49ers hope to rebound under glare of prime time
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It has been three years since the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers have squared off, but the teams will hook up Monday night at Lambeau Field.
Both teams are struggling but San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan hopes the 49ers make the most of Monday's prime-time opportunity at Green Bay.
"You like to say that every game is the same, so you don't want to make too big a deal of that stuff, but I think it's a bonus," Shanahan admitted. "Yeah, we're going through some stuff. But get a chance to go play Monday night in Green Bay, which is as cool of a place to play (as there is)."
The 49ers have shined under the glare of the Monday night spotlight over the years. They have made the playoffs just three times since 2002, yet retain a nine-game winning streak on Monday Night Football, all the while adding to their NFL-record 48 wins under the traditional weeknight spotlight.
But these Niners (1-4) may have difficulty extending that streak as the injury bug continues to bite them hard. Already without their starting quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) and top running back (Jerick McKinnon), eight offensive players were on the sideline during Thursday's practice due to injuries.
The group includes three starting offensive linemen (left tackle Joe Staley, center Weston Richburg and right guard Mike Person), and three wide receivers (Pierre Garcon, Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis). Tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida were also spectators.
Breida has an ankle injury but has not been ruled out for Monday's game.
"I know we've been through some adversity," said Shanahan. "I know this is the hand that we've been dealt and I think we have the people in our organization, I think we have the players, I think we have strong enough people who can deal with it and man up and find a way to win. It's never easy. It definitely gets harder when you do have injuries and things like that. But we have people in here who can win games."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers knows about pain as he "is playing through a whole lot" of injuries beyond an injured left knee, head coach Mike McCarthy said. He did not practice on Thursday. Rodgers has been sacked 16 times and Green Bay is No. 24 in sack percentage. He wore a lighter brace on the knee last week vs. Detroit and hopes to again this week.
The Packers are scoring 23.0 points per game, which is tied for 18th in the league. A team that averaged 35 points per game in 2011 is looking for its first 30-point game of the season.
"It's definitely below (expectations), and we've kind of been stuck at that number," Rodgers said of the 23-point mark, attained in last week's 31-23 loss at Detroit that sent the Packers to 2-2-1. "Scored 22, 24, way up to 29 in Week 2. Not quite the standard that we've set here over the years with the type of offense we think we can have and the type of offense we think we could have coming out of training camp."
The consistency has been what's missing. Get better on third down (three games at less than 40 percent efficiency) and in the red zone (19th with a touchdown rate of 50.0 percent) and cut back on the penalties (10 offensive holding infractions are tied for the second-most in the league), and perhaps the Packers can start piling on the points once again.
"We are very close to getting things going," Rodgers said. "Like I said then and I'll say it again now, I feel like if we can get off to a better start on offense, it makes the entire squad play with a different type of confidence. We need to lead from the front as an offense and as a team and give our defense an opportunity to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback and make them a little more one-dimensional."
The 49ers have been outgained by a total of just 115 yards by the Packers so far this season, and actually have outscored Green Bay 118-115, so the potential is there to match points with Rodgers. The 49ers just have to find a way to do something about their minus-8 in giveaways/takeaways.
"We'll have another chance (against Green Bay)," Shanahan said. "That is what's cool about the NFL: No matter what happens, you get a chance the next week to redeem yourself. If we don't, it'll be just as hard as it is now, if not harder. But we don't plan on that happening. We plan on getting this out of our system. ... We plan on manning up, coming to work, not worrying about things that we can't control and focusing on getting better. I'll be very surprised if our guys don't do that."
Updated October 11, 2018