The best thing that happened to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night was the team jumping out to a big lead in the first half. Coming off a short week and already shorthanded due to a few key injuries and COVID-related absences, many of the Packers’ depth players ended up taking the field for significant portions of Thursday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, particularly in the second half.
Injuries to Rick Wagner, Krys Barnes, and Jaire Alexander forced the Packers to play different players in different combinations throughout the game. Wagner’s injury shifted the team’s best young lineman from guard to tackle, Barnes’ absence helped give Oren Burks the biggest workload of his young career, and Alexander leaving sent Ka’Dar Hollman on for most of the second half of the contest.
All told, the 34-17 victory looked closer than it felt, with the Packers holding a three-possession lead for the entire second half until the 49ers scored a touchdown with four seconds remaining.
OFFENSE (66 total snaps)
Aaron Rodgers 62, Tim Boyle 4
On Thursday night, Rodgers posted a passer rating of 147.2, his seventh-highest value in a single game in his career. He did so on a tremendously efficient evening in which he threw four touchdowns against just six incompletions. He finished the game 25 for 31 for 305 yards, ending up just shy of 10 yards per attempt and creating five separate explosive plays (20-plus yards) in the passing game.
Rodgers was also staying clean throughout the evening, being sacked just once and escaping for a big seven-yard gain to move the chains on a third down.
Once again, Boyle came on late, handing the football off three times and taking one knee.
Aaron Jones 40, Tyler Ervin 22, Dexter Williams 4
Jones was a game-time decision on Thursday, but he started the game amid some questions about how much workload he would take on with Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He answered those questions immediately on the Packers’ opening drive, carrying the ball twice and catching two passes as he touched the football on each of the first four plays from scrimmage.
With the passing game cooking and the Packers getting out to a big lead, he was able to get a more relaxed workload, only seeing a handful of snaps in the second half as Ervin took over. Jones finished the day with 58 yards on 15 carries and 21 yards on five receptions. Ervin had 24 yards on 8 carries, but broke off a 24-yard gain on a screen pass and finished with 48 yards on four receptions. Williams left the game with an injury after a brief stint that saw him pick up 8 yards on two carries.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 59, Davante Adams 50, Malik Taylor 26, Darrius Shepherd 23, Equanimeous St. Brown 4
For the third time this season, Adams caught ten or more passes for over 150 yards. He is truly one of the most complete receivers in the NFL, capable of both explosive plays and critical conversions in shorter-yardage situations. His first catch of the day was a thing of beauty as he contorted his body in mid-air to get his forearm and elbow down in bounds for a 36-yard touchdown. With a final line of 10 catches on 12 targets for 173 yards and the score, he now is up to an average of 112.5 yards per game, which would put him on pace for 1,800 yards over a full season.
While Adams got some time off late, MVS was briefly benched in the first half after another brutal drop on a wide-open, would-be third down conversion. However, Rodgers came back to him later on, heaving a ridiculous deep ball for a 52-yard touchdown after MVS found a way to get almost ten yards of separation. He then made a great route adjustment to haul in a one-yard score from Rodgers on an extended play in the third quarter.
The other three receivers combined for just a single target, a three-yard catch by Shepherd.
Robert Tonyan 41, Marcedes Lewis 32, Jace Sternberger 18, John Lovett 11
With the receivers and running backs getting most of the work in the passing game, the Packers’ three primary tight ends saw just one target apiece. Tonyan caught his for five yards, Sternberger caught his for a one-yard gain, and Lewis got a one-yard touchdown on a beautiful play-action play design.
Lovett, meanwhile, equaled the rest of the unit’s touch totals with three, all on carries out of the backfield as the Packers salted away the game clock.
Elgton Jenkins 66, Lucas Patrick 66, Billy Turner 62, Corey Linsley 62, Rick Wagner 35, Jon Runyan 31, Yosh Nijman 4, Ben Braden 4
Already down David Bakhtiari before the game, the Packers lost Wagner to a knee injury midway through. That forced the team to shuffle the line again, as they made the decision to move Billy Turner back to right tackle and slid Jenkins out to left tackle, where he played 27 solid snaps. Runyan then came on for Jenkins at left guard.
With the game settled, the Packers then pulled Linsley and Turner out for the last four offensive snaps, going with a line of Nijman-Braden-Jenkins-Patrick-Runyan at the very end of the game.
So that left Jenkins’ final snap tally as 35 at left guard, 27 at left tackle, and 4 at center. Not noted in these numbers is the fact that Jenkins even came back on the field for the game’s final snap with a mask on under his helmet:
Elgton Jenkins played left guard, left tackle and center last night. He's 24 and one of the best young O-linemen in the league.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) November 6, 2020
And when they told him to go back in for one more snap last night, he even kept his mask on! pic.twitter.com/q4Ueai3BKo
DEFENSE (57 total snaps)
Kingsley Keke 33, Kenny Clark 31, Montravius Adams 26, Dean Lowry 25, Tyler Lancaster 22
The Packers got a very solid game from their defensive line in this contest, as the 49ers’ run game (which was admittedly depleted from a personnel standpoint) gained just 55 total yards on 17 carries. Keke had one assisted tackle and a quarterback hit on Nick Mullens, but he had a solid game all around. A week after playing just six snaps against Minnesota, Adams had a heavier workload (perhaps with the team playing Clark less). He made a couple of nice tackles, including a tackle for loss on running back Jamycal Hasty.
Preston Smith 35, Za’Darius Smith 32, Rashan Gary 24, Randy Ramsey 16, Jonathan Garvin 14
With no Trent Williams lining up at left tackle, the Packers’ edge rushers took backup Justin Skule to, well, school. Preston had another good day rushing the passer in this game, laying two hits on Mullens including the one that forced an interception by Raven Greene. Z, meanwhile, got the Packers’ only sack, a strip-sack on Mullens that he also recovered.
Gary also had a strong game rushing the passer, even if he was unable to record a hit or sack. He looks like he is getting healthier as the weeks go on, and hopefully will benefit from a light workload and a mini-bye this week.
Oren Burks 34, Ty Summers 34, Krys Barnes 23
The Packers were down to a limited group at linebacker this week, thanks to Christian Kirksey not being activated from injured reserve in time for the game and rookie Kamal Martin being deemed a close contact to COVID-positive AJ Dillon. As a result, Barnes started at the middle linebacker spot, but an injury knocked him out early and forced Summers onto the field there. The two combined for seven total tackles in the game.
Burks, meanwhile, got the most snaps on defense in any single game of his career on Thursday as he split time with safety Raven Greene in the second linebacker spot. In fact, this was the first game in which Burks has ever played more than half of the team’s snaps on defense. He picked up five total tackles, including a tackle for loss, and added another on special teams.
The biggest issue with this unit was once again in coverage. The linebackers too often did not drop back deep enough into zone coverage, allowing crossing routes to be wide open between the linebacker and safety units. That was a big reason for Richie James’ career day, as he actually exceeded Adams’ total with 184 yards and a score.
Adrian Amos 46, Darnell Savage 44, Raven Greene 27, Henry Black 13
Green Bay’s safeties seemed to play pretty well in this game; Savage in particular looked much better at times — he made one particularly nice play in run support and nearly had a pick-six but saw the ball go through his hands. Amos tied Burks for the team lead with five tackles, while Greene got the team’s first interception since week two with his play on the ball after Preston Smith’s hit forced the ball up in the air.
Josh Jackson 56, Chandon Sullivan 35, Ka’Dar Hollman 26, Jaire Alexander 18, Stanford Samuels 13
The Packers were fortunate to face a 49ers team with few receiving weapons in this game, as they had no Kevin King and lost Jaire Alexander to an apparent concussion in the first half. James still had a huge day, however, but it could have been much worse. Sullivan moved from the slot to fill Alexander’s spot on the outside when the Packers were in base, then stayed inside with Hollman on the boundary in nickel and dime alignments.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Burks 18, Hollman 16, Summers 15, Taylor 15, Lovett 14, Ramsey 14, James Burgess 13, Black 12, Sternberger 12, Greene 11, Lancaster 11