GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a “season-saving win.”
But the Packers sure needed it.
Rodgers was vintage Rodgers in directing the Packers to two scoring drives worth 10 points in the final three minutes to pull out a walk-off 33-30 victory over the 49ers on Monday night at Lambeau Field.
With four road games in five weeks – all against playoff contenders – following Green Bay’s bye, it was almost imperative the Packers get above .500 through six games. They did that by improving to 3-2-1 heading into a helpful week off health-wise.
“It definitely was an important one, especially with the prognosticating going on with the type of opponents we have coming up the next few weeks,” Rodgers said, referring to post-bye road trips to face the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings between now and the end of November.
“I never like to use the term must-win, but it was an important one.”
The Packers handed the 49ers, playing with backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, their fourth loss in a row. But for a while San Francisco was in prime position for the upset.
Green Bay saw its 17-7 lead late in the first quarter morph into a 30-23 deficit early in the fourth as the Packers’ fast-starting offense stalled and Beathard hit a number of big plays.
San Francisco receiver Marquise Goodwin had touchdown catches of 67 and 30 yards on his way to a 126-yard night, and running backs Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida combined for 148 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Beathard had a perfect passer rating well into the second half before finishing 16-of-23 for 245 yards and a 115.3 rating.
When the Packers, down by seven, failed on fourth-and-3 from the San Francisco 4-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, it didn’t look good. But Green Bay’s defense, which struggled for the first three quarters, got stops to give Rodgers not one but two shots at a game-tying drive, and he delivered on the second one.
With exactly three minutes left, a 38-yard pass to Davante Adams preceded a 16-yard TD to Adams three plays later. The Packers tied the game at 30 just after the two-minute warning, and at that point Adams became the third receiver on the night to top 100 yards. He finished with 10 catches for 132 yards and two scores, with tight end Jimmy Graham (5-104) and rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3-103) also hitting the century mark. It was just the second time in franchise history (per Elias Sports Bureau) that Green Bay has had three 100-yard receivers in a single game (Oct. 12, 1980, at Tampa Bay with RB Eddie Lee Ivery, TE Paul Coffman and WR Aundra Thompson).
Lambeau Field hosted a Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers
Then the defense came up with its biggest stop of the night. After a late hit by rookie cornerback Tony Brown on the kickoff return gave the 49ers the ball at their own 47, San Francisco needed maybe two first downs for a game-winning field goal.
Three plays later, cornerback Kevin King was one-on-one with Goodwin deep and made a tremendous interception. It was Beathard’s lone miscue on the night, and it gave Rodgers one more crack from his own 10 with 1:07 left.
“The defensive stops, the adversity, the key plays that we made, they were just huge,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just love the fight of our football team.”
It was also Green Bay’s third takeaway of the night, without a giveaway, after a week spent harping on getting the turnover margin back on the plus side. The first two, both fumble recoveries, led to field goals. The last one ultimately did, too.
“I thought we were in position more,” McCarthy said regarding the turnovers. “We’ll see what the tape shows, but I thought our finish was much better. We were cracking at the ball more than we had in the past, and we took care of the football.”
Rodgers (25-of-46, 425 yards, 100.4 rating) then engineered a 10-play, 81-yard drive with no timeouts that expertly moved the chains and stopped the clock. An illegal contact penalty on 49ers corner Richard Sherman wiped out a third-down sack that would have killed the drive early, and Rodgers took advantage with a 21-yard scramble and three straight completions covering 46 yards – using the boundary each time – to bring on Mason Crosby for the game-winner.
Crosby, who had the worst game of his career a week ago at Detroit when he missed five kicks (four field goals, one extra point), capped a perfect night with a 27-yarder as time expired.
“That’s exactly the way you want to see it end,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, I wish we didn’t need to kick as many field goals as we did. That was a big bounce-back game for Mason. And then for our football team. We needed that win. The Detroit game stung.”
Crosby ended up 7-for-7 in the game, with four field goals and three PATs, including a long 51-yarder early in the fourth that pulled the Packers within 24-23 at the time.
“It’s very apropos,” Rodgers said of Crosby finishing this one off. “What he went through last week, and for the team to stick with him, the guys to wrap their arms around him and encourage him, as we do for teammates, and he responded.”
Really the whole team did, just in time. While McCarthy and Rodgers acknowledged there’s plenty to correct from this one, and the team’s overall level of play must both improve and get more consistent given the upcoming schedule, the bye week will be a springboard opportunity.
The hope is receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, both out multiple games now, will get past their hamstring injuries and nagging health issues for others will dissipate with the extra time off.
“We’ll take a good, hard look at what we did well the first six weeks,” Rodgers said. “We’re a couple plays away from being 4-2 or 5-1, and a couple plays away from being the other way.”
Added McCarthy: “Our guys have a chance to rest up and get back at it, because we know the stretch run we have here.”