The NFL made the decision to allow the Packers and 49ers to play for a short week on Thursday despite COVID-19 concerns on both sides.
It resulted in a unilateral blowout. Green Bay won 34-17 and the second half could have been held for an exhibition when the 49ers were on the offensive.
PACKERS-49ERS: Scoring updates, highlights from the & # 39; TNF & # 39; game
This was nowhere near the NFC championship game of last year that was at least competitive damage. The end result may not have been avoided even if the teams had waited until Sunday, Monday, or even Tuesday.
It's a by-product of the league's decision. San Francisco is going through a season that can't be considered a Super Bowl hangover because hangovers are never that bad.
Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle and Nick Bosa were already injured. The league's COVID-19 test protocols left the 49ers still understaffed.
It looks like # 49ers WR Kendrick Bourne's test yesterday was false positive, according to a source close to him. He and three others who live with him all tested negative. Even so, he, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams have to stay on the COVID-19 list today.
– Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) November 5, 2020
Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne and Deebo Samuel were three of the 49ers' four best targets this season. Kittle was the other. As a result, backup quarterback Nick Mullens cast a cast that included Richie James, Trent Taylor, Ross Dwelley, and River Cracraft. Those four came into play with a combined 15 catches for 177 yards that season and have likely been the subject of several "Who's?" Google searches during the game.
The 49ers (4-5) had a competitive disadvantage compared to the Packers, who had their own COVID-19 issues. Third string runs back A.J. Dillon tested positive on Monday and the backup that returned Jamaal Williams was viewed as "close contact". Running back Aaron Jones was active after missing the last two games, but if Jones had sat out, the Packers would have been thanks to Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams, who together had four broadcasts.
The Packers (6-2) also had to make a west coast trip after their facility closed on Monday. Why did the NFL allow this game to happen in a short week? The short answer would be that the packers were goodbye in week 5 and a postponement would have created another planning hurdle.
It doesn't get any easier in the second half of the season. CBS Sports reported Thursday that 40 percent of NFL teams had at least one COVID-19 case this week. The United States set a daily record on Thursday with more than 120,000 COVID-19 cases.
College football will face the same hurdles, but the Power 5 conferences play abbreviated schedules between six and ten games. Programs like Florida and Wisconsin took longer breaks, but it's easier to cobble together a four-team playoff than a 16-game season.
The NFL has already had talks about expanding the playoff field this season from seven teams in each conference to eight, possibly as self-defense for the mayhem COVID-19 could cause in November and December. Does the NFL have to shorten the regular season? That's an awkward question that might come up.
MORE: How a 16-team playoff would work
Up to that point, the NFL was able to adjust. That said, 22 teams had their bye weeks – and seven teams had postponed their bye weeks. COVID-19 could have a significant impact on the second half of the schedule, forcing the NFL to make more value decisions like those made on Thursday.
Was it the right call? It's hard to say either way. The 49ers are an extreme case because the team is dealing with a ridiculous number of injuries, but COVID-19 has definitely affected the game. The product suffered as a result, and it felt more like a late-season throwaway game than a mid-season game between two NFC playoff competitors.
Unfortunately, this won't be the last game of its kind in 2020.
There are some more difficult decisions to make