SANTA CLARA, California – For the San Francisco 49ers players left as of 2018, Thursday's game likely dredged a lot of unwanted but familiar feelings.
Decimated by injuries and with the new twist of the COVID-19 pandemic making matters worse, the Niners opened up the 34:17 loss to the Green Bay Packers Thursday night with a cap of $ 80.8 million for the injured reserve.
As much as the 49ers (4-5) wanted to show a brave face and show the world that they shouldn't be counted, that overwhelming reality persisted: what's left of those 49ers just isn't good enough to keep up with the most legitimate playoffs -Candidate.
Without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, receivers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne, Trent Williams, cornerback Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and more, the Niners' team on Thursday night was unrecognizable from the field Field that the Packers ran over in two meetings last season.
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One familiar look was how things went in the Niners' first game without the aforementioned players. Most likely, as in 2018, 49ers watchers will have to get used to this season.
Even if some of their key players return at some point, it won't get much easier. The Niners entered the game on Thursday with the third heaviest remaining schedule in the NFL.
That said, it might be time to put the clock back to 2018 when Garoppolo was lost to a torn ACL. It was an excruciating step through the last 12 games, but it ended with the Niners Bosa ending up at number 2.
The journey won't be that strenuous with seven games remaining, but the consolation prize in the end probably won't be that rewarding either. Since the Niners already have four wins, they likely won't be in the mix for a selection as high as # 2.
Given questions about Garoppolo's future, which is sure to become the team's biggest hot button issue, the positioning of draft picks is likely to be of more interest than the games themselves.
Richie James had a breakout performance against the Packers. Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Promising trend: Richie James got his chance to shine with the top three 49ers receivers. He took advantage of 184 yards that received nine catches and a touchdown. The total was more than James in one of his first two seasons in the league (130 yards in 2018, 165 yards in 2019).
QB breakdown: Mullens had some good moments early on, but receiver River Cracraft's touchdown forced the Niners to settle for a field goal and things went downhill from then on. Behind shaky protection without one of his top pass catchers, Mullens tried to force some passes and flipped the ball twice, including an interception and a lost fiddle. He finished 22-of-35 for 291 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Add another violation: Just before half-time, Jaquiski Tartt walked into the locker room with a foot injury and although his return was originally considered questionable, he was disfellowshipped early in the third quarter. Tartt was back in his first game from a groin injury that has kept him away for the last three games.