By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers are clearly a much better team at home in Levi’s Stadium this season than they are on the road. After ugly losses away from home in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers still lost in Week 4 at home against the Green Bay Packers. However, they didn’t lose badly, dropping a 17-3 decision against Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, etc. This was the first time in the last five matchups against Green Bay that San Francisco did not win.
The Packers took a 7-3 halftime lead and then shutout the 49ers in the second half. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick improved upon his bad Week 3 performance by completing more than half his passes while only turning the ball over once, but overall, Green Bay controlled the game effectively enough that the outcome was rarely in doubt after halftime at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers are now 1-3 and face a tough road game next week against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
The 49ers gained just 196 total yards, which is very bad. They just haven’t been able to get anything going on offense for awhile now, and in the end, that falls on Kaepernick. He threw for just 160 yards on 25 attempts, and that included a 47-yard pass and a 40-yard pass. Take away those two long balls, and Kaep gained 73 yards on his other 23 throws. No offense is going to scare anyone with those anemic passing numbers.
Running backs Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush combined for 20 yards on nine carries, while Kaepernick ran for 57 yards on his own. Those runs were the plays that kept the Green Bay defense honest, although the Packers still were able to sack Kaep six times. The offensive line couldn’t block for the run or the pass, really.
Holding Rodgers to just 224 yards through the air and 17 points is an accomplishment the 49ers defense should be proud of in this game. However, giving up 162 yards on the ground—including 33 to Rodgers—hurt San Francisco a little bit. The Packers’ ability to run kept the ball in their hands for a whopping 36:34 of game time. That tires out any defense.
However, the 49ers did sack Rodgers three times while holding running back Eddie Lacy somewhat in check. San Francisco just couldn’t force a key turnover to get off the field fast enough. The Packers ran 68 plays to the 49ers’ 50 in the game, and that really took its toll on San Francisco defenders in the second half.
Special Teams: B
Rookie punter Bradley Pinion didn’t even average 39 yards per punt in this game, and that hurt the field-position battle in a low-scoring game like this. Likewise, there was little life on the kick and punt returns teams. In games where the offense is struggling, it would be great for the special teams to provide a spark; it didn’t happen. Phil Dawson made his only field-goal attempt of the day, however, to avoid the shutout.
At least the 49ers didn’t get blown out by halftime in this game. Head Coach Jim Tomsula and his staff deserve a lot of credit for the defensive game plan that kept San Francisco in this game, when they might have gotten blown out by 30 points again. The 49ers defense showed up big-time this time at home. The offense, though … that’s another issue that needs a lot of attention going forward. San Francisco is not going to win any games scoring just three points—or averaging 12 points a game.
A Gauntlet Lies Ahead
The next three weeks feature games against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Eli Manning on the road, followed by Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers are looking at a 1-6 start if they can’t solve the offensive issues, because those three QBs have the experience and talent around them to beat the S.F. defense—even at home with loud fans. That Week 1 win looks like a distant mirage right now in the rear-view mirror.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.