When you last saw the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco was writing — and then delivering — their eulogy.
The 49ers came to Lambeau Field for an NFC Divisional Playoff game and rallied for a 13-10 win that ended the Packers’ season.
The teams met again on Friday in their first exhibition game. And while both teams mostly played saves, the result was the same.
San Francisco fourth-string quarterback Brock Purdy threw a 5-yard touchdown to Tanner Hudson with 8 minutes left to lead the 49ers to a 28-21 victory.
Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the Green Bay loss:
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Packers’ No. 1 offensive line has had its ups and downs this summer as they operate without Pro Bowlers David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins (ACL injuries for both).
Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur wanted a better look at his top unit on Friday and played them for the majority of the first half.
From left to right, Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Jake Hanson and Royce Newman played the majority of the first half. Late in the second quarter, Zach Tom was inserted at right tackle, Newman slid to guard, Hanson moved to center, and Myers left the game.
Overall, the revamped top five more than held their own against a 49ers group that played multiple starters on defense for two or three series.
Quarterback Jordan Love was not fired in the first half, and the Packers racked up 247 total yards.
“You’ve heard me say it a million times, when it comes to a leadership role, absolutely I think it’s easy to single out Dave and Elgton who have been so instrumental in our success here and are from great players and we have a lot of young guys,” LaFleur said. “Although we feel good in the squad, there’s still a lot of growth ahead of them.”
On Friday, this group took a great step.
JORDAN LOVE: If you just look at the stat sheet and Love threw three interceptions, you’d wonder how he ended up in that category.
The first two interceptions came after falls from tight end Tyler Davis and rookie Roméo Doubs. In the third, Love made a bad call trying to force a ball out of Amari Rodgers. But LaFleur said on this play, Green Bay had two receivers on the wrong road.
In between, Love threw a pair of touchdowns — a 33-yard to Doubs and a 33-yard to Danny Davis. He also completed 13 of 24 passes for 176 yards, despite the Packers having all of their starting players inactive.
“Well, that’s three unfortunate interceptions,” LaFleur said at halftime. “We had two drops basically, and then on the other we had two receivers that went the wrong way.
“So I thought there was a lot of good. He moved the ball, he pushed the ball down the field. Yeah, sure, there were a few throws that I’m sure he would like recover. But I thought overall it was a good day. I loved his command and his poise in the pocket.
AMARI RODGERS: The sophomore wide had an abysmal rookie season, catching just four passes and showing little to no burst.
Rodgers, a 2021 third-round draft pick, has reshaped his body this offseason in hopes of proving he’s no bust.
“This offseason I’ve been trying to get my body right,” Rodgers said in June. “I’ve lost about six pounds, I’ve lost four percent body fat. I’ve lost everything from my torso, so I feel like I’m in where I was in college. in terms of where I want to be to move the way I want and play catcher the way I should.
The results were evident against the 49ers.
Rodgers had a 50-yard kickoff return late in the first quarter. In 2021, the Packers averaged 17.7 yards per kickoff, the worst in the NFL, with a length of 41.
Then early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers caught a short pass to the 22-yard line from Danny Etling. Rodgers missed a man at 20, threw another defender at 5 and dove towards the pylon for a 22-yard TD that gave Green Bay a 21-20 lead.
Last season, it’s unlikely Rodgers could have made a game like that. Clearly, his productive offseason is already paying dividends.
“He’s in the best shape of his life,” Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable said of Rodgers. “His mindset is, ‘I’m going to be the No. 1 guy in all three positions. He has that going for him. His journey is already cleaner and sharper. He trained for a whole off-season.
THIS AND THAT: Fighting for a job on the defensive line, Jack Heflin had a big game with four solo tackles. Heflin’s shining moment came in the second quarter when he had a tackle for the third down loss that forced the 49ers to settle for a field goal. … Safety Dallin Leavitt forced a fumble late in the first half that killed a 49ers drive. … Running back BJ Baylor had a 68-yard reception in the third quarter. … Cornerback Kiondre Thomas made a solid pair of plays to thwart a San Francisco drive in the third quarter. … Seventh-round rookie pick Samori Touré was extremely productive with three catches for 42 yards.
SECONDARY DEPTH: Green Bay’s starting secondary might be one of the best in football.
Packer Nation better pray the group stays healthy.
With 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Green Bay safety Dallin Leavitt was caught peeking into the backfield. San Francisco wide Danny Gray passed Leavitt, quarterback Trey Lance threw in a strike, and the play ended with a 76-yard touchdown and a 10-7 49ers lead.
In San Francisco’s next series, wide Ray-Ray McCloud knocked out cornerback Rico Gafford from the line of scrimmage. No one was within 10 yards of McCloud and reserve quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw a 39-yard TD at the veteran.
If the likes of Leavitt and Gafford make the 53-man roster, it will be thanks to the prowess of their special teams. But the fact that both players have been responsible for the scrum throughout their careers – and were again on Friday – won’t help their bids for the roster spots.
TYLER DAVIS: Robert Tonyan (ACL) cannot regain his health quickly enough.
Davis is a converted quarterback who is the favorite to be Green Bay’s tight end in Week 1. But he didn’t help his cause on Friday.
The Packers scored the first of 14 for the 49ers and fielded three pass catchers on the right. Davis, who started on the far right, took three steps and stormed inside.
Love threw a fastball that hit Davis in the hands and bounced through the air. San Francisco’s Marcelino McCrary-Ball intercepted the pass and went for 57 yards to the Packers’ 39.
Love was charged with interception on the official stat sheet. But make no mistake, that pick was on Davis — and only added to the narrative that Green Bay doesn’t have a starting-caliber tight end without Tonyan.
THIS AND THAT: Green Bay’s special teams have been comically bad for years and ranked dead last in the NFL last season. The Packers brought in veteran special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia this offseason to try and level up the pathetic units. So what happened at the opening kickoff? Green Bay was called to hold. … Gabe Brkic, who is handling the kicks until Mason Crosby returns (knee), missed a 32-yard field goal with at least 10 feet left. … Green Bay lost the turnover battle, 3-1.
THE UGLY ONE
WHERE ARE THE “REAL” PACKERS? OKAY. We understand the need to keep your employees healthy.
But game after game, year after year, NFL teams are taking it to new extremes. Green Bay certainly did on Friday.
The Packers had 33 players undressed, and only seven of their projected starters were active.
Rookie linebacker Quay Walker was the only defensive starter to dress. On offense, all of Green Bay’s starting players were inactive, although the Packers’ starting offensive line played.
A year ago, Green Bay’s front row players played little, if any, in the preseason. Then in Week 1, the Packers were drilled by New Orleans, 38-3.
Apparently, Green Bay thinks it was an aberration, like most if their starters were back on the bench on Friday.
“When you have a stink like we did last year in Week 1, there’s always going to be a questioning of what happened in training camp – should we have played more, should we have played Game 1, Game 2, whatever it might be,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I don’t want to overreact to that.
General Manager Brian Gutekunst agreed.
“We’re going to start having conversations about, ‘Hey, maybe we need to see a little more and maybe we don’t need to see as much,'” Gutekunst said. “I have a lot of Ted Thompson in me.
“I see some of these guys there who are really impatient and playing really well right now and you want to wrap them up until September and store them and we’ll let a bunch of these other guys have more opportunities because we know what some of these guys can do.
While that philosophy has merit, there is certainly the risk of Green Bay repeating the clunker from Week 1 of last year.