Packers unable to shift momentum in loss to 49ers

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Packers waited all evening for a game-changing play on either offense, defense or special teams to turn the tide of Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Unfortunately for Green Bay, that moment never arrived and a rough night that began with a 49ers fumble recovery at Green Bay’s 2-yard line snowballed into a disappointing 37-8 loss to the current top seed in the NFC playoff hunt.

Offensively, the Packers amassed only 198 total yards and went 1-of-15 on third downs. Defensively, Green Bay conceded five plays of more than 20 yards that amounted to 194 of the 49ers’ 339 total yards. Meanwhile, a few mis-hit punts on special teams contributed to San Francisco having an average starting field position of its 41-yard line.

The lost fumble on a strip-sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the opening drive of the game also loomed large.

“It was a back-and-forth thing where we couldn’t make a play, offense couldn’t make a play, special teams – there was no momentum shift throughout the game,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “Just starting the game off, it was necessary to get the momentum in our favor and they got the ball at the 2-yard line. We wanted to make a stop. We just kind of started in a bad way.”

The Packers came in healthy after their Week 11 bye but struggled to move the ball against a stout San Francisco defensive front that held running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams to only 73 yards on 24 carries.

Receiver Davante Adams recorded his first receiving touchdown of the year off a push-pass from Rodgers with 3 minutes, 52 seconds left in the third quarter, though Green Bay still trailed 23-8 even after a successful two-point conversion.

A main reason for the 1-of-15 clip on third downs was the inability to get into third-and-favorable situations. Instead, the offense had to try to convert from third-and-7-plus, with three of those plays resulting in sacks.

“We just keep putting ourselves in these tough positions with these third-and-forever, second-and-forever,” said Adams, who led Green Bay with seven catches for 43 yards. “It’s tough against a good team to come back against stuff like that. We’ve got to put ourselves in better positions on early downs and that’s a start, that will help. And then the rest you’ve still got to execute.”

The trio of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson combined for 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Tight end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuel, both questionable with injuries entering Sunday, added lengthy touchdown receptions.

Green Bay still sits atop the NFC North at 8-3 but lamented not being able to lay claim to the top of the conference heading into the final December stretch.

“We knew what we were coming up against,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We knew we were coming up on a really good team, but we also knew that we were a good team, too. We didn’t showcase it today. That’s more of the frustrating part about it.”

Photos from the Week 12 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium.

Tackling a challenge: Backup Alex Light was again called upon in a pinch after starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga exited in the first quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return.

It was a tall task for the second-year offensive lineman, who often found himself lined up against defensive rookie of the year candidate Nick Bosa and veteran Arik Armstead. The mixture of stunts and unique blitz packages the 49ers employ also presented challenges.

“It’s my job to be ready at all times,” said Light, who hasn’t started this year but played 76 offensive snaps entering Sunday night. “Bryan went down, and I had to step in. You know, didn’t get the job done good enough tonight. Gotta come in (Monday) and be critical of myself and move on to next week.”

Head Coach Matt LaFleur didn’t have an update on Bulaga after the game. In the locker room, All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari spoke with Light and reminded the former undrafted free agent he belongs.

Like any young player, Sunday’s experience was valuable.

“You can use it positively to learn from your mistakes, grow and take them as learning lessons,” Bakhtiari said. “I had a little talk with him after the game, just letting him know he is a starter in this league, and he has the intangibles. It’s your ability to watch the film, be critical and grow from what you do well, and also grow from your mistakes.”

Unexpected call: Adams chose his words carefully regarding the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he drew 38 seconds into the game, but that doesn’t mean the Pro Bowl receiver agreed with the call.

The penalty came after Rodgers connected with Adams on a 10-yard pass to give Green Bay a first down. He appeared to bump Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman in the chest after the play, which caused the side judge to rush in and throw the flag.

It was one of three questionable penalties the Packers drew in the opening quarter.

“I’ve never seen a flag get thrown over what I did,” Adams said. “I bumped (my) chest with the dude, but this is the league. I’ve gotten much worse happen to me without (any) flags. I don’t want to comment because I know they’re fining all types of stuff, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t expecting it.”

Odds and ends: Backup quarterback Tim Boyle threw his first NFL pass after relieving Rodgers with five minutes remaining, completing 3-of-4 passes for 15 yards on his lone series.

Tight end Robert Tonyan also was back in the lineup against the 49ers after missing five games with a hip injury. He had two catches for eight yards.

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