SANTA CLARA — The 49ers left too much time on the clock Sunday night for Aaron Rodgers to work his magic.
And kicker Mason Crosby took advantage with a 51-yard field goal as time expired to provide the Green Bay Packers with a 30-28 victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
What first looked like a Green Bay Packers blowout victory got a heck of a lot more interesting when the 49ers put together back-to-back touchdown drives at the end of the first half and the start of the second half.
The 49ers finally got over the hump with :37 remaining when Jimmy Garoppolo found fullback Kyle Juszczyk on a 12-yard touchdown pass for their first lead of the game.
But Rodgers led the Packers down the field for the winning points.
The 49ers (2-1) fell one game behind the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals for the top spot in the NFC West.
The Los Angeles Rams staked their claim as the NFL’s best team on Sunday with a 34-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last year’s Super Bowl champs. The Arizona Cardinals, like the Rams, improved to 3-0 with a victory over lowly Jacksonville.
Garoppolo comes through when needed
Through two games, Jimmy Garoppolo took care of the football and did enough to enable the 49ers to win road games against the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.
However, Garoppolo’s two giveaways on Sunday night were big plays in the 49ers' loss.
But when the 49ers needed a touchdown, he came thorough with a long drive and a scoring pass to Juszczyk.
The night ended on a high note with Garoppolo leading the 49ers down for the go-ahead points.
Up to that point, Garoppolo made some big mistakes.
Garoppolo, who has not taken many deep shots this season, was intercepted in the first half on a deep shot to tight end George Kittle down the middle of the field. Garoppolo put too much air under the ball, allowing Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander range over to make the interception.
In the fourth quarter with the 49ers driving for the potential tying or go-ahead points, Garoppolo fumbled while under pressure. Garoppolo started to throw, then held up. But the ball slipped out of his grasp behind him, where Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell recovered.
Garoppolo completed 25 of 40 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Rodgers goes after 49ers’ cornerbacks
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley made his season debut after sitting out the first two games with a knee injury.
Theoretically, the 49ers were deeper than they’ve been in quite some time at cornerback.
But being deep is one thing. Being able to stand up against the Packers’ passing game is another thing.
Veteran Josh Norman made his second consecutive start, and he was about the only one in the 49ers’ secondary who was not beaten badly for big yards.
But Norman was not available to provide too much help. He left the game in the second quarter with a chest injury. He was ruled out for the game, which might not bode well for his short- and long-term availability.
On the first drive, nickel back K’Waun Williams surrendered a 42-yard pass to receiver Allen Lazard. That play set up a Packers field goal.
Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt gave up a 47-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a Packers touchdown drive.
Deommodore Lenoir was called for a 25-yard penalty for pass interference, and Moseley was flagged for the same offense for 32 yards.
When the 49ers got back into the game, Rodgers gave the Packers a little more breathing room to open the fourth quarter with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Valdes-Scantling against Lenoir’s coverage.
Rodgers completed 23 of 33 for 261 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
49ers’ lack of running backs slows offense
Rookie running back Trey Sermon got his first career start.
It did not appear as if the 49ers’ coaching staff thought he was ready for prime time in the first half.
Five different 49ers carried the ball on rushing attempts in the first half. Sermon had the most carries (three) but he had the fewest yards, as his run plays account for minus-1 yard. Sermon was targeted with one pass, which he dropped.
The 49ers decided against lining up with a halfback on many of their position groupings in which they had three wide receivers on the field. The team opted, instead, for fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
The last time the 49ers played a meaningful game at Levi’s Stadium in front of fans, Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four TDs in the 2019 NFC Championship Game against the Packers. But the 49ers’ lack of running backs meant their running attack was completely incompetent.
The 49ers built momentum on the final play of the first half, when coach Kyle Shanahan inserted rookie quarterback Trey Lance for a keeper around the left side for a 1-yard touchdown.
That play was highlighted by left tackle Trent Williams’ crushing block on Packers rookie cornerback Eric Stokes.
Sermon got some yards in the second half, and finished with 31 yards on 10 rushing attempts.