San Francisco 49ers lose as Aaron Rodgers orchestrates final-drive magic

By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner

Through 58 minutes of football, the San Francisco 49ers played well enough to win on the road against a reeling Green Bay Packers team with an injured Aaron Rodgers.

With a late interception, untimely penalty and lackluster cornerback play in the final two minutes of a Monday-night thriller, however, the 49ers (1-5) crumbled under the pressure, taking a 33-30 loss to the Packers (3-2-1) after a game-winning 27-yard Mason Crosby field goal in the final seconds of regulation.

“We’re very disappointed,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “ We had a great change to win that game and we didn’t get it done. It hurts.”

In his eighth start as an NFL quarterback for the 49ers, C.J. Beathard started the night off hot, throwing for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Completing nine of his 12 attempted passes, the Iowa product earned a 156.3 quarterback rating.

Both of Beathard’s touchdowns were thrown to San Francisco wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who made his return to the field after missing Week 5 with a hamstring injury. In addition to the pair of touchdowns, Goodwin was also able to amass 113 yards on three receptions in the first half, averaging 37.6 yards per catch.

“It made a huge difference [having Goodwin back],” said Shanahan. “It’s been a while since Quise has been out there, especially full-go. He made some big plays today that helped us.”

On the ground, San Francisco looked just as unstoppable. Thanks to 52 and 37 yards from San Francisco running backs Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida respectively, the 49ers gained 114 yards rushing the ball in the first half.

Heading into the locker room, a confident San Francisco boasted a 24-20 halftime lead — the team’s highest-scoring first half of the season.

Starting the second half, a now-threatened Packers took their opening possession 42 yards down field for a field goal to bring themselves within one point of a tie. The Beathard-led 49ers quickly answered back, converting their first second-half possession into a Robbie Gould 44-yard field goal of their own.

After another 43-yarder from Gould on its next offensive possession, San Francisco gained what looked to be a firm grip on the game as the Packers defense looked to be sputtering.

Over the course of the Packers’ next two drives, a bloodied and battered Rodgers, who entered the game nursing a left knee injury, would gain only 62 yards and turn the ball over on downs inside of the 49ers 5-yard line.

With three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Rodgers and the Packers would get the ball back after the 49ers failed to gain a first down on a three-play -12-yard drive.

Sixty-four seconds and 58 yards later, Green Bay would find itself in the end zone after Rodgers floated a picture-perfect pass to DaVante Adams over second-year cornerback Greg Mabin, who stepping in for an injured Jimmie Ward in late in the second half.

The beneficiaries of a 32-yard kickoff return by Richie James Jr., followed by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for an out-of-bounds hit after the play, San Francisco set up shop at their own 47-yard line with 1:49 left in the game.

On third-and-three, Beathard, who had now thrown for 245 yards with a 52-percent completion percentage, launched a 37-yard pass down field, intended for Goodwin, that would end up in the arms of Green Bay cornerback Kevin King.

“I knew it was an all out-blitz and it was something that Quise and I had worked on,” Beathard said. “It’s a play where if you hit it, it looks great, if you don’t, it’s not great. But it is what it is.”

Taking the field after the deep-pass blunder, the 49ers defense, who had held the Packers to 23-percent conversion rate on third-down — including 0-for-10 on third-downs with 10 or more yards to gain — forced Green Bay into another third-down down situation after two plays.

San Francisco defensive tackle DeForest Buckner would be able to bring down Rodgers on the down behind the line of scrimmage to record his second sack of the night, giving him 5.5 on the season.

Unfortunately for Buckner and the rest of his 49ers teammates, a flag down field would negate the clutch defensive stop as veteran corner Richard Sherman was penalized for illegal contact.

“I can’t have that penalty after forcing a fourth-and-19,” said Sherman. “Regardless of however I might feel about it, I’ve gotta find a way to win that play without getting a flag. It gave them a shot.”

With new life and a fresh set of downs, Rodgers would be on the attack. Marching down field with 49 seconds to play, Rodgers completed four passes for 67 yards. Of those four passes, three would be completed against Mabin, who’s youth and inexperience Rodgers would exploit.

After a last-second effort to get in closer range for Mason Crosby — who missed three of his four attempted field goals in Week 5 — Green Bay lined up for a 27-yard, game-winning field goal that erased San Francisco’s valiant effort in their first prime-time game of the season.

“Yeah, it hurts,” said Beathard. “I mean you’re so close. You feel like you should have and could have won the game. You just gotta get back on the horse and move on to next week.”

With the loss, San Francisco now falls to 1-5, having lost four in a row, starting with a 38-27 defeat to Kansas City in Week 3.

San Francisco now faces a short week for its first of two matchups against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon. The Rams will enter Week 7 as the NFL’s lone undefeated team.

Although the impressive road effort will boost the 49ers confidence heading into next week, the sting of another close loss will surely linger.

“It’s simple day-one football,” said Sherman. “We’ve got to figure out how to translate. I hear a lot of stuff out there blaming the coaches, and [defensive coordinator Robert] Saleh and the the DB coach [Daniel Bullocks] but it doesn’t really matter … We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”

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