49ers, Packers look to cut down on turnovers at Lambeau; Rodgers suffers setback with knee
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Turnovers just might be the most important statistic in football.
Just ask the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers last week had a 33-10 edge in first downs against Arizona but still lost by 10 following five giveaways.
The Packers (2-2-1) almost doubled the Lions in total offense (521-264) and still lost 31-23 after coughing up three turnovers.
Guess what the Packers will be focusing on in practice as they prepare to host the 49ers at Lambeau Field on Monday night?
“Sometimes that ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But you have to create more opportunities,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. “We’ve created too many giveaway opportunities and we clearly don’t have enough takeaway opportunities.”
A team considered one of the top contenders in the NFC is off to a choppy start. Other than a 22-0 win over Buffalo, the Packers have alternated one bad half with one good one.
The first half has been the problem in three games, which has forced Green Bay to play catch-up. It worked in the season opener, when Aaron Rodgers tossed three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for a 24-23 win over Chicago after falling behind 20-0.
But slow starts have doomed the Packers in losses at Washington and Detroit. Against the Lions last week, the Packers fell behind 24-0 at the half before losing 31-23.
“That’s not how you start games and expect to win, especially against a good opponent. We’ve got to start faster than that,” receiver Davante Adams said after the Detroit loss.
The 49ers (1-4) were sloppier, overshadowing the gaudy stats they put up on offense. They also failed to force a turnover.
“I think we’ve been close to winning. It’s not an excuse. We definitely should have won more games than we have,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We’ve got to find ways to not turn it over and get the ball in the end zone.”
Some other notes and things to watch:
The two-time NFL MVP did seem to be moving a little better each week after hurting his left knee in the first half of the season-opening win over the Bears. Rodgers, though, did say he took a shot to the knee early in the Lions game and suffered setback in rehab earlier this week.
While it shouldn’t endanger his availability for Monday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, it could limit his mobility in the form of a bigger knee brace.
“Yeah, kind of a setback last week, the beginning of the week,” Rodgers told reporters. “Got to be in the rehab group again today, got a lot of good work in with [assistant trainer] Nate [Weir] and just hoping I get back out there tomorrow and have a feel-good Friday and a practice [Sunday] and be good to go — hopefully back to where I was in Detroit.”
He also had to play last week without injured receivers Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion/hamstring). Allison did at least clear the concussion protocol this week.
The Packers will get a break after the 49ers game with a bye week.
McCarthy offered a vote of confidence for Mason Crosby following the kicker’s awful game against Detroit, going 1 of 5 on field-goal attempts and missing his only extra-point try. Crosby was 10 of 11 on the year before last week, including two 52-yarders in Week 4 against Buffalo. He also missed an extra-point attempt in that game.
“He’s a proven, highly successful kicker, I still believe in him,” McCarthy said. “But he knows it – he has to make those kicks. … So hopefully we’ll learn from it and move on.”
The 49ers were expected to be an intriguing team based on a five-game winning streak to end last year with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. That earned them five prime-time games, starting with the trip to Green Bay.
But the Niners are a much less compelling draw with a losing record and Garoppolo out for the season with a knee injury. They already had a game on Oct. 21 against the Rams moved out of prime time and could lose another in December at Seattle as viewers are less interested in watching backup C.J. Beathard than Garoppolo.
“When things are good, you’re on top of the world, people praise you,” Beathard said. “When things are bad, they’ll bash you and you’ve just got to take both of those the same way and not even acknowledge anything on the outside.”
Shorter is better for Beathard. The 49ers were able to exploit Arizona’s defense with screen passes, with Beathard going 11 for 14 for 130 yards and a TD on throws that didn’t cross the line of scrimmage. His 129.2 passer rating on those passes eclipsed his 60.3 rating on passes beyond the line of scrimmage.
“Screens are always hit or miss,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, you catch them in blitzes. If you can get it off and no one sees the guy you’re screening to, there’s a lot of room to run.”
Aaron Jones might be the most explosive option out of the Packers’ crowded backfield, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. But he was limited to seven carries for 40 yards last week as Green Bay played catch-up against Detroit. Jamaal Williams starts the game and is good in pass protection, while Ty Montgomery is a receiving threat out of the backfield.
If the Packers can play with an early lead, they might be able to give the ball more to Jones to run and balance the offense.