Jimmy Garoppolo found out Sunday in Houston what it is was like to be a 49ers’ quarterback. He was hit often, particularly by Texan defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney. The former first overall pick from the 2014 draft, hit Garoppolo three times in the pocket.
Garoppolo rose above it all and led the 49ers to their second straight win since 2014, beating the Texans, 26-16.
Garoppolo was also knocked around by other players, including blitzing linebacker Benadrick McKinney, who cracked Garoppolo in his square jaw. The play drew a penalty, but most importantly, Garoppolo stayed in the game
In all, Garoppolo finished 20- for 334 yards, a touchdown and an interception for despite getting little help from his teammates, particularly early. Here’s a list of the team’s mistakes to start the game.
1. Marquise Goodwin dropped a pass
2. Offensive pass interference by Kendrick Bourne
3. Deforest Buckner unable to sack Savage out of field goal range
4. Illegal formation
5. miscommunication and pick after Garoppolo failed to see a linebacker in the passing lane.
6. Daniel Killgore called for a questionable holding call.
7. Bourne ran past punt returner who dropped the kick.
And that was just in the first quarter. It was as if the mistakes everyone was expecting in Garoppolo’s first start was on a one week delay. The 49ers committed several penalties and suffered some devastating dropped passes and Garoppolo himself misread the defense for his first interception that was clearly his fault.
Then, the 49ers and Garoppolo became unstoppable. In a burst of offense reminescent of the Warriors’ explosive third quarters, Garoppolo led five drives that resulted in three field goals and two touchdowns.
At the end of it, the 49ers had a 23-16 lead.
Much of Garoppolo’s work resulted from coach Kyle Shanahan’s play design and explosive individual efforts by the unsuspected.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, the one-time object of social media scorn, caught two passes for 60 yards, including a skied hands catch between two defenders.
Later, tight end Garrett Celek caught an 11-yard pass over the middle and then turned up field for another 50 yards. Celek was wide open (credit Shanahan) and was hit in stride (credit Garoppolo) and then Celek slipped up the middle for a courageous run (credit him).
Eventually, Celek caught a 6-yard touchdown pass to end the drive. The scoring put the 49ers up 23-16 by the end of the third quarter.
The 49ers weren’t done making mistakes however. The offenaw committed three straight penalties and Garoppolo was sacked to end the team’s string od scoring drives.
That’s when the 49ers got some help from their defense. The defense did an outanding job, after holding the Bears to one offensive touchdown a week earlier, the 49ers figured out the riddle of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Houston consistently went to Hopkins, particularly on the opening drive of the third quarter. Quarterback T.J. Yates went to Hopkins three straight times, which included a 9-yard reception, a hold on Dontae Johnson and then a 29-yard touchdown pass over Johnson.
Hopkins had grabbed 10 passes in 12 targets for 144 yards and two touchdowns at that point, with almost all of them coming against Johnson.
Yates had to come in after starter Tom Savage left with a head injury after he was flatbacked by outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil in the second quarter.
Hopkins actually helped out the 49ers out in the fourth quarter when he fumbled after free safety Adrian Colbert put his facemask right on the ball. The offense turned the turnover into three points and an insurmountable 26-16 lead.