A fact started making the rounds on Thursday: Not one player who touched the ball in the San Francisco 49ers’ NFC championship game win against the Green Bay Packers played in Thursday night’s rematch. That game was a little more than nine months ago.
The Super Bowl hangover takes on many forms. One reason so many conference champions fall off is that it’s hard to avoid bad injury luck two years in a row. And no Super Bowl participant had ever dealt with COVID-19 issues.
The 49ers’ season isn’t over yet, but it feels like it after a listless 34-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, who took the easy win and improved to 6-2. The 49ers are 4-5. Their injury list is shockingly long. On Thursday night the 49ers fielded a lineup that would have fit in the fourth week of the preseason.
It’s not their fault. They can’t catch a break this season, and the bad luck left the 49ers fielding a junior varsity team on prime time.
49ers were decimated before playing Packers
Between Sunday and Thursday, the 49ers found out they lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a high ankle sprain, tight end George Kittle to a broken foot, and offensive lineman Trent Williams and receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Samuel was out anyway due to a hamstring injury. That sums up the 49ers’ luck this season.
An offense that featured Nick Mullens, JaMycal Hasty, Ross Dwelley and Richie James did very little. It seemed the 49ers did tie the game 7-7 on a touchdown by receiver River Cracraft. But the catch by Cracraft was overturned when it was ruled he didn’t make the catch, and nothing went right after that.
Mullens threw a bad interception that led to Aaron Rodgers’ second touchdown pass. Rodgers’ third touchdown pass, a deep strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, turned out the lights just before the half.
It was 21-3 at halftime. This beat-up version of the 49ers weren’t coming back from that.
Packers have easy time in win
There was some sentiment the NFL should have moved the game back, given the COVID-19 issues with the 49ers and Packers. But this season there will be teams to be put in unfair spots when it comes to coronavirus. The 49ers found that out this week.
Pushing the game back a bit might not have mattered much for San Francisco. The injury list is so long that it is hard for the 49ers to plug all the holes. It’s a testament to Kyle Shanahan’s coaching that the 49ers have four wins with all their personnel losses.
The Packers did what they wanted on Thursday night. Rodgers, who threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns, was rarely touched. Davante Adams was open all night. Aaron Jones, back from a calf injury, ran hard. The Packers’ defense that struggled last week against the Minnesota Vikings made plays all night. In the third quarter, Rodgers threw his fourth touchdown and the Packers defense followed that up with a strip sack of Mullens by Za’Darius Smith. The Packers could have named their score.
There’s still a long way to go this season. The 49ers will get some key players back. It’s not impossible to believe they could go on a run and make the playoffs. It just doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards for them this season.
The Super Bowl hangover is real. The history is strong. And the 49ers are going through it with an extra set of challenges no other team had ever dealt with before this weird season.
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