Sunday, April 14

Position-by-position qualifications for the 49ers 13-10 victory over the Packers

How do they keep doing this? The San Francisco 49ers entered Lambeau Field and pulled off another big upset by defeating the top-seeded Green Bay Packers 13-10. Here’s how each position group contributed to it:

Quarterback: C

There were times when Jimmy Garoppolo delivered. There were times when he didn’t. But, once again, he proved good enough for the 49ers to win, even if the offense only produced 6 points. To his credit, Garoppolo delivered two good passes to Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle in the first half that were missed. Aiyuk’s would have been an early first-down that could have given head coach Kyle Shanahan to further his game script. However, Kittle’s could have cost Garoppolo a touchdown.

Still, Garoppolo had a costly interception inside the Red Zone that turned a chance for the 49ers to score late in the first half into a drive for Green Bay. As our own Kyle Posey said on Twitter:

Things seemed to get sticky during the second half when Garoppolo delivered a series of passes that floated dangerously and could have changed the game if a Packers defender made a play.

Garoppolo’s injuries and his continued ability to bounce back from his lowest moments remain commendable, but his missteps on Saturday prevent me from saying he was above average.

Runners: C+

The offensive line didn’t do running back Elijah Mitchell many favors, but he reverted to some old habits Saturday, costing the 49ers in the few plays the line delivered big holes. Mitchell is an above-average running back, but this game showed the gap between him and injured star Raheem Mostert. Still, the most glaring mistake came at short yards, on the fourth-and-one, when Mitchell cut inside directly to Green Bay’s interior defensive line, instead of following Trent Williams around the edge for a possible conversion. Mitchell avoided putting the ball on the ground despite the difficult conditions, so I raised him to C+.

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Tight End: B-

For the first time in more than a month, George Kittle was back as the focal point of the 49ers passing attack. Kittle caught four passes for 63 receiving yards, good for 48.1% of Garoppolo’s passing yards, but his knockdown likely cost San Francisco its biggest offensive play of the day. Even if Kittle didn’t end up in the end zone, though it seemed likely he would, the play could easily have scored 30 or more yards. Instead, the 49ers ended up punting.

Wide Receivers: C+

Deebo Samuel would get an A for his solo effort, but the rest of the 49ers wide receivers didn’t deliver. Brandon Aiyuk dropped his only goal of the game, and that drop could have easily been ruled a catch and fumble. Jauan Jennings made the only other catch by a 49ers receiver on a great third down, but a catch for the rest of the receivers left a lot to be desired. Garoppolo was far from perfect, but his receivers also struggled to get the breakup.

Offensive line: D

Tom Compton finally lived up to his reputation, being dominated by the Packers throughout the game. 49ers guards Laken Tomlinson and Daniel Brunskill struggled with pass protection. Even star left tackle Trent Williams was hit with a costly holding penalty. The Niners’ offensive line has been dominating opponents recently, but the Packers’ pressure lived up to their reputation and gave them trouble throughout the game.

Defensive line: A+

Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead’s incredible postseason dominance continued. The 49ers’ top two defensive linemen each had 2 sacks, and Armstead added 2 tackles for loss. Unfortunately, the other Niners’ pass-rushers weren’t as productive as they have been recently, although Samson Ebukam also had a sack, but Armstead and Bosa delivered anyway.

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The 49ers’ pass rush benefited from a great secondary game and an overconfident Aaron Rodgers who tended to hold the ball a little longer than he should. Still, Bosa and Armstead capitalized. When you remember that Jordan Willis delivered the blocked center punt and released Jimmie Ward to block a Packers field goal late in the first half, an A+ is the only correct grade for this unit.

Linebackers: A+

Fred Warner didn’t allow a single completion pass in coverage, according to PFF, but still recorded 6 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair combined for 9 tackles and were solid in coverage, but this game was all about Warner. This season has been unusually inconsistent from the BYU alum, but he once again looked like one of the best linebackers in the NFL on Saturday.

Cornerbacks: B+

When Ambry Thomas was ruled out, there was understandable concern that the 49ers would be swamped by a poor coverage play. Emmanuel Moseley took over and continued to show his potential to be a true number one corner. Dontae Johnson was getting cooked early, but defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans quickly adjusted to give him a stronger safety assist, and the Packers never really found a fast break. Johnson and nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams gave up passing yards throughout the game but never allowed the Packers to drive the ball downfield. Even Josh Norman stepped up when Johnson had to leave the game with an injury, preventing Rodgers from finding Davante Adams on the field.

Securities: A-

Third safety Talanoa Hufanga delivered the 49ers’ only touchdown of the game, but he also stepped up at a significant moment in coverage. Ryans dialed up a big drive, sending Ward and Tartt to try to pressure Rodgers, which left Hufanga in center field with Davante Adams going deep against Johnson. Hufanga played it to perfection and secured an incomplete pass.

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Jimmie Ward made a rare error in coverage that gave the Packers a chance to score late in the first half, but he made up for it two plays later when he blocked Green Bay’s next field goal attempt. Otherwise, he and Tartt did what they do best, kept the offense contained. Even on the play where Ward made his notable mistake, his safety partner stepped in to limit the damage.

Special teams: A+

Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has been on the bench all season, and one game could have saved his job. The 49ers blocked a field goal, blocked a punt that they returned for a touchdown, got 5 solid punts from Mitch Wishnowsky, allowed no extended kick returns, and made every field goal they attempted. Truly a perfect day.

Hightower deserves some extra credit for the blocked punt. After a costly penalty on the punter last week, many questioned Hightower’s decision to have his unit focus on pressuring the punter. No one would have batted an eye if Hightower had told his players to focus on getting back into coverage before getting a screen. He didn’t, and he probably just saved the 49ers’ season.

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