It was all Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers from start to end. A depleted San Francisco 49ers squad trailed following the first drive of the game and the Packers rolled to a 34-17 blowout to begin Week 9, as Rodgers threw four touchdowns and Green Bay improved to 6-2.
1) With their running game hobbled or sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, the Packers needed Aaron Rodgers to do what Aaron Rodgers does. And, upon the brilliant right arm of the future Hall of Famer, Green Bay galloped easily to triumph on Thursday night. Rodgers started early, finding Davante Adams on a first-drive score and the Packers (6-2) rumbled and routed the 49ers (4-5) from there on out. Clocking out early in the blowout, Rodgers was near perfect and dominated as he should have against an opponent that struggled to find warm bodies. He had just six incompletions in 31 attempts, tossing for 305 yards and four touchdowns and looking every bit vintage Rodgers. He was 13-for-18 for 149 yards, three touchdowns, no picks and a 136.3 rating in the first half. And it somehow didn't even seem or look that spectacular, it just looked like Rodgers going to work against an overwhelmed (and undermanned) opponent. Six Packers got balls, three had TDs in the opening 30. It was 21-3 at the half, but it was over. For Rodgers, it was easy like Sunday morning on a cool Thursday evening in Santa Clara.
2) At times, this was akin to a schoolyard game in which one team somehow got the top two picks with Rodgers and Adams, the former just chucking it up to the latter when they got bored doing anything else. Adams is a stud. Plain and simple. People know he's good, but his name is far too absent from the discussion of the best receiver in the game. Maybe going against the Niners in this setting won't win over more people, but he went out there and did exactly what a player who's as exceptional as he is should. He dominated to the tune of 10 catches for 173 yards and a score. He made it look easy on Thursday and looked like one of the best in the game -- which he is. "I like to get the ball to No. 17," Rodgers said after the game, "he's a special player."
3) In the savage world that is professional football, silver linings are rarely smiled upon. On this night, though, the 49ers should be commended simply for taking the field. Ravaged by injuries all season, they were also missing a host of players due to COVID-19 protocols. But they showed up with second-stringers starting at so many positions and did all they could against one of the NFC's best teams. There was more talent unavailable than there was on the field for San Francisco, which lost left tackle Trent Williams and receiver Brandon Aiyuk just the day before the game due to COVID-19 protocols and almost symbolically officially placed George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo on injured reserve earlier Thursday. Nick Bosa is likely a very talented (when at full-strength) defense's finest player and he's been gone for most of the season. It's been borderline unbelievable the injury ills that have plagued the Niners and now COVID-19 issues have cut them down, as well. It's been a hard season for the 49ers, but coach Kyle Shanahan has done everything and all he can to just keep moving the team forward. And after a Thursday it's likely the team would just as soon forget, they'll move forward in this most arduous of campaigns.
4) With no Jamaal Williams or AJ Dillon available due to COVID-19 protocols, the return of Aaron Jones was all the more important. It was believed the plan was for Jones to be limited, but out of the gate he was flying. Jones had the first four offensive touches of the game on the Pack's opening drive, tallying 37 yards that led to the Adams score that gave Green Bay a lead it would never come close to relinquishing. Jones started strong and was able to rest easy. The Packers didn't really need the running game for the majority of the night, but Jones' initial burst was more than enough to give the 49ers' defense something else to worry about. At the end of the evening, Jones' dialed-back performance saw him tally 79 scrimmage yards on 20 touches (why he was still in during the fourth quarter is baffling). Jones, bum calf and all, showed up for the Packers when they needed him.
5) When these teams last met, Raheem Mostert ran over the Packers on the way to the Super Bowl. When the Packers last played, Vikings star Dalvin Cook ran roughshod over them. Mostert, or Cook for that matter, did not play against Green Bay on Thursday, but the Packers rushing defense was sturdy nonetheless. It's hard to take too much from a showing that came against a 49ers team so badly short-handed before the game, but as was a common theme, the Packers did as they should have done, which was dominate. San Francisco was held to 55 yards rushing as a team, which matched a season-low set the week prior. Oren Burks' six tackles were enough for the Packers team-high as everyone on the defense swarmed and did their job. It was a stellar night for the Packers on both sides of the ball.
6) Though it was a rather dismal day for the 49ers, there was still a big highlight to be found for the 49ers in the form of Richie James. Long regarded as just a kick returner, James, with the 49ers receiving ranks bare on Thursday, had a huge night with nine catches for 184 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown catch in which he juked a defender out of his cleats. As dismal as the injury report has been for San Fran this season, it has bestowed opportunity upon other players and James made the most of his on this night.
7) With all the talent lost for the 49ers, finding a star undimmed by injury is difficult. Fred Warner is still standing, though. Warner was all over the field, collecting a game-high 13 tackles, playing valiantly in the loss. Regardless of where this rocky road of a season ends up for the Niners, Warner is due praise as the third-year player continues to make a name for himself with his stellar play.