Aaron Rodgers did it again. Thanks to the quarterback's fourth-quarter heroics, the Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) staved off an upset from C.J. Beathard and the San Francisco 49ers (1-5), 33-30, at Lambeau Field to close out Week 6. Here's what we learned:
- Green Bay's comeback victory over San Francisco on Monday night was a tale of two halves. The two sides aired it out in the first two frames, combining for 547 total yards, 404 passing yards and 44 points on 12 first-half drives. Niners backup C.J. Beathard went shot for shot with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, as the two combined to complete three passing plays of 50-plus yards in the first half. After the two longtime rival squads started the second half with more conservative approaches, leaning on their respective ground games to extend drives and struggling to find the end zone, Rodgers took the reins once again.
After Green Bay stalled in the red zone early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers led the Packers 58 yards in four plays to tie the game with just under two minutes to go, targeting Davante Adams against overmatched cornerback Greg Mabin in the corner of the end zone. Thanks to a penalty on the kick return, the 49ers had great field position to mount a game-winning field goal drive, but Beathard took a chance on Marquise Goodwin one time too many and underthrew a pick in his direction, handing the ball back to the wizard from Wisconsin with no timeouts and 67 seconds to work with. No matter. On the ensuing 10-play, 81-yard drive, Rodgers picked on Mabin again, completing three passes for 8, 19 and 19 yards in his direction along the sideline on three consecutive plays to get Green Bay to the Niners' 9-yard line with six seconds left. A chip shot for the redeemed Mason Crosby saved the Pack from an embarrassing defeat.
- What a whirlwind of a week for Crosby. Fresh off a nightmare week in which he missed five kicks, including four field goals -- *in a dome -- *the Packers' veteran kicker got a vote of confidence from his team and his quarterback; they weren't going to put him, a Packer of 12 seasons, out to pasture like your run-of-the-mill Roberto Aguayos of the world. Green Bay's faith and trust in Crosby paid off. The vet was perfect on the evening, accounting for 15 points and hitting four field goals, including a 51-yarder and the 27-yard game-winner.
"I just went back to my fundamentals and making sure I stuck to that process," Crosby told ESPN's Suzy Kolber after the game. "I think I was rushing a little bit [last week]. It felt so smooth today. Got to hit a long one and then the game-winner. This is unreal. Appreciate Aaron getting me a little closer for the chip shot, but what a great win."
- The Niners can compete with Beathard under center. That's for sure. The second-year signal-caller out of Iowa was at home in Big Ten country on Monday night, or at least in the first half, when he was nearly perfect, throwing for 182 yards and two scores on just 12 attempts (an insane 15.2 YPA). Beathard's production slowed as San Francisco slowed things down in the second half, but he impressed all game long with his prescient pocket presence and scrambling ability. With or without some of his top receiving targets, Beathard has averaged 297.3 passing yards per game in his three starts, good for 13th in the league. He can keep the Niners out of holes their shoddy secondary digs.
- A look at San Francisco's revitalized skill positions: Playing for the first time in October, Goodwin made an impact early and often as Beathard's most dangerous downfield threat. Goodwin returned from hamstring and quad issues to rock Green Bay's secondary for 126 receiving yards and two scores, both season- and career-highs. 35-year-old Tramon Williams was no match for Goodwin's Olympic speed and crisp route-running on his second score. If it wasn't for Goodwin's inability to knock Beathard's late interception away from the blanketing Kevin King, the diminutive wideout would have played hero.
Jerick McKinnon's season-ending injury in the preseason was supposed to doom San Francisco's ground game out of the gate. Matt Breida's on-again, off-again injury issues threatened the same. But with Brieda gutting it out on Monday night, the Niners unleashed a speedy and aggressive ground attack that cranked out 174 yards against Mike Pettine's front seven. Breida's backfield partner Raheem Mostert entered Monday with 47 career rushing yards, but tallied 87 against Green Bay.
- Rodgers' rookie receivers stepped up when it mattered most. With Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison on the sidelines, the law firm of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown showed out. MVS (103 yards) set the tone with a 60-yard grab to start the game and was targeted five times thereafter, earning the most snaps (65) of any Packers receiver. Valdes-Scantling was one of three Packers with 100 receiving yards (Adams, Jimmy Graham). St. Brown (34 snaps) was targeted just once, but it was an important one, the second of Rodgers' sideline snipes on the game-winning drive. The Packers QB said after the game he feels "a lot better about our depth after six weeks." Who can blame him?
- The 49ers' front seven continues to frustrate opposing quarterbacks. Led by DeForest Buckner and Ronald Blair, San Francisco hit Rodgers seven times and sacked him thrice. Even Solomon Thomas got in on the action with one QB hit. The Niners would have tallied even more knocks if Rodgers wasn't so adept at scrambling, even on one-point-five knees, and San Francisco's secondary, sans the unquestioned and barely targeted Richard Sherman, wasn't so vulnerable at the back.
- Green Bay enters its bye week on a high note, having exorcized the demons from the Week 5 meltdown in Motown. Once the Packers return to play in Week 8, though, it's no easy pickings. Tied with Minnesota behind Chicago in the NFC North, the Packers play at LAR (6-0), at NE (4-2), vs. MIA (4-2), at SEA (3-3) and at MIN (3-2-1) over the next five weeks. That's a murderers' row, but the perfect test for this less-than-perfect Pack.