When the San Francisco 49ers dealt Green Bay a humiliating loss last November, it was Nick Bosa controlling the line of scrimmage and George Kittle and Deebo Samuel catching long TD passes from Jimmy Garoppolo.
When the teams met again two months later in the NFC title game, the Niners won behind 229 yards rushing and four TDs from Raheem Mostert.
When they face off at Levi’s Stadium for the third time in less than a year Thursday night, the Niners (4-4) will look nothing like that juggernaut that dealt the Packers (5-2) two lopsided losses. A spate of injuries has derailed the defending NFC champions.
The Niners have been decimated by injuries this season, with Garoppolo and Kittle the latest to go down this week. San Francisco will also be without Mostert, Samuel, Bosa and Richard Sherman among others. Receiver Kendrick Bourne then tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning no player who gained a yard on offense for San Francisco in those two games in which the 49ers outscored the Packers 74-28 will play Thursday.
The Packers are dealing with their own issues, with running backs A.J. Dillon and Jamaal Williams on the COVID-19 list and leading rusher Aaron Jones (calf) a game-time decision.
That will put even more pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers to carry the offense.
Rodgers struggled against the Niners last season. His 3.2 yards per attempt in the regular-season meeting were the lowest in 181 career starts. The Packers then got down 27-0 at halftime in the NFC title game before Rodgers got going a bit in the second half.
The Packers may be playing without their top three running backs. Missing Jones is the most damaging.
The Packers’ only other running backs are Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams, who is currently on the practice squad. Ervin has four carries and Dexter Williams has none this season.
The Packers gave up 285 yards rushing in that NFC championship game, and their run defense remains a concern. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook rushed for 163 yards, caught two passes for 63 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Vikings’ 28-22 victory at Green Bay on Sunday.
Gametime is 7:20 PM on the NFL Network and FOX.