SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – A strip sack on the opening drive that set up a touchdown got the San Francisco 49ers off to a rousing start to a tough three-game stretch.
A near-flawless performance by Jimmy Garoppolo and a dominant performance by the defense finished off Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Garoppolo threw two long touchdown passes and the San Francisco defense harassed Rodgers into one of the worst performances of his brilliant career, leading the 49ers to a 37-8 victory over the Packers on Sunday in the first of three straight games against first-place teams.
“Apparently nobody has to play us. We just have to play everybody. We’re just the punching bag people come punch on,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, clearly piqued by the talk of how difficult San Francisco’s upcoming opponents are.
“We don’t worry about the outside noise. We understand what kind of team we have and we don’t worry about the opponent because you can’t control what they do.”
Garoppolo connected on a 42-yard touchdown strike to Deebo Samuel in the second quarter and a 61-yarder to George Kittle in the third to start this stretch for San Francisco (10-1) off on a high note. He was 14 of 20 for 253 yards.
“We crave every single game,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “Every week is a new challenge. The good thing about this team is we don’t get scared of who our next opponent is or ‘Oh this team is supposed to be a top team.’ It’s just another team. We know how good we are. We just have to show it every chance we get.”
Rodgers lost a fumble on the opening drive, one of the five sacks he took, and failed to convert a single third down on 13 tries before getting pulled late in the fourth quarter. He finished 20-for-33 for 104 yards and Green Bay averaged an anemic 1.7 yards per pass play when he was in the game.
“There wasn’t a whole lot positive tonight,” Rodgers said. “A lot of the stuff we talked about during the week, eliminating negative yardage plays, obviously we didn’t do that. They got after us up front, and the coverage was good on the back end.”
Saints 34, Panthers 31
In New Orleans, Wil Lutz kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired, and the Saints took a four-game lead in the NFC South with five games left.
Drew Brees completed 30 of 39 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns, and led New Orleans from its 14-yard line with 1:51 left to the Carolina 15 with 3 seconds remaining to set up the winning kick. That capped a contest filled with late momentum shifts and critical errors — none bigger than Carolina kicker Joey Slye’s missed field goal from 28 yards with 2 minutes left.
Seahawks 17, Eagles 9
In Philadelphia, Rashaad Penny ran for a career-best 129 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown and Russell Wilson threw one TD pass in a win over the Eagles.
Patriots 13, Cowboys 9
In Foxborough, Massachusetts, New England held the Cowboys’ top-ranked offense without a TD for the first time this season as the Patriots got their 18th straight regular-season victory at home.
In Other Games
Titans 42, Jaguars 20
Jets 34, Raiders 3
Bills 20, Broncos 3
Browns 41, Dolphins 24
Steelers 16, Bengals 10
Buccaneers 35, Falcons 22
Bears 19, Giants 14
Redskins 19, Lions 16