Aaron Rodgers took advantage of the undermanned San Francisco 49ers rather than sympathizing with the team that dominated his Green Bay Packers twice last season.
Rodgers threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns and the Packers overwhelmed the depleted 49ers 34-17 on Thursday night.
“They’re a different team on paper for sure," Rodgers said. "They’ve had some tough injuries to some really key players, but no one’s feeling sorry for anybody in this league. That’s the way it goes. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We’re dealing with injuries.”
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Rodgers connected on deep shots to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and a short toss to Marcedes Lewis in the first half to get the Packers (6-2) out to a 21-3 lead over the Niners (4-5).
It was quite a reversal from the two meetings last season when San Francisco outscored Green Bay by a combined 50-0 in the first halves on the way to lopsided wins in the regular season and NFC title game.
The rematch looked nothing like those games in part because the Niners were missing almost all their key pieces from the game because of injuries and a positive coronavirus test for receiver Kendrick Bourne that also sidelined three of his teammates for “high risk” contacts.
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That left San Francisco without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), All-Pro tight end George Kittle (foot), NFC title game star running back Raheem Mostert (ankle), receivers Deebo Samuel (hamstring) and Brandon Aiyuk (COVID-19 list), left tackle Trent Williams (COVID-19 list) and key defenders Nick Bosa (knee), Dee Ford (back) and Richard Sherman (calf).
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We knew at the start of the week it would be a challenge. Losing those three guys yesterday would be a bigger challenge. I still thought we could have a game. ... I know we could have done better.”
Rodgers and the Packers, who were missing three players on the COVID-19 list, took advantage of the opportunity.
Rodgers capped the opening drive with a 36-yard shot to Adams, who made an acrobatic catch over Emmanuel Moseley in the end zone for his league-leading eighth TD reception of the season.
Nick Mullens had an apparent TD throw to River Cracraft wiped out on replay for San Francisco and then threw an interception to Raven Greene after backup left tackle Justin Skule got beat for a pressure from Preston Smith.
That mistake led to Rodgers’ 1-yard throw to Lewis and the Packers took control when Valdes-Scantling got behind the defense for the 52-yard catch late in the first half.
“I know they were missing some creatures on both sides of the ball, but that’s one of the better defenses I think that we’ve played despite missing some of those guys,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “On offense it’s always difficult going against Kyle and that staff.”
Rodgers added a second TD pass to Valdes-Scantling and the rout was on.
Adams finished with 10 catches for 173 yards, making him the first Packers player with three 150-yard receiving games since Donald Driver in 2006.
“We’re definitely in a groove right now," Adams said. “I don’t have much to say about it, I don’t want to sound conceited or nothing, sound bad, but obviously when you start getting in a rhythm like that, it does get a lot easier.”