49ers vs. Texans: Five Takeaways

Montana! Brady! The future has arrived! 2018 Super Bowl, here we come!

The comparisons and the hyperbole came in fast and loose from the moment Jimmy Garoppolo snapped the ball against the Seahawks in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter.

They continued throughout the Niners road game at Soldier Field and leading into the game against the Texans. Many believed that the Garoppolo-led 49ers could beat the hapless Chicago Bears, even on their home turf.

It was Garoppolo’s first challenge against a legitimate defense featuring Jadaveon Clowney, hard hitting cornerback Kareem Jackson and Brian Cushing, who returned from a drug suspension. On the offensive side of the ball, prognosticators were optimistic about Tom Savage coming off a 365 yard passing performance in a losing effort against the Tennessee Titans.

This was the first true test for the new face of the 49ers franchise. 

Continued Optimism

In the preceding weeks before the 49ers started Jimmy Garoppolo against the Bears, the discussion surrounding the 49ers was about the quarterback situation. Even after the 49ers traded for Garoppolo, there was a lot of speculation about the 49ers possibly trading him, still signing Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins or drafting a quarterback high in the draft.

Since Garoppolo’s starting debut against the Bears, there is a different vibe surrounding offseason chatter. The talk about signing or drafting a quarterback with their first pick has subsided, and the discussion has shifted to drafting a wide receiver with #1 potential such as Courtland Sutton or the standout running back from Penn State, Saquon Barkley. It gives the fans a feeling that the team is much closer to being complete, and ready to compete next season after just a few more pieces are added.

Garoppolo Hits Many Targets

One of the biggest criticisms of the 49ers over the last few years has been the lack of quality wide receivers – particularly a #1 receiver. While the Niners still lack that #1 down the field, their current top option looked fantastic again on Sunday. Marquise Goodwin picked up 6 receptions for 106 yards following last week’s matchup in which he grabbed 8 receptions for 99 yards. That’s 205 receiving yards in two games.

While Goodwin was the standout receiver this week, Garoppolo completed passes to

This is particularly encouraging because one of the 49ers major issues all season had been drops, with both Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard delivering the ball.

While the wide reciever still remains a big need in the offseason and something the 49ers will certainly address either in the draft, via a trade or through free agency.

Offensive Line Play/Running game

The 49ers rushed collectively for over 100 yards in the second consecutive game. with the bulk of that coming from Carlos Hyde, who made a strong case for his continuing as the Niners lead rusher with 78 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown. Hyde averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

The offensive line was again without Trent Brown, who played against the Bears, but was limited in practice all week leading up to Sunday’s contest in Houston. Garoppolo again saw a sufficient amount of time in the pocket and was only sacked two times.

Red Zone Efficiency

It’s hard to remember what it was like to see a 49ers team with good red zone efficiency. Currently, the 49ers rank 30th in the NFL in that category and even when the Niners went to three consecutive NFC Championship games, led by Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, respectively, the team never fared better than middle of the pack in the NFL in red zone efficiency.

Following a week when Garoppolo led five brilliant red zone drives only to leave all the scoring on the foot of Robbie Gould, the 49ers were 2/4 in red zone efficiency with a six yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Celek and a two yard TD run by Carlos Hyde, who bounced off the pile to run in for the 49ers first touchdown of the day.

Penalties still a problem

Another blemish on what was a watershed game on the 2017 49ers season were the penalty numbers. The 49ers, who ware one of the worst teams in the NFL in terms of penalties, committed 11 penalties for 87 yards. That’s above their season average of 7.8 penalties per game. However, with a young team and team that hasn’t played together before this season, like this one, many of those penalties are a result of building chemistry and inexperience. This should improve over time.

The 49ers victory on Sunday was very promising; it showed a lot of what can be expected in the future. Knowing that and knowing Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are making the moves in the front offices, gives 49ers fans a lot of reasons to be hopeful.

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