Pack Delivers a San Francisco Treat.Posted:Sep 27th, 2021 12:09 pm
It doesn't get any better than that.
After watching the Pack open the season with a listless, shocking performance against the Saints and then sleepwalk through the first half of the home opener against the Lions, they showed up on Sunday night, short-handed, and showed us that they do indeed have a heart and that their MVP still has plenty of magic left.
For me, it was hard to be too optimistic about the Pack's chances, taking the field with a first time starter at left tackle who had played a grand total of 14 snaps in his career. But after a brutal first series or two, Josh Njiman held his own against Nick Bosa; his other young line mates Jon Runyan Jr, Josh Myers and Royce Newman all performed beyond expectations, considering the opponent and the fact that they were all playing their first true road game in prime time.
When the Niners took their first lead of the night in the final minute, I thought the Packers were cooked. Rodgers entered the game 70-1 when his team had a lead of at least 17 points in a game and it looked like this would be loss number two. 37 seconds and no timeouts? The play that breathed life into the Pack, the 25 yarder to Davante Adams, was one they drew up on Thursday, modifying a play that altered the route that Randall Cobb ran and it opened up space for Adams in the middle of the field. LaFleur suggested they give it a shot and it breathed life into the game winning drive.
The first half couldn't have played out any better for Green Bay, with the offense in sync and the defense showing for the first time this season showing some bite and an ability to get off the field on third down. All those good feelings faded when the kickoff unit gave up a big return in the closing minute, giving the Niners a chance to put some points on the board and to go into halftime with momentum and just a ten point deficit.
When they came out and scored on the opening drive of the third quarter, the Pack's early dominance was all but forgotten and we knew we were in for a barn burner. Credit the defense with making big plays when they needed to, none bigger than the one that forced a Jimmy Garoppolo fumble and led to a Crosby field goal and a six point lead late.
The flags were flying all night, with the Pack getting a few pass interference calls to go their way, and then the Niners the beneficiaries of a few head scratchers, like the roughing the passer call on Jaire Alexander and the intentional grounding that wasn't called on Jimmy G on their scoring drive at the end of the half, to name a couple.
Oh, then there was the no call on the vicious helmet to helmet hit on Adams. I was among those uncomfortable to see him trot back out onto the field, missing just one play. Presumably, he passed a concussion test but it all happened very quickly. After the game he said he was having trouble breathing for a moment and it was his chest, not his head that was bothering him. It was incredible to see him back so quickly--he had a night that showed again why he's the best receiver in the business.
Then there's Crosby. Teams with Super Bowl aspirations need to know that if they can figure out a way to get into field goal range late, that their kicker won't let them down. And for the better part of 15 seasons Crosby has been holding up his end of the bargain. When he takes the field you expect him to make every kick. Not too many teams have a guy like that.
As for Rodgers, I hope you saw the clip that the NFL tweeted out after the game, isolated on Rodgers as he watched Crosby make the kick and then celebrate with his coaches. If you ever wondered whether he was all in this season, your questions were answered watching his reaction. He played a brilliant game behind his uncertain line and when he took the field with 37 seconds left, no timeouts and 40-some yards away from field goal range, he once again showed us that he is one of the very few players on the planet who can orchestrate an unlikely game winning drive under extremely difficult conditions.
The clunker in the opener is a distant memory. You have to feel good about this team's chances after this performance. Playing without three of their eight or ten best players (Bakhtiarim, Jenkins and Za'Darius Smith), the Pack responded on both sides of the ball and took down an NFC contender in their jam packed house in prime time.
And all they needed was 37 seconds to completely flip the narrative as to where they stand in the hierarchy of the NFC. Long way to go, but for the first time this season, they showed us what they're made of.