we want to be the team we want to be.”
The Packers are 8-3 after what must be a dispiriting loss. When Green Bay lost to Philadelphia in Week 4, at least the offense took a big step forward in terms of execution and production. When it lost at the Chargers in Week 9, at least that could be explained away as the type of dud that happens to most teams over the course of an NFL season. But there’s no way to spin what happened against the 49ers. There were no silver linings, like there were against Philadelphia. There were no “(excrement) happens” explanations, like there were against the Chargers.
This was just an all-around ass kicking. Only once had Rodgers absorbed a worse beating on the scoreboard – the 38-8 debacle at Arizona to close the 2015 regular season. The only reasonable explanation for Sunday’s outcome is the 49ers are about four touchdowns better than the Packers.
After all, with the bye, the Packers were healthy. With no game last week, they should have been prepared with ideas to cure their problems as well as attack the 49ers. With first place in the NFC on the line, there was plenty at stake.
Instead, with all the intangibles in their favor, they were manhandled.
How is that possible for a team that had emerged as a championship contender?
“I know those questions are going to come up anytime you get whipped like we did today,” LaFleur said. “I still have a lot of confidence in our guys. But we’ve got to be critical of ourselves and every one of us – coaches, players, everybody involved – and figure out why this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again, because I do feel like we have a lot of talented players. But it was bad ball.”
LaFleur also used the word “abysmal” to describe his team’s performance. On defense and special teams, the product looked unchanged from before the bye. And the showing on offense did nothing to answer concerns about whether that unit has enough firepower to beat a quality defense.
“One week you guys are saying we’re rolling, one week you’re saying we’re terrible,” Adams said. “We can’t please the outside, we’ve just got to figure out what works for us and move the ball and score points. We’ve been doing that pretty consistently over the past month and a half. Today, we didn’t do that so now we suck, apparently. But we’ll take a look in the mirror and we’ll fix it and be ready to go.”
The Packers play at the Giants on Sunday before returning home to host the Redskins and Bears. Those teams are a combined 9-24, so Green Bay should win those games. But can it go to Minnesota in Week 16 and win a game that figures to decide the NFC North? Can it go to New Orleans or Seattle or San Francisco in the playoffs and emerge victorious?
Rodgers, who on Wednesday called the team’s prospects “special,” believes in his team.
“I feel good about the locker room. I feel good about the leadership,” he said. “We didn’t play very physical tonight, I think, as a whole and we obviously didn’t execute, but I feel good about the energy pregame and the approach. I think we had a good week of practice, which is why it’s so surprising the performance. You’ve got to give them credit. They played really well. But I still like our chances. I think we have the make-up to bounce back from these kind of things and put ourselves in a position to potentially come back here and play again.”
Coming back to San Francisco is definitely possible. Winning at San Francisco, however, seems like a much taller challenge.