Lorenzo had his second perfect weekend of the season. He’s back to provide his best bets for Week 9 in the NFL. USA TODAY
It’s hard to have a statement game against an opponent playing backups, but the Green Bay Packers at least reassured their fan base Thursday night.
If the Packers wanted reasons to fold on a short-week trip to the West Coast, they had plenty. They were four days removed from a bad home loss against the Minnesota Vikings. The morning after presented their first positive COVID-19 test. Two more key players were unavailable after being deemed high-risk exposures.
None of that mattered against a 49ers team that had all its best players on injured reserve or the COVID-19/Reserve list.
This was a game any bona fide Super Bowl contender not only should win, but win convincingly. The Packers passed that test with ease.
After jumping out to an 18-point halftime lead, the Packers cruised to a 34-17 win inside the same building that ushered them into their 2020 offseason. The victory came 11 months after a blowout loss in the NFC championship game, and a year after another blowout at Levi’s Stadium last November.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Aaron Rodgers during their win over the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)
In two trips to the Bay Area last season, the Packers (6-2) lost to the 49ers by a combined 74-28 score.
This wasn’t merely a different outcome Thursday night. It was a different opponent.
The 49ers were without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, running back Raheem Mostert, defensive end Nick Bosa, defensive end Dee Ford, cornerback Richard Sherman and a host of players who knocked them out of last season’s playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Packers were close to full strength even without running back A.J. Dillon, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, and high-risk exposures in tailback Jamaal Williams and linebacker Kamal Martin.
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Running back Aaron Jones returned from missing the past two games with a calf injury, and the Packers didn’t hold him back. Jones touched the football on the game’s first four plays: a 5-yard catch, an 11-yard run, a 6-yard run and a 15-yard catch. He finished with 15 carries for 58 yards and five receptions for 21 more in his typical dual-threat production.
The Packers ended their first drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams. They remain the only team in the NFL to score on each of their opening drives this season. It was Adams’ sixth touchdown in three games, played over the past 12 days. He had two touchdowns in Houston and three Sunday against the Vikings.
Adams, who had 10 receptions for 173 yards, leads the NFL with eight touchdown catches despite missing two games and part of a third with a hamstring injury.
Rodgers put together another big game, going 25-for-31 for 305 yards and four TDs (147.2 rating).
The Packers were scrutinized this week for not adding a receiver at Tuesday’s trade deadline to supplement Adams’ dominance. On Thursday, Marquez Valdes-Scantling emerged as a second weapon in the passing game. After dropping a third-down pass in the first half, MVS rebounded for a pair of touchdown catches. His second gave the Packers a 28-3 lead in the third quarter. MVS hadn’t caught a touchdown since Week 1, a six-game drought.
The Packers’ defense got big plays from each of the Smiths. Preston Smith forced an interception to safety Raven Greene when he hit 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens as he released a pass. In the second half, Za’Darius Smith sacked Mullens and recovered a fumble. The Packers scored touchdowns after both turnovers, something that has been lacking this season.
It wasn’t a perfect night. Cornerback Jaire Alexander left midway through with a concussion. The Packers were already without cornerback Kevin King, thinning their secondary. Right tackle Rick Wagner left with a knee injury.
Still, the Packers handled an assortment of adversity throughout their short week, and they easily dismantled a 49ers team that went through even more.