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Garoppolo, starters play a successful full half, ease preseason nerves in win over Chiefs

© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers won their third preseason game 27-17 over the Kansas City Chiefs while Jimmy Garoppolo and near all the team’s starters who were active had good games. Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s game, which provided the most genuine glimpse at many of the players who will define whether the 49ers are successful this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo solid in much-needed full half, turns intercepted play into touchdown

Everyone can take a deep breath now. After what was surely too much made out of three poor, abbreviated preseason drives and a bad practice, Jimmy Garoppolo finally got the half he needed and eased that brief period of hysteria. Heading into last week, he hadn’t played in a football game for 11 months. It showed, as Garoppolo was jittery, and he had one poor interception (miscommunicated the protections, shouldn’t have thrown the ball, let alone before the route developed) and a day in which he went 1-for-6 with zero yards.

On Saturday, Garoppolo looked like the franchise quarterback he’s supposed to be. It wasn’t the cleanest of starts, as he went 3-for-6 for 32 yards (with a poor incompletion to Dante Pettis that was negated by a defensive holding penalty on the opposite side of the field). He threw his first pass away on an unblocked edge rush, then connected with Kendrick Bourne on a ball which was thrown behind him.

It was followed by an incompletion to Marquise Goodwin on a ball thrown behind him, then a good throw to Goodwin on an out route for a first down, and a short completion to Kyle Juszczyk. On a fourth down attempt, Garoppolo had his pass swatted at the line of scrimmage. That first drive, however, composed half of Garoppolo’s incompletions in an otherwise stellar half.

He began his second drive with a six-yard completion to Deebo Samuel, then a first down-worthy connection to Dante Pettis for a first down (the ball was thrown late and Pettis was hit hard, but held on). After a pair of runs by Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida, Garoppolo rattled off a pair of perfectly executed deep throws. The first, to Richie James Jr., seemed to kickstart Garoppolo’s night. James, who continues to have a great preseason, made a fantastic double move for this fantastic play.

But the biggest play of the night was effectively the same as the worst of Garoppolo’s Monday night, when he threw an interception. With Matt Breida again in the slot like he was on Monday, Garoppolo had the time he needed to let Breida blow by the corner and connect with him on a beautiful touchdown connection.

Garoppolo came back for a three-and-out and took a sack, which, while not an immediately positive thing, was a net positive for Garoppolo to have to deal with. His next two drives (the first was 11 plays, the second was seven plays in a 1:53 remaining drive from the 49ers’ 40-yard line) both resulted in field goals and saw Garoppolo go 3-for-4 and 4-for-5, respectively. He finished 14-for-20 with 188 yards, 1 TD and a 116.3 passer rating.

Mullens gets the No. 2 reps

CJ. Beathard did not play on Saturday. Nick Mullens did, and very well. Mullens went 8-for-11 for 84 yards. After a three-and-out which included a sack on a missed block by Najee Toran (who recovered well, playing most of his snaps at left guard for the first time), Mullens led a pair of touchdown drives (12- and 11-play drives, respectively) which both finished with rushing touchdowns by running back Jeff Wilson Jr.

At that point, there were only about two minutes remaining in the game, and fourth-string (practice squad candidate) quarterback Wilton Speight predictably finished the game. The decision (whether Kyle Shanahan will admit it or not after the game) signals that Mullens, who’s looked the better backup quarterback throughout all of camp and last season, is likely the No. 2 quarterback.


  • Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens for their successful nights, as mentioned above
  • Jimmie Ward, who spent most of his night playing at nickel corner, was truly impressive. It was his first game back since November 25 of last year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when Ward broke his forearm. If K’Waun Williams isn’t good to go for Week 1, Ward might still start… at nickel corner (D.J. Reed Jr. will likely make the roster and back up Williams even if Ward starts over him in Week 1).
  • Richie James Jr. was truly dynamic. While his returns looked less impressive than in previous games, he still looked a threat, and his receiving production was unquestionably good. He led all 49ers receivers with four receptions and 66 yards, including the 33-yard connection with Garoppolo above.
  • Jordan Matthews was praised highly by head coach Kyle Shanahan earlier this week when Shanahan said, “We know we can win with Jordan.” Mullens missed Matthews for a would-be touchdown when he was wide open down the middle of the field and caught two passes for 33 yards.
  • Jeff Wilson Jr. and Matt Breida were the stars out of the backfield. Wilson had 12 carries for 45 yards and 2 TDs, while Breida had seven carries for 44 yards, plus a pair of catches for 31 yards an a TD.
  • The Hot Boys: Man, did Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander look deserving of their Hot Boys nickname (applies to the whole linebacking corps). They were relentless on Saturday in their limited snaps. Warner was listed as having two tackles and Alexander with three, but they were constantly involved in silencing the run game.
  • Emmanuel Moseley, who looks like he’ll be the team’s sixth cornerback following the serious injury to Greg Mabin, had two quality PBUs on Saturday
  • Damontre Moore was fantastic, leading the team with five tackles (one for a loss), two sacks, and a team-leading four QB hits (Arik Armstead and Jay Bromley, who split sacks, were next with one each).

Other notes, including… an injury-free game?

  • The competition for the offensive line is still up and the air, as there were good moments and bad moments from all of the backups. Daniel Brunskill got a run with the starters at right guard and looked solid, while Najee Toran was put at left guard, and improved after giving up a bad sack on Mullens, leading the way for one of Wilson’s touchdowns. He displayed the ability to play at left tonight, which, if he stays healthy, might just do enough to earn him a roster spot as a swing backup guard.
  • No injuries?: Seriously, the 49ers did not lose anyone during the game, or at least haven’t reported that if they have. It’s a rarity which will not go under appreciated considering Saturday’s game featured the full first half played by many of the starters.

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