Every single NFL team faces adversity every single week. This was true for the Green Bay Packers in Weeks 1 and 2 when they played without their best offensive tackle in David Bakhtiari, and the leader of their defense, Za’Darius Smith.
However when Week 3 rolled around, the adversity kept steadily ramping up. To get a win on the road against a 2-0 team in Levi’s Stadium — the Packers’ proverbial house of horrors — was already a big enough ask.
Playing this game in primetime did them no favors either as the lights get brighter and the fans get louder. It was the first true road atmosphere the Packers have had to deal with since… the NFC Championship Game in the same building in January 2020.
That’s still not a tough enough spot for you? Okay, well how about the Packers get a day less of rest since they played on Monday night? Bear in mind these are strictly ‘time, date, location, situation’ factors. We haven’t even got into the injury issues yet, no less the game itself.
Yosh Nijman started for the Packers
I get it, every team faces multiple injuries every single week. Even the Packers’ opponents last night were without three of their top four cornerbacks, and a litany of running backs.
But considering who they were up against, offensive tackle felt like the worst out of all the positions for the Packers to suffer multiple injuries.
When talking about what the 49ers do well, it’s hard to not bring up their pass rush off the edge first and foremost. Nick Bosa is in the NFL’s elite tier of pass rushers, and Arik Armstead has gotten off to an electric start this season.
Entering this game with their third choice at left tackle made it feel like a disaster was looming for the Packers. After the first drive, it really looked that way as Nijman struggled to get going.
Eventually though, as the Packers operated the quick game for much of the first quarter, Nijman was able to find his feet and was pretty solid from there on out.
Considering the circumstances, this was a brilliant job by the Packers offensive line, all stemming back to O-line coach Adam Stenavich, who time and time again gets guys ready to tread water when they’re thrown into the deep end.
As for the officiating…
I usually don’t like getting too harsh on the referees. It’s an easy outlet for blame when things aren’t going your team’s way, but man, they were noticeably bad in this one.
I felt as though early on in the game the referees were calling a lot for both sides in the secondary, and missing an awful lot at the line of scrimmage.
The Packers got a few pass interference calls that could’ve gone either way, and both teams lost out on a good portion of should-be holding calls in the first half.
The intentional grounding no-call in the red zone at the end of the first half was a bad call. I imagine the officials will claim the contact affected the throw, but when you watch it back, Jimmy Garoppolo is spiking that ball into the ground regardless of the contact being there or not.
Then in the second half, two decisions in particular stand out. What was thought to be ‘contact’ from Eric Stokes on a big third down drew a flag for pass interference and 35 yards tacked onto the drive.
Stokes had excellent coverage trailing Brandon Aiyuk down the seam. The pass from Garoppolo was a little long, meaning Aiyuk had to dive to get there, attempting to make a play on the ball with one hand.
There was minimal contact between the two, but the back judge assumed the dive from Aiyuk was the result of a push from Stokes. That was not the case, and the 49ers were let off with a big one.
They went on to score a touchdown and on the ensuing drive, a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot from Jimmie Ward on Davante Adams was left uncalled.
Whether or not it was Ward’s intent (it seemed accidental), this is still a textbook example of one of the most dangerous penalties in football, and it bizarrely went by without a yellow marker. Thankfully Adams was okay and returned to the game, so no injury was added to the insult.
Like the DPI on Stokes, this play also ended up defining a drive as the Packers hastily went three-and-out and punted right back over to San Francisco.
But you can’t keep this team down
This had all the makings of an awful matchup for Green Bay and yet they still came out on top.
It was a viciously frustrating watch for all Packers fans, expressed to the neutral viewers by the infuriated Matt LaFleur, who’s pent-up rage occasionally boiled over with bursts of swear words directed at the officiating crew.
Timeouts were burnt prematurely and the Niners came up with an improbable touchdown drive to seemingly steal the game.
Despite this, it took just 37 seconds for Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, a group of inexperienced offensive linemen, and the golden foot of Mason Crosby to send the Packers back home to Wisconsin with a 2-1 record.
Adversity breeds success. Adversity breeds unity. I’ve re-watched the postgame celebrations three times now, and it’s clear that if this team wasn’t one cohesive unit beforehand, it is now.
They’re now officially in it for the long haul. The Packers needed this test to find out who they really are. It turns out that they are who we thought they would be, a Super Bowl team with expectations to win every single time they step onto the field.