Preview: Packers, 49ers focusing on turnovers
MILWAUKEE — Turnovers just might be the most important statistic in football.
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:
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.”
The two-time NFL MVP seems 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 that might require him to keep wearing a brace.
The Packers will get a break after the 49ers game with a bye week.
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.
SAN FRANCISCO (1-4) at GREEN BAY (2-2-1)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
OPENING LINE – Packers by 8
RECORD VS. SPREAD – 49ers 1-4, Packers 2-3
SERIES RECORD – Packers lead 35-30-1
LAST MEETING – Packers beat 49ers 17-3, Oct. 4, 2015
LAST WEEK – 49ers lost to Cardinals 28-18; Packers lost to Lions 31-23
AP PRO32 RANKING – 49ers No. 32, Packers No. 14
49ERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (15), RUSH (4), PASS (22).
49ERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (11), RUSH (7), PASS (15).
PACKERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (10), RUSH (19), PASS (10).
PACKERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (4), RUSH (15t), PASS (2).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – First meeting for teams in Green Bay since 49ers beat Packers 23-20 in NFC wild-card game on Jan. 5, 2014. … 49ers’ first Monday night game since opening 2016 season with 28-0 win over Rams. … 49ers ran 92 offensive plays in loss last week to Arizona, most by team since 1970. Also had 33 first downs, most by team in game since getting 36 on Oct. 18, 1998 against Colts. … QB C.J. Beathard set career highs last week going 34 of 54 for 349 yards. … FB Kyle Juszczyk fifth among NFC FBs and RBs with 197 yards receiving. … George Kittle leads NFL TEs averaging 17.3 yards per reception. … WR Pierre Garcon averaging 129.5 yards receiving with two touchdowns in last two games vs. Packers. … SF defense fifth in NFL allowing 3.37 yards per carry on first down…. DL DeForest Buckner has 3 1/2 sacks over last five games. … CB Richard Sherman‘s 32 INTs since 2011 are most by active player in that time. All came with Seattle. … Niners have one INT this season, three total takeaways, worst in league. Their minus-8 differential also NFL worst. … Packers coach Mike McCarthy was 49ers offensive coordinator in 2005. … QB Aaron Rodgers has 105.1 passer rating against NFC West since 2008, tops in NFL. … Rodgers has 36 games with three or more TD passes since 2012, second behind Saints‘ Drew Brees (39). … RB Aaron Jones has rushing TD in two of past three home games. … WR Davante Adams tied for NFL lead for most TD catches since 2016 (26). … Rookie WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had first career TD catch last week. … Packers’ defense third in NFL in forcing three-and-outs on 28.8 percent of drives. … LB Blake Martinez had two sacks last week, first career multi-sack game. … S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has three INTs and sack over past four games. … Fantasy tip: McCarthy says he still believes in Mason Crosby following kicker’s awful game against Detroit, going 1 of 5 on FG attempts and missing his only extra-point try. Crosby was 10 of 11 on year before last week, including two 52-yarders in Week 4 against Buffalo. He also missed extra-point attempt in that game.