The last time these two teams met, the San Francisco 49ers rolled into the Super Bowl with a 37-20 win in the NFC championship game.
Thursday’s rematch with the Green Bay Packers will look very different.
An injury-ravaged season in San Francisco got worse in Week 8 as the 49ers added quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and All-Pro tight end George Kittle to their long-term injury list. Neither player will be on the field for a game in San Francisco that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Walking wounded in San Francisco
Garoppolo (ankle) and Kittle (foot) join Nick Bosa, Raheem Mostert, Richard Sherman, Solomon Thomas and Deebo Samuel — among others — who will be missing from last season’s dominant title game victory.
In Kittle’s stead will presumably be Ross Dwelley — a largely blocking tight end with 23 career catches — and oft-injured veteran Jordan Reed, whom head coach Kyle Shanahan is hopeful will be ready to play after recovering from a knee injury.
At quarterback, Nick Mullens will start. Mullens already has a pair of starts this season after Garoppolo initially sprained his ankle — a Week 3 win over New York Giants and a disastrous Week 4 outing against the Philadelphia Eagles that saw three Mullens turnovers lead to a 25-20 loss.
C.J. Beathard replaced Mullens in that game but remains behind him on the depth chart for Week 9’s tilt against the Packers.
As if those injuries weren’t enough, Wednesday brought more bad news for the Niners. They’re down to two active wide receivers on their roster after Kendrick Bourne tested positive for COVID-19 and both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk (along with left tackle Trent Williams) were determined to be close contacts. All were moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list and ruled out for Thursday’s game.
COVID concerns in Green Bay
Don’t expect the Packers to shed tears for the 49ers after stumbling in recent weeks following a 4-0 start. Green Bay has lost two of its last three games — a dominant 38-10 Week 5 win by the fellow NFC contending Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a loss last week to the previously 1-5 Minnesota Vikings.
And while they’re not dealing with nearly the injury toll as the 49ers, the Packers have significant health concerns of their own. Green Bay placed running back A.J. Dillon on the Reserve/COVID list on Monday. On Tuesday, running back Jamaal Williams and linebacker Kamal Martin were ruled out for Thursday after the NFL deemed both as high risk after having close contact with Dillon.
Game still on
As of Tuesday, the NFL didn’t deem the COVID risk as a threat to Thursday’s game being played.
“We’ve had a large number of situations where we’ve had one positive test, a small number of high-risk contacts and clubs have been able to safely continue operations through that time,” NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills said Tuesday, per PackersNews.com.
“It’s something that we continue to monitor on a day-by-day basis based on the test results but that’s where we are.”
That hadn’t changed by Thursday. The game is still reportedly scheduled to go forward after no new positive tests were found on either team, according to Washington Post sports reporter Mark Maske.
Assuming the game does go on as scheduled, the Packers could be very thin at running back with starter Aaron Jones’ status still up in the air with a lingering calf injury.
But Green Bay’s injury concerns pale in comparison to San Francisco’s. Add in quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning to All-Pro form following a relatively down 2019, and a repeat of last season’s 49ers dominance should be off the table on Thursday.
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