The Jimmy Effect is in full effect, because the thing with this quarterback is, he makes the people around him better.
After a slow start for Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers, the QB and his supporting cast got it together and beat the Houston Texans, 26-16, making it the first time the 49ers have won two in a row since 2014.
“I was proud of our guys, because usually when you miss some hops like that…guys kind of get down, but no one hesitated,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “In the second quarter…Jimmy made some big plays, Juice made a huge play, Celek made a huge play, Marquise made a number of them…We knew it was kind of feast or famine versus this defense, because they’re a very physical defense. They do a lot of stuff, but sometimes you’ll get your opportunities, and we were fortunate enough to come down with them.”
Garoppolo looked off in the first quarter, ending 3-of-7 with a couple of well overthrown passes and an interception. But, he got over it, finishing the day 20-of-33 for a career-high 334 yards and a touchdown, which was his first as a starter for the Niners.
Follow the Leader
Two games into starting for a 3-10 team is too early to call Garoppolo the Comeback Kid, but he’s managed to lead the 49ers to victory from behind, which his coach and his teammates say has to with leadership and confidence.
“He’s a natural leader,” said wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. “He doesn’t struggle at any point in the game. When you see that in a position that he’s in, it gives you extreme confidence. When you look at him in the third quarter or in the second quarter and you’re down by one, you’re up by one, you feel that sense of hope. You feel that sense that I’m going to get the job done. At no point in the game do I ever feel like we are behind or we are slacking in that position because he’s led us the whole way from start to finish.”
Goodwin finished the day with six receptions for 106 yards, giving him 14 catches for 205 yards since Garoppolo started. It’s safe to say he likes his new QB.
“…I think our guys made some plays that we haven’t made early in the year,” said Shanahan. “You’d have to ask them why that is, but I thought we’ve done a good job with some of those throws, especially the one to Juice (Kyle Juszczyk). I promise I didn’t call it for that exact coverage, but he gave him a chance, and Juice showed him that it was the right read. Then we got Marquise (Goodwin) on a number two, and (Garrett) Celek to get another 60-yarder. It was pretty impressive. The guys have played better…I think when you’ve got a guy like Jimmy who has been making some impressive throws, who’s been doing it on the practice field and he’s carried it to the game, I think guys always know they’ve got a chance, and they lived up to it.”
Aside from Goodwin’s 106 yards, the entire offense stepped up.
With the game tied in the third quarter, tight end Garrett Celek made two game-changing plays. The first was a 64-yard reception from Garoppolo that included 50 yards after the catch. The QB approved.
“Yeah, I thought he was gone for a second there on that long one,” said Garoppolo. “You know, he had the jets. I got a little YAC (yards after catch) after the catch, which is a QB’s best friend. Celek time is a fun thing. The locker room loves it for sure.”
For Celek’s part, he thought he was going to score on that play but then, “…I looked up and I realized I was getting hawked. So, I’m not as fast as I thought.” We all have our limits Garrett.
Later in the drive, Celek had the 49ers’ only touchdown of the half. Marquise Goodwin called it “Celek time.” He couldn’t describe exactly what that meant, but I think we could see it.
“I came underneath the offensive line, a little boot,” said Celek. “And I just I saw the outside linebacker. He crashed down and right when I saw that, I knew right away I was going to get the ball. I kind of just walked in. That was an easy one.”
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk showed why John Lynch called him an OW, as the offensive weapon had three receptions for 64 yards, with two of them coming at a very opportune time.
With the game tied in the second quarter, Juszczyk had back-to-back catches of 29 and 31 yards, which set up Carlos Hyde’s two-yard touchdown. Team work makes the dream work. Oh, and Hyde left Houston with a 78 yards on 14 carries day.
That O-line Though
Without Trent Brown, Garoppolo definitely was beat up more than he was last week. He was sacked twice and hit nine times. Jadeveon Clowney was like a one-man wrecking crew, providing four of those hits, six overall tackles, and two for a loss. That being said, the 49ers’ offensive line prevailed and Garoppolo knows how to take a hit and keep on ticking.
“…[I]t’s football, nothing crazy,” said Garoppolo. “The o-line did a great job today. Especially, mixing and matching a couple guys in there, but I think all of them played great for me today.”
A smart quarterback praises his offensive line.
Shanahan had praise too, especially for Zane Beadles.
“…I’ll still get on the plane and watch the tape harder, but I know how big of a challenge Clowney is,” Shanahan said. “They got a lot of other good personnel out there too. Especially Zane (Beadles) stepping in. He’s been great for us all year. He’s backed up really every position. I had to use him at tackle today and that is not an ideal spot to put him in. He’s definitely much more of an inside player. Zane doesn’t hesitate. He loves the challenge. He will go out there and battle anyone. That’s why he’s a guy we love going to war with because you know you’re going to get your best and he’s someone you can count on. I know all the players believe in him.”
Let’s Talk Defense
For the second week and second win in a row, the 49ers’ defense played well. With the offense on the field for 34:39, the defense was not overworked and it showed.
“I think [Garoppolo’s] doing a tremendous job,” said Elvis Dumervil. “I think he brings a lot of energy, and kudos to the offense. They did a good job. Kept us rested a quite a bit. Got some points and we were able to try to keep the lead, and got two in a row, so that was huge.”
Their biggest weakness was in defending Texans’ wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had 149 yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns. Hopkins absolutely owned cornerback Dontae Johnson. After drawing two pass interferences calls on Johnson to start the third quarter and then scoring his second touchdown of the day on #36, the 49ers’ cornerback was benched in favor of Greg Mabin and Hopkins had only one more catch.
“I know Dontae had a rough drive opening up that third quarter,” said Shanahan. “It’s tough. He started out with an early PI on him. Once you get a PI on him, then you want to stay off him a little bit. Then you just get a little bit out of whack. We got Mabin in there to give him a chance. From what I saw live, he did a good job. I’ll see it when I get on the plane. But regardless, Dontae’s done some good things for us this year. I was excited Mabin was able to come in and get some experience. That’ll help him. He helped us today and that’ll help him going forward.”
The aforementioned final Hopkins catch of the day turned in a fumble forced by Adrian Colbert, who continues to shine at safety. Aaron Lynch, who played for the first time in forever, recovered the fumble and the 49ers never looked back.
“We were just in a quarters coverage, and I saw the screen and attacked on it like I usually do,” said Colbert. “When I see something, I go full speed, and I saw 10 (DeAndre Hopkins). I was trying to hit 10 all game and I finally got my opportunity.”
The D recorded three sacks today, one by DeForest Buckner, one by Eli Harold and one by K’Waun Williams. Reuben Foster led the team with nine tackles.
Unfortunately, rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who has been playing well at corner, left the game with a knee injury and will have an MRI tomorrow.
Good as Gould, Again
And again, kicker Robbie Gould was a game hero, going for 4-4 on field goal attempts and helping to ensure the win.
Team Work Makes the Dream Work
Like I said up top, Garoppolo makes the people around him better, which was very much on display today in Houston.
“We haven’t won a lot this year, and to win these last two – I believe that’s three of the last four, I think – it’s definitely exciting,” said Shanahan. “You can feel it in our building. Guys are gaining that confidence. Versus Chicago, by no means did everything go perfect, and by no means did it today. But that’s what you like, guys that aren’t affected by how things go early. They are on to the next play. They play every single play the same. And I do believe, especially these last two weeks, we’ve done a much better job of doing that. It’s led to good things when the clock’s ended.”
Asked if he was excited to make his first start at Levi’s Stadium next week, Garoppolo said, “Am I? Well, we’ll see what happens this weekend. That’s on Kyle.”
To which Goodwin said, “He better be out there.”
49ers fans everywhere agree. Go Niners!Don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly podcast and YouTube channel. Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @49ersfangirl. Go Niners!