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Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' last-second victory over 49ers

Resiliency at key moments helped Green Bay pull through

Packers kicker Mason Crosby is swarmed by teammates after his 51-yard game-winning field goal to close out Sunday's 30-28 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby is swarmed by teammates after his 51-yard game-winning field goal to close out Sunday's 30-28 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

A wild finish and a big victory. The Packers took down the 49ers in walk-off fashion, 30-28, on Sunday night at Levi's Stadium.

Here are five takeaways from the uplifting triumph.

1. Everyone thought they had enough time to win it.

With no timeouts and just 37 seconds left for the final drive, starting from their own 25, the Packers had little room for error. But the confidence to get it done was there.

"Yeah, a lotta time. Lotta time left," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur added he was "cautiously optimistic."

The 49ers had just taken their first lead of the game, 28-27, on fullback Kyle Juszczyk's 12-yard touchdown reception to cap an eight-play, 75-yard drive. The score completed San Francisco's comeback from a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter, a hole that was still 10 points, at 24-14, early in the fourth.

But 37 seconds was enough to get three plays off – two completions to Davante Adams, covering 25 and 17 yards, sandwiched around an incomplete pass to Adams. Rodgers spiked the ball after both catches, the last one with three seconds left. The target was around the 36-yard line, which would keep the field goal under 55 yards for Mason Crosby, and the ball was on the 33, making the kick 51.

Mission accomplished.

"My old partner Mase," said Rodgers of Crosby, his teammate for all but the first two years of his career. "Felt good about him nailing that."

2. The Packers got the fast start they were looking for, and it could've been even better.

The 17-0 lead with a minute left in the first half, which included a field goal and touchdown on Green Bay's first two drives, had a chance to be larger.

After Jaire Alexander intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo on a deep ball intended for tight end George Kittle, the Packers drove all the way to the 49ers' 3-yard line. Eschewing the field goal on fourth-and-1, LaFleur went for it on fourth-and-1, but a mistimed shotgun snap messed up the play and the 49ers held.

The missing points there loomed awfully large as the 49ers battled back. Their rally started with a long kickoff return, leading to a touchdown just before halftime. San Francisco then doubled up with another TD to start the second half. Suddenly it was 17-14, and all the hard work was nearly wiped out.

"I think our guys came out ready to play tonight," LaFleur said. "We knew going into this game they're a physical football team. I thought our guys did a really good job of matching that physicality."

3. Plenty seemed to be working against the Packers as the game wore on.

LaFleur was livid that Garoppolo wasn't called for intentional grounding in the red zone late in the first half, which would have prevented the TD run by rookie QB Trey Lance.

He also emphatically spiked the red challenge flag on a 16-yard reception by Mohamed Sanu early in the fourth quarter, sure it would be overturned. It wasn't, even though it appeared the ball moved as it grazed the ground with Sanu's hands on it.

The fourth quarter also included damaging penalties on rookie corner Eric Stokes for pass interference (35 yards) and Alexander for roughing the passer (15 yards) that were questionable at best.

The Packers did hurt themselves with clear-cut fouls, two in the end zone and a tripping penalty that negated a sack. They also benefited from three defensive pass interference fouls on the 49ers that netted 81 yards total, though there was little dispute on any of them.

"It seems like we overcame a lot of things," LaFleur said. "We showed a lot of toughness, just the resiliency we look for."

View some of the best photos from the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Sept. 26, 2021.

4. It's hard to imagine the Packers playing with a younger offensive line.

Yosh Nijman made his first career start in place of Elgton Jenkins at left tackle. At left guard, Jon Runyan was making his second career start. Rookies Josh Myers at center and Royce Newman at right guard were making their third each.

Yet against a formidable San Francisco defensive front, Rodgers was sacked just once on 34 drop-backs and the ground game averaged 4.0 yards per carry, churning out exactly 100 yards on 25 tries, with Aaron Jones accounting for most of those (19 for 82).

Everyone from LaFleur to Rodgers to Adams mentioned being "proud" of the young group, and especially of Nijman, who got some help at times blocking star pass rusher Nick Bosa. But Nijman had to hold his own plenty, too, and shook off an early facemask penalty to not really be heard from again the rest of the game.

"He did an outstanding job," LaFleur said. "He's a guy who's so even keel, we knew if there was anybody who wouldn't be phased by what he would encounter, it was Yosh.

"It speaks to that room, the leadership we get in that room, not only from the players but our coaches. Their ability to plug guys in, it seems like whenever we do, they do a great job."

5. The Packers are the only team in the NFC North with two wins after three weeks.

Green Bay has sole possession of first place at 2-1 after a Sunday during which the division made a bit of a statement just two weeks after an 0-fer in openers.

The Bears (1-2) struggled in rookie QB Justin Fields' first start at Cleveland, but the Vikings (1-2) dominated the second half against the Seahawks to get their first win, and the Lions (0-3) had the Ravens beat if not for an NFL-record 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker as time expired.

The Packers got arguably their biggest non-division road win since Week 3 of last year at New Orleans and exorcised at least a few demons from the two blowout losses at San Francisco two years ago.

"They beat us up twice in '19. Those were tough ones," Rodgers said. "The road trip out west from Green Bay is always tough, but it feels a lot better when you're going back to a win."