In what was expected to be a season lost to growing pains, the 49ers have found a recent stretch of success with the installation of presumed franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. For the second week in a row, the 49ers dominated the time of possession battle en route to victory, finding new life as a team that can actually close out games. However, the last two games have been against teams that will likely end the season near the 49ers in the bottom ten - and the final three weeks of the season will include games with playoff-bound teams who are all well above the .500 mark.
While the defense wasn’t necessarily bad this week, they were exploited time and time again by a highly talented receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, pointing to what should prove to be a major offseason priority - infusing the secondary with more talent. Dontae Johnson, who was responsible most often for Hopkins, was clearly the weak link, and ended up relegated to the bench, as undrafted rookie Greg Mabin entered in relief of the struggling corner.
Despite a top-flight defensive coordinator in Chicago, Vic Fangio, the 49ers offense came out and put together extremely good numbers across the board (aside from, you know, not scoring a touchdown). However, the script was flipped against a talented, but underperforming, Texans defense, who are currently without JJ Watt, who most would name one of the best players in the NFL, regardless of position. This week, the 49ers found the endzone through both the air and ground, but had trouble converting third downs at the same rate they did the week before. The running game was fairly anemic, with the RBs compiling a hair over 4.0 YPC, a number which was greatly boosted by a 31-yard rush by Carlos Hyde.
Furthermore, Garoppolo was harassed by the pass rush much more than he had been the previous week - including absorbing 4 hits from former #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. It should be noted, however, that RT Trent Brown sat this game out, as Zane Beadles filled in as the guy who was ideally supposed to block Clowney.
In the passing game, Garoppolo found a way to get the ball out to as many targets as he could, connecting with 8 different receivers for a second week in a row. Marquise Goodwin again drew the most targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He’s now at 783 receiving yards on the season, which puts him on pace to have a shot at his first 1,000 yard season. Furthermore, in his 13 games this season, he has now matched (and exceeded by 3 yards) his receiving yardage totals over four years with the Buffalo Bills.
Kyle Juszczyk again hauled in 3 passes, but for much larger chunks of yardage this week. In fact, 6 different receivers had receptions of 15 yards or more this week (and 5 last week), which really indicates some meaningful advances within Kyle Shanahan’s system. Robbie Gould went 4 for 4 this week, bringing his two week total to 9 for 9, and making him easily one of the most valuable specialists for the month of December so far.
On to the good stuff-
Dontae Johnson had a poor game | Branch, SF Gate
Kyle Shanahan on growing enthusiasm and confidence in locker room | Biderman, Ninerswire
Ahkello Witherspoon to have knee MRI | Biderman, Ninerswire
Tom Savage hit drew attention from the internet | Killion, SF Gate
Garrett Celek relied on Jumbotron feed during long reception run | Lynch, KNBR
With Garoppolo on board, it’s time to fire up the bandwagon again | Steward, Mercury