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49ers suffocate Packers in dominating win, stake claim as favorites in NFC

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Sunday night was billed as a competition between two titans of the National Football Conference. Would the 49ers’ dominance over the conference be rudely interrupted by the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers? Nope. Not even close.

The first half was a suffocating defensive performance. Two minutes into the game, after deferring the kick, the 49ers had stolen a 7-0 lead thanks to a Fred Warner forced fumble and Nick Bosa recovery.

Warner has just about patented his punch out technique, which he evidenced in the first game of the season, when he punched out a fumble. He did the same to Aaron Rodgers on a sack fumble on the fifth play of the game. One play later, Tevin Coleman secured his team-leading seventh touchdown of the season.

The Packers’ first half amounted to zero points and 23-0 49ers lead. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Sack-fumble turnover
  2. Punt (three-and-out)
  3. Punt (three-and-out)
  4. Punt (three-and-out)
  5. Turnover on downs
  6. Punt
  7. Punt (three-and-out)
  8. Punt (three-and-out)

When it was all said and done, the 49ers embarrassed the Packers with a 37-8 victory in front of a national TV audience.

Garoppolo clinical, and the Kittle connection is revived

On the other end, Jimmy Garoppolo did not turn the ball over. While he stepped into a few sacks, and wasn’t domineering, per se, he didn’t make mistakes. After that one-play handoff to Coleman, however, he and the 49ers punted three of the next four drives, sprinkling in one field goal to make it 10-0.

After the Packers’ fifth punt of the first half and two Raheem Mostert rushes for a combined 19 yards, Garoppolo hit Deebo Samuel over the middle for a 42-yard pass and catch for a touchdown. With Samuel’s speed, he was in the end zone the moment the ball reached his hands.

Thanks to a terrible punt by Packers punter JK Scott (he had a howler of a day) followed by a 22-yard completion to George Kittle, the 49ers went up 23-0 at the end of the half.

When the Packers countered with a meandering, 11-minute, penalty-filled,. 13-play touchdown drive on their first possession of the second half, that Kittle connection reared its head yet again. After a 14-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne on a bootleg right, Kittle found himself wide open over the middle on a bootleg left for a 61-yard touchdown.

Kittle, who was playing with a fractured ankle, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, had a team-high six receptions for 129 yards and one TD. Garoppolo was 14-of-20 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 145.8 QB rating… and again, no turnovers (for just the third time this season, and just the second time he hasn’t lost a fumble or thrown an interception).

But it was all about the defense

Aaron Rodgers looked anything like a future Hall of Famer. That was thanks to an onslaught from the likes of D.J. Jones, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. The coverage, aside from a handful of penalties, was also tremendous. While Emmanuel Moseley started, and played the entire first quarter, Ahkello Witherspoon came in for the second quarter and remained in.

Jones’ presence, and his return from a two-game absence with a groin injury, was a massive boon. He constantly shed his blockers and opened up lanes for his fellow defensive lineman to hurry Rodgers. His four tackles weren’t close to the team high, but his impact was clear.

But if you were to pinpoint a pair of defensive MVPs on Sunday, it was Fred Warner and Jimmie Ward. Warner led the team with 11 tackles (all solo), and forced that first drive fumble on Rodgers.

Ward was omnipresent, constantly blowing up plays at the line of scrimmage, or coming up with key breakups. He had at least three PBUs on third downs, and had six tackles.

That’s all without talking about Armstead, Buckner and Bosa. Armstead (five tackles, two sacks, four QB hits) retained his team sack lead and was the first to double-digit sacks with 11. Buckner had five tackles of his own and was credited with a half sack. Both he and Armstead split out wide at times and wreaked constant havoc, while Bosa, who at one point was triple-teamed, had three tackles and a sack (along with one which was negated by a defensive penalty).

While the Packers broke 100 yards on the ground, much of that yardage came in garbage time The numbers that really matter are these:

Aaron Rodgers was limited to 20-of-33 for 104 yards with one touchdown. It just the fourth time in his career that he’s thrown for 104 yards or less with more than 11 passing attempts and the first time he’s had so few yards with more than 22 attempts.

 

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