The stakes for what was a big Week 2 game just got bigger. All of a sudden, this Thursday's clash between NFC North rivals Chicago and Green Bay has an element of desperation in it for the Packers.
That's the result of the Packers' 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. After just one week of the 2012 season, the Packers have equaled last season's loss total, and the potential for falling two games behind the Bears five days into the season has become a frighteningly real prospect.
"It's important for us to turn the page. We have Chicago in 96 hours. That's where we are as a team," Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters following a loss to the 49ers that feels even worse than the score would indicate.
The numbers that likely most concern McCarthy from Sunday's loss are 186-45. That's the net rushing difference between the 49ers and Packers, and the Packers' 45 includes 27 scramble yards by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Forty-Niners running back Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards and Coach Jim Harbaugh employed a balanced offensive attack that outgained the Packers 377-324 and dominated time of possession by six minutes.
"I would've liked to have had more production in the run game. The 49ers played with more favorable sticks than we had," McCarthy said, referring to the fact the Packers neither ran the ball nor stopped the run.
It was the Packers' major concern heading into the game, against a physical 49ers team. It is now the Packers' major concern after the game, for one obvious reason: "We're going to see it again. I'm sure we're going to see it again on Thursday night," McCarthy said.
Mixing run and pass, the 49ers went out to a 16-7 lead by halftime, following a record-tying 63-yard field goal by David Akers on the final play of the first half. The 49ers continued to dominate the action in the third quarter, but a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Randall Cobb early in the fourth quarter, followed by a two-point conversion, cut the 49ers' lead to 23-15, and the Packers were poised to make a run at the visitors.
That run was canceled when linebacker Navorro Bowman intercepted a Rodgers pass and Gore followed that with a 23-yard touchdown run that gave the 49ers a two-touchdown cushion.
Rodgers told reporters he had two main regrets. One, of course, is the interception he threw to Bowman. The other is having run out of bounds on a third-down play late in the first half, which stopped the clock and allowed the 49ers to save their remaining time out. They used that time out and the remaining time they had on the clock to jockey into position for Akers' kick, which bounced off and over the crossbar.
"Maybe slide in bounds and make them call time out," Rodgers said when asked what he should've done. "They got 22 yards in 18 seconds. A 63-yard field goal is pretty unbelievable. They probably don't get it if I just stay in bounds."
It capped a half in which the Packers were penalized nine times, and the crew of replacement officials that assessed those penalties struggled for approval.
"The one glaring statistic was the penalties," McCarthy said, referring to the first half. "It's frustrating when penalties are thrown on you. There were discussions more so than ever, but that's the game we're in right now."
"Some of the penalties were definitely a little bizarre," Rodgers said.
McCarthy kept his focus, however, on the performance of his team.
"It was a bit disjointed. Sometimes you have that with early-season games," he said.
Nothing about the 49ers' performance was disjointed. They appeared to be on top of their game.
"It wasn't surprising," McCarthy said of the balance the 49ers were able to achieve. "They did a good job with the ball-control passing game underneath. They did a good job on offense.
"They had a good plan against us. We didn't execute to the level we're capable of."
As the Packers left Lambeau Field on Sunday night, they had 96 hours to improve their level of execution, and the clock was ticking. Additional game coverage - Packers vs. 49ers