49ers 25 Titans 23 Observations
The first ever home start for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo turned out to be a memorable one for the Niner Faithful at Levi’s Stadium, as the newest Bay Area sensation used a final drive with 67 seconds left in the game to set up kicker Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal as time expired to give the home crowd a thrilling 25-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The win gave the 49ers their first three-game winning streak since November of the 2014 season, and their fourth in the last five games. After starting off fast in the first half and jumping out to a 16-3 lead, the 49ers would end up in a dogfight as the visiting Titans fought their way back to eventually take the lead and grab some momentum. But Garoppolo (now 5-0 as an NFL starter) and the 49ers never lost their poise, and found a way to pull off the upset over a Titans team fighting for an AFC playoff spot.
There haven’t been too many memorable moments at Levi’s during it’s brief history, but today’s victory makes the case of being an instant classic at the young stadium. And it is just as well because since the 49ers acquired Garoppolo from the New England Patriots via trade in late-October, the culture surrounding this franchise does not reflect that of a team that is currently 4-10. And with an upcoming offseason where both general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will undoubtedly make moves trying to get the 49ers to the next level, the future in Santa Clara looks very promising.
Here’s some observations from today’s game.
Pay The Man!
Okay maybe it’s premature to make a huge investment in a quarterback who only has five career NFL starts under his belt, but there is no denying that “Jimmy G” has looked the part in each start. By throwing for 381 (a career-high) on 31 completions, Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback to throw for consecutive 300-yard games since Jeff Garcia back in 2000. Garoppolo continues to make impressive throws while also not cracking under pressure whenever pass protection breaks down. And since Garoppolo has taken over for rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, the offense is clicking more crisp.
The #1 priority for the 49ers is the lock up Garoppolo and make him the franchise quarterback. And though the former Eastern Illinois quarterback has yet to start a full NFL season, it is clear that Garoppolo possesses the skills of a quarterback you want to build a football team around. “Jimmy G” might have leverage on a deal being worked out, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Lynch as the 49ers will have the most salary cap space in 2018.
Good As Gould
49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk may have been the highest fan vote getting for the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl at his position, but one other player worthy of a Pro Bowl selection is Gould. After playing with the Chicago Bears during his first 11 seasons, Gould has found a home with the 49ers and has consistently delivered when it matters. Not only was Gould 6-for-6 in field goal attempts against the Titans, but the veteran kicker now has two game-winning field goals in three weeks (the other against his former Bears team during a week 13 15-14 49ers victory). Gould leads all active kickers with 20-straight successful field goal tries.
Goodwin Continues To Thrive
The 2017 season has been an up-and-down battle for 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Besides dealing with issues of dropping passes and developing chemistry with the offense at the beginning of the season, the last month for Goodwin has been a trial off the field after losing his newborn son back on November 12th and just recently his father exactly a month later this past week. But despite all the obstacles coming his way, Goodwin has made the most of his opportunities presented to him since Garoppolo became the 49ers starting quarterback.
Goodwin continues to have the best season of his career and recorded his second straight 100-yard receiving game Sunday against the Titans. With 114 receiving yards on a career-high 10 receptions, Goodwin keeps building great chemistry with Garoppolo and has evolved as a receiver during the past three games. Although he is known for being a speedy receiver, Goodwin is proving that he can be an effective route runner as well.
49ers Run Game Suffers
The Titans run defense is currently ranked fifth in the league, and it was evident on Sunday how legit they are as the 49ers run game could not get going. Averaging a dismal 1.6 yards per carry, 49ers running back Carlos Hyde only amassed for 25 yards rushing on 16 carries. The Titans defensive front seven did an excellent job stopping the run.
Jimmy G Spreads The Love
10 different 49ers receivers caught passes against the Titans (even Garoppolo caught on off a deflected pass in the second half). Four of those receivers (including Goodwin) had at least four catches. Rookie receivers Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne and rookie tight end George Kittle each had four receptions a piece. And on 85 receiving yards, Bourne showed that he could be a key weapon for Garoppolo going forward.
The 49ers offense is night-and-day compared to the start of the season since Garoppolo has become the starter. The whole offense has benefitted greatly, and 49ers tight end Garrett Celek is no exception. For the second straight game, Celek recorded a touchdown reception and continues to show why “Celek Time” is not to be taken lightly.
Buckner & Foster Lead Defense
The 49ers defense had their hands full dealing with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and the offense after Tennessee scored a touchdown before halftime to cut San Francisco’s lead to 16-10. But despite the Titans resiliency, both defensive end DeForest Buckner and linebacker Reuben Foster led the charge and made the critical stops when it mattered. Buckner continues to become more of a force on the defensive line while Foster’s freak of nature ability will give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares for years to come. Both Foster and Buckner recorded seven tackles each, while the latter also had half a sack.
A Familiar Face On The Titans
Making his return for the first time since 2012 was Titans tight end Delanie Walker. After spending his first seven seasons with the 49ers (2006-12) and backing up former 49er tight end Vernon Davis, Walker took his talents to Tennessee and has since become a key factor in the Titans offense. Going into Sunday’s game with the 49ers, there was no question that Walker was looking to have a great game against his former team.
Walker would get off to a slow start by not only missing a near TD catch in the end zone during the second quarter, but also losing a crucial fumble that was recovered by safety Adrian Colbert. But Walker would shake off his mishap and finish the game with five receptions for 37 yards, including a four-yard touchdown catch from Mariota before halftime.
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