3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 3 Loss

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2021

3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 3 Loss

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers failed to move to 3-0 on Sunday night. Despite pulling ahead with less than a minute remaining in regulation, the 49ers could not hold off Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

    Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk and the 49ers offense made a memorable march down the field late in the fourth quarter. Juszczyk scored the go-ahead touchdown, and Green Bay got the ball back with only 37 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, that's all the time Rodgers and Co. needed to set up Mason Crosby for the game-winning 51-yard field goal.

    The 49ers now sit at 2-1, which is not a bad start to the season. However, with the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams both sitting at 3-0, San Francisco is going to face an uphill battle in the NFC West this season—that much, we can be sure of.

    Here's what else we learned about the 49ers during Sunday night's 30-28 loss.

The Ground Game Could Be a Problem

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    We've become used to seeing 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan coax production out of a rotating backfield cast. However, injuries to running backs Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee), Raheem Mostert (knee) and JaMycal Hasty (ankle) have put the 49ers' running game in a precarious situation.

    Yes, the 49ers went against an aggressive and talented Green Bay defensive front on Sunday night. However, the fact that rookie Trey Sermon led San Francisco with just 31 rushing yards is telling. So too is the fact that Shanahan called on backup quarterback Trey Lance to augment the offense in the red zone.

    The 49ers, who averaged 3.2 yards per carry against Green Bay, could not impose their will on the ground. This wasn't a one-off. San Francisco ranks just 25th in the league in yards per attempt through the first three weeks.

    The issue here is that San Francisco's offense under Shanahan has always run through the ground game. Perhaps things will turn around next week against a flailing Seattle Seahawks defense. If not, Shanahan and the 49ers may be forced to alter their offensive identity.

Jimmy Garoppolo Deserves a Lot of Credit, Remains the Unquestioned Starter

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    During Sunday night's NBC broadcast, announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth repeatedly mentioned Garoppolo's handling of the offseason. Even with the 49ers drafting his replacement in Lance, Garoppolo attacked the offseason, won the starting job and has remained a leader in the locker room.

    On Sunday, Garoppolo did more than enough to put San Francisco in a winning position. The 49ers offense started slowly, and Garoppolo threw an interception on his third possession, but he rallied the offense late in the first half and in the final two quarters.

    Hist touchdown strike to Juszczyk late in the fourth quarter would have put away most opponents. The 49ers simply left a little too much time for Rodgers.

    "I mean, the dude did it in 36, 37 seconds," Garoppolo said, per David Bonilla of 49ersWebZone. "You've got to tip your hat to him sometimes."

    Garoppolo finished 25-of-40 for 257 yards with two touchdowns and an interception—despite being sacked four times and constantly facing pressure. Had the defense held up its end on the final drive, the 49ers would be undefeated. There should be no doubt that Lance's time as the starter is going to have to wait.

The Secondary Just Isn't Good Enough

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Injuries at running back have hampered the 49ers. Injuries in the secondary are starting to do the same. San Francisco had already lost starter Jason Verrett for the season to a torn ACL. On Sunday, Josh Norman exited with a chest injury and did not return.

    The 49ers defense is still serviceable—it ranks 16th in both yards and points allowed—but the secondary is not nearly good enough to contain quarterbacks like Rodgers.

    The reigning MVP finished 23-of-33 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, six of his 10 drives ended in points, and San Francisco had no answer for his connection with top wideout Davante Adams.

    Adams finished with 12 receptions, 132 yards and a touchdown.

    With the secondary struggling, San Francisco's pass rush was not a significant factor. It only got to Rodgers once, and it rarely forced him off the mark. If Norman is forced to miss extended time, it will only add to what should be a growing concern in San Francisco.

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