Titans, Packers Both Lose on Upset Saturday
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Cincinnati Bengals 19 at Tennessee Titans 16
Aaron Schatz: The Bengals had the No. 32 defense against the pass on first down, so the Titans pass on the first play of the game, and Jessie Bates immediately picks off Ryan Tannehill. So much for that advice I gave the Titans to pass on first down!
Scott Spratt: Well you presumably meant pass it to other Titans, not Bengals.
Bryan Knowles: Julio Jones was open, too; Tannehill just didn't work back there until about a second too late. The play was going to work, they should probably go back to it, but not precisely an ideal start.
Here's the pick. pic.twitter.com/RiiYsIUbSa
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 22, 2022
Scott Spratt: After seeing the Titans sack Joe Burrow twice after that interception (only one counted because of a penalty), I'm reminded of this interesting split: the Raiders ranked eighth in pass rush win rate but just 24th in adjusted sack rate, and the Titans ranked 21st in pass rush win rate and 10th in adjusted sack rate. Maybe that's a small sample quirk, but I suspect the vanilla Cover-3 Raiders pass defense allows quarterbacks to read the defense and make quick decisions, which Burrow certainly managed last week. Burrow could have a lot harder time doing that with a Titans defense that plays from a lot of defensive alignments and disguises those before the snap. And that could lead to a lot more sacks for Burrow, who led the league with 51 this regular season.
Bryan Knowles: The Bengals' offensive line is accurately described. Big sacks on each drive so far, and some fairly bad whiffs by the line on each of them.
Rivers McCown: Glad the Bengals remembered Ja'Marr Chase is on the team after two series.
Aaron Schatz: 57 yards because the Titans big-blitzed and Kristian Fulton in man coverage couldn't tackle Chase. There was nobody behind him and Chase just kept running.
And I think while I typed that, Joe Burrow was sacked another eight times.
Scott Spratt: Smart play for safety Amani Hooker to slide. With a lead blocker, I don't think Hooker could have tackled Chase with a traditional effort. His slide tripped the blocker and forced Chase to hesitate, which allowed the pursuit to tackle him.
Vince Verhei: Getting caught up on DVR at the end of the first quarter. The game started with a play-action interception, followed immediately by a play-action sack. I thought the aggressive defensive fronts might be vulnerable to runs. Since then, the two teams have combined for 21 yards on 10 carries. So, uh, never mind. Add in the 24 yards lost on four sacks between the two teams and it has not been a good 15 minutes for offensive lines.
Scott Spratt: It felt like the Titans dominated that first quarter, but the Bengals are up 6-0. Tannehill may have cost the Titans about 10 points in net with his interception and bad overthrow of a wide-open A.J. Brown on what would have been a touchdown.
Vince Verhei: I totally disagree. The Titans have been outgained by about 50 yards and are down in the turnover margin. They have gotten some sacks in scoring range, but they're lucky they're not down 14-0.
Carl Yedor: Saying "it's all about the trenches" is a classic football cliche, but it has been very much the case so far in this one. Cincinnati has struggled to pick up Tennessee's pressure looks, Tannehill has sat in the pocket only to take hits, and neither running game has gotten much of anything going thus far. The Bengals hit a big play to Chase, and the Titans likely should have had one to Brown, but neither team has been able to move the ball consistently at all. At this rate, it may be a question of whose defense gives up more explosive plays rather than which offense is able to move the ball methodically down the field.
Scott Spratt: Trent Green in reference to A.J. Brown's yards after the catch: He reminds me of Deebo Samuel. Me: Samuel reminds me of A.J. Brown.
Bryan Knowles: Scott, in 2019, Brown and Samuel were one-two in YAC+. They would have been one and four in 2020 if Deebo had seen enough targets to qualify after missing time with an injured foot. They do it in different ways, but they're a couple of beasts.
Scott Spratt: They may be one-two in YAC+ for the next 10 years.
Derrik Klassen: That's the exact kind of drive you're worried about if you're Cincinnati. Opened with the hard play-action shot play to A.J. Brown to get to the Cincy 43-yard line, then finished out the drive with a string of tough, consistent runs and a rollout completion that got them into the red zone. Felt like the Titans hit all the right buttons on that drive. We'll see if Cincy's offensive line is good enough to let the Bengals do anything in response.
Aaron Schatz: Right decision by Mike Vrabel to go for two after a penalty brought the two-point conversion to the 1-yard line. Wrong outcome when Derrick Henry's forearm came down before the goal line. Tied 6-6, 6:07 left in the first half.
Vince Verhei: This may lose me some nerd cred, but ... the Titans start feeding Henry, and the gains are modest, but they're there, and I'm thinking about how much pressure there must be on a defense playing a big-play back like Henry, knowing any mistake can lead to a home run. And that's when Tennessee goes on a play-action tear, hitting the bomb to Brown, using it to convert a third-and-3, then a run to Henry, then back-to-back play-action for 21 yards. Henry carries it in from there, but it sure felt like the threat of Henry getting going was enough to open up the Titans' play-action.
Scott Spratt: Maybe teams in general don't need rushing success to enjoy success on play-action. But Tannehill's play-action numbers dropped precipitously after Henry went out for the second half of this year. Defenses treat Henry a certain way.
Bryan Knowles: Joe Burrow has been sacked five times already in the first half—and that's not including the two times he was knocked to the ground on plays which didn't happen. The playoff record for sacks is nine, most recently done by the Chiefs against Warren Moon's Oilers in the 1993 playoffs.
Rivers McCown: Do any of those other linemen on the Bengals bench know how to play football? This is a big non-endorsement for them.
Scott Spratt: 13 seconds left in the half just shy of midfield? Seems like a good spot for a quarterback draw.
Aaron Schatz: Both of these offensive lines look pretty overwhelmed at the half, which is why it is just 9-6 Bengals. Burrow is finding guys when he has time to throw, but he just doesn't have too many plays with time to throw. Mixon is going nowhere, five carries for 6 yards. Even Henry has only 30 yards on 10 carries and got stuffed on that two-point conversion, and Tannehill doesn't look very good. It's not just the offensive lines—I think that both quarterbacks hold onto the ball a little too long when they could get rid of it. These offenses need to be calling quicker pass plays in the second half.
Scott Spratt: Have the Bengals even run Chase on a jet sweep? They seem weirdly committed to smashing Joe Mixon into a brick wall on inside carries.
Carl Yedor: After the second quarter, my takeaway from this game hasn't really changed. The defensive fronts are clearly beating the offensive fronts, so it has been a real challenge to move the ball for both teams. The quarterbacks have been taking sacks and struggling to get the ball out quickly, so maybe some quicker-developing concepts would be beneficial to get these passing games rolling. To Scott's point, the Bengals got Chase one carry right after his big gain on the screen, so they need to find a way to manufacture some more touches for him in space. Tennessee's defensive structure has largely forced Burrow to look elsewhere in the passing game. Getting the ball to your best playmakers more often seems like pretty simple advice, but it strikes me as relevant here.
Vince Verhei: Bengals lead 9-6 at halftime, and I am having a hard time getting a feel for this game. You could easily point to Evan McPherson's 54-yard field goal and Tennessee's failed two-point conversion and argue that the Titans should be ahead. But they have really just had the one good drive, the one that ended on the touchdown. Otherwise they have the interception and four punts, including a pair of three-and-outs. The Bengals, meanwhile, have at least one first down on five of their six possessions. It seems like if they can get a touchdown with the opening drive of the second half, Tennessee could be in deep trouble.
Scott Spratt: Joe Mixon ran for 6 yards on five first-half carries. Trent Green at the start of the second half: The Bengals have to establish the run!
Bryan Knowles: Well, consider the run established, I suppose. Mixon carried the ball four times on Cincinnati's first drive in the second half, resulting in 34 yards and the touchdown, with a 7-yard reception mixed in for spice. If Cincinnati has figured out how to move the ball effectively on the ground, Tennessee may be in a wee bit of trouble here. Hell of a cutback by Mixon on the touchdown, too.
Rivers McCown: Obviously there's still plenty of ballgame left, but I'm gonna die laughing if after every "Titans are the worst No. 1 seed ever but obviously they are really good!" piece I read this week, this ends with them scoring six points.
Vince Verhei: I'm not sure what kind of runs the Bengals were trying in the first half, but their good runs on that drive were zone runs out of two-tight end sets, including the touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2022
Aaron Schatz: That 45-yard, tackle-breaking run by D'Onta Foreman was like the personification of the whole "fungible running back" argument. He looked like Derrick Henry out there!
Vince Verhei: Mike Hilton: The Human Defeats Machine.
Watch on CBS pic.twitter.com/db5dG8dhiE
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 22, 2022
Aaron Schatz: NFL Matchup actually talked about the Titans using a lot of 11 personnel to run the ball, thinking they would want to keep the undersized Hilton on the field trying to tackle Henry. But it has been a ton of 12 personnel for the Titans today.
One big play-action pass to A.J. Brown just basically made up an entire drive for Tennessee. Forty yards on that one, 16 yards on the rest of the drive. Randy Bullock field goal. 16-9 Bengals.
Vince Verhei: Tennessee calls timeout on third-and-9 to avoid delay of game, then throws a short pass and kicks a field goal on fourth-and-3. Not good value on the timeout there, considering they're still down seven late in the third.
Scott Spratt: Wow, this interception vs. no interception call could decide the game. Amani Hooker had his hands on the ball before the ball touched the ground, but I have no idea if the ground helped him secure the catch or not.
Aaron Schatz: It stands as called! Off Samaje Perine's hands, into the hands of Hooker. There have been some amazing interceptions in this game.
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2022
Bryan Knowles: And the huge interception leads to a great grab by A.J. Brown a few plays later, and we have a tie game! Tennessee was looking on the ropes just two minutes ago. I think I'd argue Hooker's catch was better than Brown's, but we have seen some titanic grabs in the past four plays.
Aaron Schatz: Really good coverage by Chidobe Awuzie on that touchdown, too. Just a better grab by Brown with Awuzie's hands on him. One-handed basket catch as he was running backwards into the end zone.
Vince Verhei: And a great throw by Tannehill, who is having a hell of an up-and-down game today.
Brown's now up to 4-122-1 through not quite three quarters, though he also has four incomplete targets.
They just showed another replay of Hooker's tip-drill interception. Perine probably should have caught that, but it was not a great throw by Burrow, out in front of his target at virtually point-blank range.
Aaron Schatz: The Cincinnati offensive line is bad but some of the sack problem is on Burrow. He just got Cincinnati knocked out of field goal range by going back 16 yards trying to avoid a blitz. You have to know when you're cooked and either go down for a small loss or get rid of the ball downfield. Even better, he should have recognized the blitz and thrown hot.
Scott Spratt: It can't be fun for the Bengals defenders that the Titans' change-of-pace back, D'Onta Foreman, weighs 236 pounds.
Aaron Schatz: Big fourth-down go decision for Tennessee, fourth-and-1 on the Bengals 35, Henry hesitates behind the line of scrimmage and the Bengals take him down. Bengals get the ball back, still tied.
Bryan Knowles: As good as Derrick Henry is, I don't like the "hand the ball to the guy 5 yards behind the line" play, as opposed to the "have your quarterback fall forward 18 inches" play. Giving the ball to Henry is likely to give you more yards on average, but you don't need a big gain; you need a yard. Fall forwards if you're going to run straight ahead.
And on the following drive, Joe Burrow gets sacked for the ninth time, tying the postseason record. I feel like I should give the Titans some credit here—nine's a big number, no matter the circumstances—but the Bengals' line and Burrow's awareness have been terrible.
Aaron Schatz: Titans go really slow on the final drive and it ends up helping them. They take 40 seconds before a Tannehill pass, but the pass goes off the hands of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and into the hands of Cincinnati's Logan Wilson. Bengals get ball with only 20 seconds left. But the Titans pass rush for once can't get to Joe Burrow and he finds Ja'Marr Chase to put the Bengals into field goal range!
Bryan Knowles: I wonder if all those sacks gave the Bengals cold feet; running the ball to settle for a long field goal rather than trying to pick up more yards on a pass (and risking sack No. 10).
Carl Yedor: I *really* disliked the way the Bengals played for the long field goal there, but with how much of a struggle pass protection has been for them tonight, the risk (and corresponding negative consequences) of a sack would have been quite high. With where they were on the field, I completely understood being afraid of the sack, but kneeling to place the ball in one specific spot and lose yards in the process was not ideal. That said, McPherson was absolutely money, and the rookie kicker successfully sent Cincinnati to the AFC Championship Game.
Tom Gower: Well fiddlesticks. That wasn't exactly exactly exactly what I didn't want to see, but the fact that the Titans had the ball in a tie game at the two-minute warning, had some success moving the ball, and still lost in regulation while letting the clock run precisely so they wouldn't lose in regulation is plenty rage-inducing. I need to go process this game some more before saying more things.
Vince Verhei: Agree with what Carl said about playing conservative for the long field goal, but Evan McPherson bails the Bengals out with the game-winner. He hit all four of his field goals today, from 38, 45, 52, and 54 yards—not a gimme in the bunch.
Tennessee got big days from A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but the rest of the team combined for four catches for 16 yards. They could really use a reliable third receiver and/or tight end.
Tom Gower: Had I written something at halftime, it would have been about a game that very much still hung in the balance. Both teams got one explosive play that helped set up a score. The Titans made it to the red zone and finished it off there, while the Bengals always bogged down on the edge of the red zone (their one red zone "play" in the first 30 minutes was a false start at the 19). The Bengals were sticking in their three-receiver sets, as I thought they might, and it was all about the obvious pre-game storyline, whether the Titans defensive line would get to Burrow or he'd get the ball to a receiver before they did so. For Tennessee, Derrick Henry was effective enough but at only 3.0 yards per carry (10 carries, 30 yards) was not being particularly explosive, and the Titans were getting contributions in the pass game from both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but needed to get more from other players.
Then the Bengals came out in the second half and actually ran the ball well. One crucial change was switching to a lot more two-tight end looks. The Titans were primarily a two-high shell defense, and I didn't think they adjusted quickly to that look, and Joe Mixon finished off the drive with a great cut for a 16-6 lead. D'Onta Foreman's long run put the Titans in scoring territory (yay, explosive plays), but a great play by Mike Hilton for a pick gave me and every other Titans fan that "Oh, no" feeling. But Eli Apple's taunting penalty backed the Bengals up from where they should have started, Amani Hooker disrupted Tee Higgins at the catch point, a deep shot to Brown set up a field goal to cut it to seven, and then the Amani Hooker interception that stood; I think the Bert Emanuel Rule was fundamentally a mistake, but it's the rule, and the NFL went for the pusillanimous stands on review. And then on second-and-16, Tannehill threw a freakin' dime to Brown for six and the tie game.
And we got the fourth quarter, with long, drawn-out drives that ended without scores. Burrow was sacked for a huge loss on third-and-3 from the Titans 32. The Titans couldn't gain a yard on two chances from the Bengals 35. Burrow was sacked for a huge loss on third-and-8 from the Titans 48. And Tennessee got the ball at their own 16 with 2:43 left and a chance to win the game … and ran the ball for 3 yards and let the clock run to the two-minute warning. Then threw the ball, got a first down, ran again, and let the clock run. And completed a short pass and let the clock run. And I start rolling my eyes at Mike Vrabel's willingness to play for overtime instead of trying to actually let his offense go win a freakin' playoff football game. Naturally, Ryan Tannehill's pass for Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is tipped and intercepted when Westbrook-Ikhine doesn't get to his spot. Burrow hits Chase for a big play against Jackrabbit Jenkins in man coverage (remember how we talked on Thursday's show about how Burrow could get Chase on Jenkins whenever he wanted because the Titans just play sides with their cornerbacks?). Evan McPherson hits another long field goal, and the Titans' season ends.
Speaking as a Titans analyst, this felt like a huge missed opportunity on many levels. They were a five-loss team; five-loss teams are typically more like No. 3 or No. 4 seeds like the 12-5 Rams and Cowboys were than No. 1 seeds. For as many injuries as they had, and quite a few players missed a few games, they were about as healthy as you could expect for this time of year today. And Cincinnati was not a fearsome opponent; the game looked like an interesting matchup that could go any way. Both teams had clear potential strengths and weaknesses, and given the vagaries of a single game, it could have been anything from high-scoring to low-scoring by either or both teams. Tennessee's pass rush did as well as you could reasonably expect. Looking through old box scores, I don't think they had more than today's 13 quarterback hits on Joe Burrow at least since I started obsessively watching the team in 2006. And no quarterback had won a game when being sacked nine teams since Len Dawson and the Chiefs back in the days of the AFL. (Naturally, Mike Vrabel had a goofy-seeming comment postgame about the Titans maybe having too many sacks, albeit in the context of not having enough turnover-causing plays.)
Derrick Henry was ... unimpressive? Better than I feared he might be? Closed the game poorly, getting stuffed on the fourth-and-1, and going from +6 Rush Yards Over Expectation after 13 carries, per Next Gen Stats, to -6 after 20 carries (so -12 on his last seven rushes). When not targeting Brown or Jones, Tannehill completed four of eight passes for 16 yards and two interceptions. Sure, the Hilton pick didn't have anything to do with Chester Rogers (one catch for 3 yards), but the last pick mattered. The tight ends combined for one Anthony Firkser target in the first-half two-minute drill, not caught. It was worth considering that the Titans might be better than their full-season stats because their WR/TE grouping outside Brown and Jones was so non-productive, and they lived down to their advance billing as badly as the Bengals offensive line did.
I guess it's incumbent upon me to say something about the Mike Vrabel "analytics" decisions. Going for the two-point conversion after the Bengals penalty was the right call; you can't know at 6-6 how the rest of the game would go, having the ball at the 1 instead of the 2 is a significant advantage (62% vs. 48%, historically), even a 28-yard extra point is not guaranteed, and it's not nearly as simple as the rest of the game proceeding exactly the same. Going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Bengals 35 after getting stuffed with 8:06 to play also doesn't seem to me like it should be a controversial decision. That's an easily missable field goal that puts the Bengals in great field position if you miss it, a three-point lead is far from a lock, and I'm always a fan of putting the ball in the hand of your most important players in critical situations. But Henry couldn't convert either play, and sometimes that happens. But I wouldn't have been nearly as cranky as I was today had it happened in a regular season game.
San Francisco 49ers 13 at Green Bay Packers 10
Bryan Knowles: Minor surprises in the inactives—49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas, who has been working through a bone bruise, is inactive. There's nothing structural there; it's all about ability to withstand pain, and apparently it's too painful for him to go. That means Dontae Johnson or Josh Norman will be in the starting lineup for San Francisco. Aaron Rodgers might want to look that way early and often.
But, on the other side, David Bakhtiari is also out. He played about a quarter against Detroit, but apparently he doesn't feel comfortable either—it was a game-time decision, and the decision is "no." Dennis Kelly has been alright, but he's no Bakhtiari. Nick Bosa might want to look that way early and often.
First drive is everything the Packers would have wanted. Davante Adams with three catches for 35 yards, as Dontae Johnson is not, shall we say, an ideal matchup for arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Green Bay marches right down the field, 69 yards in 10 plays, with AJ Dillon punching things in to close things out. That's the way you start things.
Rivers McCown: If my entire game plan was built on having a positive game script and not letting my injured quarterback throw the ball deep too often, I'd simply not defer to Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. Maybe that's just me.
Aaron Schatz: Bad Packers run defense has been stout on the first two 49ers drives, three carries for 8 yards. And Jimmy Garoppolo has already taken two sacks, so that's two straight three-and-outs. Packers defense is out-physicalling the 49ers early.
Vince Verhei: George Kittle drops an easy one on second down and Jauan Jennings can't reel in a harder catch on third down, and it's three straight three-and-outs to open the game for San Francisco. That's at least the third drop for the 49ers. Have to think the weather has something to do with that, but then, Green Bay's receivers are doing fine.
Scott Spratt: George Kittle dropped a slant route with some major daylight in front of him. At a minimum, that was a 20-yard gain. Maybe a touchdown. In the regular season, Kittle dropped just two of 76 catchable targets. His 2.6% drop rate per catchable target was third lowest of tight ends with 50 or more targets.
Derrik Klassen: It feels weird to say, but the 49ers' offensive struggles have been because of everyone *other than* Jimmy Garoppolo. Perhaps they still have some play-call limitations because of him, but he has thrown some good balls that have all been dropped so far. Have to imagine the 49ers won't just keep dropping passes right in their hands for the next three quarters.
J.P. Acosta: I have been impressed by the Packer run defense so far tonight. They're near the bottom of the league in run defense DVOA, but their front is doing a great job of holding up the Niners offensive line, allowing the linebackers to run free.
Bryan Knowles: I am going to suggest that -7 yards in a quarter may not be an ideal start. The fact that it's only 7-0 after a quarter is, frankly, astonishing. Either results will soon start to follow form, and the Packers will pull away, or they'll regret not capitalizing on a pretty damn bad 49ers start.
Scott Spratt: Is it better to have Trent Williams at left tackle and not Trent Williams at right tackle or two half-Trent Williamses at both left and right tackle?
J.P. Acosta: I'm slowly losing my mind watching Jimmy G go through progressions. It's not great!
Vince Verhei: Meanwhile, since the touchdown on their opening drive, Green Bay isn't doing much better. Their next three drives were a lost fumble and two three-and-outs. Drive after that picks up one first down, but they are still punting from their side of the 50.
Derrik Klassen: The 49ers defense has played about as well as anyone could reasonably ask. Getting pressure from both their stars and their complementary players, and I think their linebackers are doing a great job triggering on the run game and keeping things contained. Only allowing 7 points, which were on the opening drive, through a quarter and a half ain't bad. They just have to hope the 49ers offense turns it on at some point.
Scott Spratt: Sure, catch that pass, Kittle.
— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2022
Bryan Knowles: Good lord, the 49ers put Trent Williams in motion. That seems unfair.
Trent Williams in motion dear god pic.twitter.com/MpOI1AIbYy
— Oscar Aparicio (@BetterRivals) January 23, 2022
Carl Yedor: I am so happy that the 49ers blessed us with watching Williams go in motion there. Really made my evening.
J.P. Acosta: I'm sure Derrik can correct me, but I feel like the Packers are using De'Vondre Campbell as kind of an overhang defender instead of a traditional stack. Might be to get more numbers on the outside zone run game but I'm not sure.
Derrik Klassen: They definitely have been, which I think is important in this matchup because I don't think any of their outside linebackers can really drop off the line of scrimmage and play there (the way that, say, Leonard Floyd can for the Rams). Campbell did a ton as a SAM and overhang in Atlanta, too.
Bryan Knowles: And there's Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone. Dodges some pressure and throws the ball up for grabs; interception inside the 10-yard line. Take a sack there, and the 49ers kick a field goal and have points and the ball coming out of the half. Instead, Rodgers has 56 seconds to recover.
Rivers McCown: Well, blowing a coverage and leaving Aaron Jones wide open downfield was not the twist I wanted as far as seeing this game become exciting.
Vince Verhei: I am appalled that Jones let himself get tackled in bounds here. That forced Green Bay to use their last timeout, and when Rodgers was sacked and fumbled on first down, they had to spike it on second down just to get a field goal.
Big play to steal 3 before the half.
— Darius Butler (@DariusJButler) January 23, 2022
And the kick is blocked!
Green Bay outgained San Francisco nearly 4-to-1 in the first half, turnovers are even, but they're only up 7-0.
Bryan Knowles: Considering how bad that was for 25 minutes, I will take 7-0 at the half.
Carl Yedor: This game definitely has the feel of one that will end up with something chaotic deciding the outcome. That end-of-half sequence could be one of those circumstances. I know the Seahawks missed the playoffs this year, but these two teams want to give us the feeling of their presence.
The good news for the 49ers is that the game is still close enough for them to try to run the ball consistently, which was their matchup advantage heading into the game. The bad news is that Deebo Samuel has been a complete non-factor, and San Francisco is averaging 3.1 yards per rush overall. For Green Bay, it seems basic, but more Davante Adams and more Aaron Jones in the passing game seem like real pressure points to use against the 49ers.
Vince Verhei: That's a good point—where IS Davante Adams? He had three catches for 35 yards on the first drive, but only two for 15 since.
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers have been bracketing Adams pretty consistently since that first drive, with Jaquiski Tartt on permanent "help Dontae Johnson not make a fool of himself" duty. In fact, that might be why Jones got so loose on the huge play at the end of the half; no safety help deep because they are trying to keep Adams contained.
Scott Spratt: Bryan, would you go to Trey Lance in the second half?
Bryan Knowles: In general, no, I wouldn't. I don't think most of the problem has been Garoppolo today; there have been drops and missed blocks elsewhere. In the red zone, however…
Scott Spratt: The Packers closed the first half and opened the second half with on-brand special teams plays. That kickoff return will start the 49ers near midfield.
Scott Spratt: The 49ers have had offensive penalties in both of their red zone trips today. Not great for their offense.
Bryan Knowles: Nearly two interceptions in the red zone, as well. If Eric Stokes is playing the ball, that might have been a pick-six.
Rivers McCown: I think the best time to call an offensive face mask for the first time all season is in the red zone in a playoff game.
Bryan Knowles: Normally, I'd be talking about how annoyed I'd be at Kyle Shanahan for kicking a 29-yard field goal here. But with Samuel and Williams both being shaken up, I think you take the points and hope that everyone can get straight on the sideline.
Vince Verhei: 49ers drove 39 yards (including yards lost on penalties) in 10 plays for that field goal. Only two of those plays were completions, and both were wide receiver screens to Samuel.
J.P. Acosta: The Niners defense has been playing lights-out since that opening drive. Forcing Rodgers to find someone else to beat them with instead of Davante Adams.
Vince Verhei: Agreed. San Francisco's offensive struggles seem largely self-inflicted, while the Packers look like they're playing against a defense with 13 people on the field sometimes.
Bryan Knowles: I am feeling more and more "hey, put Trey Lance in," Scott. That's the third pass that should have been intercepted from Jimmy G. Packers are 1-for-3.
Scott Spratt: Three possible pick-sixes is enough for me. Get Jimmy Garoppolo out of there and just run every play with Trey Lance at quarterback.
J.P. Acosta: Trent Williams clearly limping is not great for the offense either.
Rivers McCown: The last six quarters of 49ers football that I have watched have me thinking they have a magical ability to make the entire game dumb. It's gotta be related to Jimmy G.
Vince Verhei: Packers still lead 7-3 at the end of three, but they're in field goal range.
Remember a few hours ago when I said Tennessee needed a third receiving option? Right now, Green Bay Packers not named Davante Adams or Aaron Jones have exactly one catch for zero yards … and that one catch was a lost fumble.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, look, Rodgers found Allen Lazard. There is another wide receiver on this team! Who would have thought. Then he takes a sack, so field goal. 10-3 Packers.
Scott Spratt: That was near-pick-six No. 4, I think.
Bryan Knowles: Alright, conservative Kyle Shanahan, it's fourth-and-1 from the Packers 19. Seven minutes left. Can I entice you to go for it one freaking time?
He did! And it didn't work! Well, I'd rather go down swinging.
Scott Spratt: I blame the play call, Bryan. When you have Trent Williams eligible, you have to throw him the ball.
Aaron Schatz: I think that was built off that earlier play with Williams in motion. This time, instead of following Williams to the right, they switched it up and went up the middle. It didn't work.
Vince Verhei: It's worth mentioning that they were in position to go for it there because they finally hit a big pass downfield, a post route to Kittle. But then the fourth-down run got stuffed, and the Packers have the ball and just over six minutes to go. They can put this away without scoring if they can just eat all that clock.
Tremendous run defense by Green Bay tonight. Neither Eli Mitchell nor Deebo Samuel has a 10-yard run. (Kyle Juszczyk, of all people, does.)
Rivers McCown: Kind of feel like if Mitchell takes it outside that run looks a lot better. Who knows if he converts it or not but he had blockers.
Bryan Knowles: Brilliant play by the 49ers there. Have your injury-replacement cornerback hurt, tempting Aaron Rodgers to throw it to Davante Adams against Josh Norman, and draw the incomplete pass. 5D-Chess.
Vince Verhei: Or, the Packers could go three-and-out, including an incompletion that stops the clock.
Blocked punt. Touchdown. Tie game.
Scott Spratt: Packers special teams *chef's kiss*,
Bryan Knowles: Just before that punt, my wife made me put on the 49ers scarf my brother crocheted for me. I did not take that into account in my game preview.
J.P. Acosta: My coach used to always say, "they call it special for a reason."
Carl Yedor: And THERE is the moment of chaos.
Vince Verhei: The dots on the blocked punt, where the ball hung in the air forever, are hysterical.
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 23, 2022
Bryan Knowles: The Packers go three-and-out again, and this game is going to end with Jimmy Garoppolo throwing a pick-six, isn't it?
Scott Spratt: The 49ers shouldn't throw another pass, Bryan.
Bryan Knowles: Just today, or ever? Because I can get behind either.
Scott Spratt: Naturally, the 49ers went immediately to an empty backfield. But it worked. That 10-yard Kittle slant has been there all night.
Vince Verhei: 49ers are driving after the two-minute warning and Troy Aikman is encouraging them to try for the home run shot. No! Do no such thing! Kick this field goal with zeroes on the clock and don't give Rodgers the ball back! Ah, now Aikman has thought more about it and is saying the same thing.
Scott Spratt: Amazing run by Samuel, but Kyle Shanahan let way too much time come off the clock after the first down. It seems super unlikely that Robbie Gould can make this from outside of 40 yards.
Vince Verhei: Oh, my god. Deebo runs for the first down on third-and-long, but then the 49ers let the clock run, then run again, then call their second timeout. This is going to be 40-plus yards. This is missable, and they easily could have played for one more first down.
Well, they got away with it, but Samuel got that first down with a minute to go, and the next time they snapped the ball there were 20 seconds left.
Bryan Knowles: Vince, you have no idea how loud I was yelling for the 49ers to just kick the field goal. I saw nothing good happening there if they had continued playing football.
My blood pressure STILL might not go down by the NFC Championship Game.
Scott Spratt: And with the 49ers upset, the Buccaneers have homefield advantage in the NFC. Glad to see that for T.B. Guy was due for a nice break like this.
Bryan Knowles: In the game preview, I wrote neither of these teams want the game to be decided on special teams. I stand by it.
No idea who will be healthy for next week, with Deebo, Kittle, and Williams all limping off as the game ended, and with Garoppolo's arm falling apart as we watch. That sounds like a problem for the future, though.
Tom Gower: The Green Bay Packers only had 10 players on the field for the game-winning field goal attempt. Coming out of a timeout. I can't believe it, and I simultaneously am not at all surprised.
Carl Yedor: What a wild finish. San Francisco couldn't do anything on offense all game long, and when they did get down to the red zone, they bogged down and could not punch it in. Green Bay bungled a few key moments, and the 49ers were able to ice the game with a lengthy field goal in the adverse conditions. Let the offseason Aaron Rodgers rumor mill commence.
Aaron Schatz: I really did think the Packers were a lot better than this. They were the better team when you didn't consider the Jordan Love games. On the other hand, I kept saying all year, it matters that the Packers didn't really beat up on their opponents, which they didn't do until a late-season Week 17 game against Minnesota. And their special teams were a problem all year.
Tom Gower: I harped on Kansas City's two-man pass game all season, but the Green Bay pass game was Davante Adams and everybody else does just enough. And today, it was Davante Adams and Aaron Jones (mostly checkdowns, I thought, aside from the 75-yard blown coverage wheel route at the end of the first half), and, well, nothing. The fumble by Marcedes Lewis was the only catch by a player other than Adams or Jones in the first three quarters, and the only one in the fourth quarter was Allen Lazard's 6-yard grab before the field goal attempt to go up 10-3. I don't know if there were plays to be made to other players, or if Rodgers was too locked in on particular options, or if he fell in love with particular things. But this reminded me a bit of some of the Sean McVay Rams playoff games, where they are short passes and deep shots and not enough in the middle of the field, where I feel like a lot of the best quarterbacks are able to make the most hay. And if you look at Rodgers' pass chart on Next Gen Stats, he only had three attempts between 10 and 20 yards downfield.
The #49ers pass rush pressured Aaron Rodgers 11 times (32.4% pressure rate), the unit's 7th-consecutive game over 30%, and the highest rate Rodgers has faced in a game this season.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 23, 2022
Yeah, maybe the weather was a bit of a factor in that, but that's a Titans-esque stat, and, as above, that's not a compliment. The special teams will be the focus of much of the postgame coverage, but the offense's inability to move the ball is why the game was close enough for the special teams screwups to matter.