Typically, we at Acme Packing Company will swap questions with a writer from the SB Nation site covering the Green Bay Packers’ next opponents to preview the upcoming game. This week, however, we’re taking a little bit of a different approach.
Instead, Tyler Austin of Niners Nation graciously agreed to participate in our discussion. However, instead of a traditional back-and-forth, Tyler provided to APC three reasons why the San Francisco 49ers will lose to the Packers on Sunday Night Football this weekend, and APC’s Tex Western did the same. (Keep an eye up at NN for that post shortly.)
Without further ado, here’s what Tyler has to say about how the Packers can beat San Francisco and get to 2-1 on the season.
There’s a pretty good chance you know who he is, and what he does, so I probably don’t need to elaborate much further as to why this man could go off and single-handedly secure this game going away. However, here’s a little fun fact that you may not have heard before that might point to why he has a little extra motivation going into Sunday night. See, all the way back in 2005, the 49ers could’ve taken Aaron Rodgers with the first overall pick, but instead they… sa’odifnaosdnkaonvdfnvaosdnj. (Sorry, I passed out. I’m back. Don’t worry.)
If you need a quick refresher as to how good Rodgers was against the 49ers last season, the answer is simple: Very, very good. He hit 25 completions against 31 attempts for 305 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions. His QBR calculated to an astronomical 98.9 out of 100. That number ranks as the third best QBR-performance in all of 2020.
His otherworldly ability combined with the LaFleur offense looked utterly unstoppable against the helpless 49ers that last meeting, and as long as Aaron Rodgers steps on a football field, he will always represent the biggest advantage a team can have.
Running Back Injuries
It only took two weeks for the once seemingly overstuffed running back room to become a squadron of the walking wounded. First up, the 49ers lost Raheem Mostert, who you’ll remember from his record-setting NFC Championship game with his 220 yards and 4 touchdowns, after he chipped cartilage in his knee only five snaps into the season. The offense will deeply miss his deceptive home run speed and one-cut style that fits so beautifully within Shanahan’s system.
Immediately, the rookie Elijah Mitchell picked up the torch, and ripped off 104 yards and TD in his first NFL appearance against the Lions. Not bad for a sixth round pick. Then, on the road against the Eagles, Mitchell suffered a shoulder injury that was described as “a little worse than a stinger,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. He’s missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices, making his status “very questionable,” and the odds of him suiting up on Sunday seem low, at best.
As if that wasn’t enough, two other ball carriers were left recovering as the Niners migrated back to San Francisco. JaMycal Hasty, the former undrafted free agent who had a monster preseason to earn his roster spot, suffered a high ankle sprain that’ll sideline him for a month and change. Then, on his first NFL touch, Trey Sermon, the highly touted third rounder out of Ohio State, took a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit, leaving him in concussion protocol with no other major injuries.
Of all the players, Sermon is the most likely to play. After him? Well, there’s a duo of running backs, Trenton Cannon and Jacques Patrick, who were signed off the Ravens and Bengals practice squads, respectively. Going that far down the depth chart at any position is always detrimental, but at running back on a team that thrives on establishing the ground game, it could be deadly.
49ers Quarterback Shanahan-enanigans
Over the offseason, and training camp, and the preseason, all the talk around this team has been about Trey Lance. With good reason, of course, the 49ers traded three first round picks to move up and take him in May, while retaining Jimmy Garoppolo and his 25 million dollar salary for this season. No one seemed to be able to wrap their head around the idea that both of these guys would be on the team come Week 1, and yet here we are.
The narrative has shifted from the kid sitting and learning, in a complete emulation of the Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes model that worked out so well in Kansas City, to Lance will see the field in a special-packages-Taysom-Hill-kinda way. (Don’t expect the prized rookie to suit up at TE though.) Shanahan deployed Lance expertly against the Las Vegas Raiders’ second and third stringers in the final exhibition, and the mad scientist’s experiment seemed destined to blow the league away.
Fast forward to today, and Lance has only seen action on four snaps, resulting in a 5 yard touchdown pass and three barely-there runs in Detroit. His number wasn’t called at all in the grind-it-out game in Philly, and this usage has left many fans wondering what his role will actually look like going forward. The murmurs were especially loud last week when Jimmy G blew multiple throws at the second level to open receivers in an offensively stagnant first half. He did enough to win, but how long will that hold up?
Subbing quarterbacks, especially for gadget plays, is a high wire act. Obviously, how amazing to see a death-defying stunt, but there’s always that little part where you have to defy death. Could the plays drawn up for the unseasoned first year player lead to disastrous swings in momentum and points? Just ask the Saints, like when Za’Darius Smith strip-sacked Hill in Week 4 last year to completely upend that game.
There’s an incredibly bright future for Lance, but asking a guy to essentially pinch hit three or four times in a prime time matchup feels like it could lead to more headaches than celebrations. Or, maybe, Shanahan leaves the Ferrari in the garage for two games in a row, and it all comes down to Jimmy G to make enough plays to win. That’s a gambit in and of itself. We’ll just have to wait and see.
We thank Tyler for his great insight and be sure to check out his other work and that of all the other great writers over at Niners Nation.