In a span of five days, the San Francisco 49ers went from potentially being only 0.5 games out of first place in the NFC West, to potentially shifting all focus to the 2021 season. In a year that has been a perfect example of Murphy’s Law, everything that could go wrong, continues to go wrong for the 49ers.
After losing to the Seattle Seahawks 37-27 on Nov. 1, the 49ers had a short turnaround of only four days to take on the Green Bay Packers. And in those four days, San Francisco lost tight end George Kittle for eight weeks to a broken foot and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was deemed out four to six weeks after re-aggravating his ankle.
If that didn’t make life hard enough for San Francisco, the day before taking on the Packers, receiver Kendrick Bourne tested positive for COVID-19. Later that same day, fellow receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, along with all-pro tackle Trent Williams, landed on the reserved/COVID-19 list.
With four starting players unable to play because of COVID-19, it might seem obvious to cancel the nationally broadcasted Thursday game, as to not only make sure all players remain healthy, but to also not put San Francisco in such a deep hole before an important contest. But, nope, the game went on as planned and the 49ers got blown out of the water by the Packers, losing 34-17.
If the Thursday night loss wasn’t bad enough, some salt was poured on the large wound the following day, when each one of the COVID19 players tested negative for the second day in a row. Bourne’s first positive result is now classified as a false positive. Would the addition of Bourne, Aiyuk and Williams (Samuel still may have not played because of a hamstring issue) made a difference against Green Bay? Yes. Would that have changed the outcome? Doubtful.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and why, if he does decide to leave Wisconsin in 2021, the 49ers might be interested in putting him in red and gold. Rodgers went 25 for 31 for 305 yards and four touchdowns. On the other side of the field, backup Nick Mullens went 22 for 35 for 291 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Not only was Mullens not throwing to top 49er receivers (Bourne, Aiyuk, Samuel, Kittle), but he was throwing to players who were practice squad members 24 hours earlier. The only spark coming from San Francisco’s offense came from receiver Richie James Jr. The speedy receiver had nine receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown.
With their top-three running backs injured, the 49ers only rushed for 55 yards on 17 attempts. The loss of Williams at left tackle hindered the running game, and also allowed the Packers to put constant pressure on Mullens when he dropped back to pass.
San Francisco has now lost two games in a row and have fallen to 4-5. The chances of making the playoffs are still there, but is that the best thing for 2020? Most players and coaches would say, “Yes,” but perhaps focusing next year is more important.
Without the help of a miracle, the 49ers are not going to win the division. And with $80 million worth of players currently injured, there’s no way they could be competitive in the postseason. So, maybe a better 2021 draft spot would be more beneficial than a 9-7 record and losing in the opening round of the playoffs.
The 49ers play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and the Saints (6-2) are coming off a 38-3 pounding of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers will obviously be the underdogs and don’t have the firepower to stick with one of the best teams in the league. Prediction: Saints 34, 49ers 20.