49ers

Garoppolo, 49ers playing to a new, winning tune

Garoppolo, 49ers playing to a new, winning tune

HOUSTON -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 26-16 victory over the Houston Texans in Week 14 on Sunday:

1, PLAYING TO A NEW TUNE

There is most certainly a different vibe around the team these days. That was apparent on Sunday when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the team out of the locker room flanked by Nick Kray, the administrative assistant to the head coach and DJ in charge of music.

On Kray’s right shoulder, he held a large boombox that pumped out music as the team gathered in the tunnel before taking the field. It has become part of the team’s routine.

And so has winning.

“You can feel it in our building,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Guys are gaining that confidence.”

The 49ers have won three of their past four games after losing their first nine games to open the season. The 49ers won back-to-back road games for the first time since the 2014 season (Nov. 9 at New Orleans; Nov. 16 at the New York Giants).

Garoppolo led the 49ers on five consecutive scoring drives in the second and third quarters. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 334 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I’ve only been here for a short time, so I don’t know exactly what’s changed or what hasn’t,” Garoppolo said. “I think we got a little bit momentum with us right now, and we just need to keep plucking away day by day, and just keep getting better.”

When asked if Garoppolo has elevated the play of everyone, receiver Marquise Goodwin answered, “One hundred percent.”

Goodwin explained, “Jimmy is a great guy. He’s a natural leader. He doesn’t struggle at any point in the game. When you see that in a position that he’s in, it gives you extreme confidence. When you look at him in the third quarter or in the second quarter and you’re down by one, you’re up by one, you feel that sense of hope.”

2. DEFENSE BENEFITS, TOO


The 49ers’ production on third downs was not as good as a week ago, but the team’s offense still controlled the clock to help out the defense.

The 49ers’ defense surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter, but that was all the scoring the Texans did in the second half.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a huge day for the Texans, including two touchdown receptions. But after Hopkins’ second touchdown, the 49ers’ defense clamped down.

“We knew he was going to have his,” Shanahan said of Hopkins. “Just thought we played them better the rest of the game. We didn’t let them get by us. Caught a few things in front of us. If you can bend but don’t break against him, then you’re usually doing a good job.”

Safety Adrian Colbert got the last word against Hopkins when he forced a takeaway in the fourth quarter that led to Robbie Gould’s fourth field goal, giving the 49ers a 26-16 lead with less than four minutes remaining.

When I see something, I go full speed, and I saw (No.) 10,” Colbert said. “I was trying to hit (No.) 10 all game and I finally got my opportunity.”

3. JOHNSON’S LEARNING EXPERIENCE


The day could not have gone much worse for cornerback Dontae Johnson, who is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season. He was solid while starting the first 13 games of the season.

But never was he assigned a wide receiver like DeAndre Hopkins. And never has he struggled to the point of getting benched. Hopkins caught 11 passes for 149 yards with two touchdowns. Most of the damage came against Johnson, who was also flagged three times.

“It’s one of those things,” Johnson said. “He’s a great player. A few of the calls, I thought were a little questionable. At the same time, I just got to compete. He won the one-on-one matchups when it’s all said and done. Great player. Great catch radius. Great hands. Great player.”

Greg Mabin replaced Johnson at right cornerback after Hopkins caught a 29-yard touchdown pass against him early in the third quarter. Johnson threw his helmet to the ground upon coming to the sideline.

But Johnson was forced to return to the game in the fourth quarter when Ahkello Witherspon went down with a knee injury. Witherspoon is scheduled for an MRI examination. His return for the final three weeks of the season is uncertain.

So Johnson is likely to retain his starting job.

“Every time I step out there, it’s a great learning experience,” Johnson said. “I chalk this one down as performance I’d like to give back and do it again. But I’ll watch the film, learn from it, and just move on.”

 

Five NFL Draft options if 49ers make first-round trade

Five NFL Draft options if 49ers make first-round trade

The 49ers have their starting and backup quarterbacks on the roster for at least the next three seasons. That luxury opens up their draft options to concentrate on other areas.

Quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen could be selected within the first eight picks of the draft. If those four quarterbacks are chosen, it means the 49ers will get – at worst – the fifth-ranked player on their draft board.

And if there is still one of those quarterbacks available when the 49ers go on the clock at No. 9 overall, it invites the possibility of a trade-back option.

The 49ers could trade back and still get one of the five players – Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport – highlighted as first-round draft options.

But if the 49ers move further back or acquire an additional pick in the first round, here are some of their options...

OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The 49ers must start thinking about a time when two new offensive tackles are going to be required. McGlinchey (6-8, 312) began his career at right tackle before shifting to the left side. That versatility could come in handy for the 49ers, as right tackle Trent Brown enters the final year of his contract and might not be back in 2019. Moreover, six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley is 34 years old, and it is uncertain how much longer he can play at a high level. McGlinchey has the athleticism that Shanahan covets. He began high school as a tight end and also played on the basketball team.

OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
Miller is an exceptional athlete who should get better and better. He ran the third-fastest time among offensive linemen at the combine and placed near the top of all the other agility drills. Miller started off his college career on the right side before shifting over to protect the blind side of quarterback Josh Rosen. With any offensive lineman the 49ers select, the club could consider having him begin his career at guard before moving him to tackle whenever the need arises.

CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Jackson was among the 49ers’ final pre-draft visits to Santa Clara. The team needs another cornerback to join presumptive starters Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. At 6-0 3/8, Jackson is not as tall as initially advertised, but his style of play and long arms would fit well within the 49ers’ scheme. He has great instincts, as shown by his nation-leading eight interceptions and 26 pass breakups.

WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The consensus best wide receiver in the draft could provide Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan with another option in the passing game to join starters Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin. Garçon is the possession receiver and Goodwin is the deep threat. Ridley is versatile and polished, which makes him a nice chess piece to utilize early in his career for specific matchups.

WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
It should be noted that the 49ers like their receiver corps, a group that also includes Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson and Kendrick Bourne. But Sutton (6-3, 219) would give the 49ers more size to exploit matchups. He gets high marks off the field. There is no rush to get him out there before he is ready. The 49ers can take their time to develop him, as they would have him under their control contractually for five seasons. He has spent time learning from Anquan Boldin.

49ers 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

49ers 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

The 49ers released their full 2018 schedule on Thursday evening. Here's the slate:

WEEK 1
Sunday, Sept. 9, at Minnesota, 10 a.m. (FOX)
There was a time when we thought the Vikings’ quarterback would be suiting up for the road team in this matchup. But, thanks to Bill Belichick’s generosity, Jimmy Garoppolo will be wearing the road whites while Kirk Cousins and his talented supporting cast will be decked out in purple. Garoppolo’s undefeated run as a starting quarterback is put to the test in the opening week. And San Francisco newcomer Jerick McKinnon gets an early chance to prove to his former team that he should have been an every-down running back. Prediction: L.

WEEK 2
Sunday, Sept. 16, vs. Detroit, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
First-year Lions head coach Matt Patricia – and the pencil behind his ear – travel to the Bay Area for the organization’s first visit to Levi’s Stadium. Prediction: W.

WEEK 3
Sunday, Sept. 23, at Kansas City, 10 a.m. (FOX)
Alex Smith’s five-year run as Kansas City’s starting quarterback came to an end. Arrowhead Stadium is now Patrick Mahomes’ home, and it remains a difficult environment for road teams. Prediction: L.

WEEK 4
Sunday, Sept. 30, at L.A. Chargers, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
Fans of the 49ers travel well. The challenge is on to snap up as many of the 27,000 tickets in the Charges’ temporary home venue as possible. The 49ers will need a lot of help against a talented team that finished last season with a lot of momentum. Prediction: L.

WEEK 5
Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. Arizona, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
The Cardinals have undergone a facelift with the retirements of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer. The new crew of coach Steve Wilks and Sam Bradford – or whoever ends up at QB – inherits a six-game head-to-head win streak against the 49ers. Prediction: W.

WEEK 6
Monday, Oct. 15, at Green Bay, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Aaron Rodgers did not get any say in Packers personnel matters this offseason, and we’re hearing the NFL schedule-maker did not consult him, either. But he certainly will not complain about this prime-time matchup against the team for which he rooted as a child growing up in Chico. Prediction: L.

WEEK 7
Sunday, Oct. 21, vs. L.A. Rams, 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
This could be a pivotal mid-season matchup featuring two franchises that took different approaches during the offseason. The 49ers were measured in free agency, while the Rams played fantasy football. L.A. general manager Les Snead went all-in during the offseason with the additions of cornerback Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, along with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and receiver Brandin Cooks. Prediction: L.

WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 28, at Arizona, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
After back-to-back three-point losses in the desert the past couple of seasons, the 49ers will need to take care of business against the Cardinals to be serious contenders for a playoff spot. Prediction: W.

WEEK 9
Thursday, Nov. 1, vs. Oakland, 5:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Levi’s Stadium was built as a two-team facility, just in case the Raiders were interested in moving to the South Bay. In the building’s fifth year, the Vegas-bound Silver and Black finally get a look inside. Facing the 49ers during a short week is ideal for the Raiders, as Jon Gruden and Co. do not have to step on a plane. Kyle Shanahan will match wits against the man who gave him his first NFL job. Shanahan was Gruden’s offensive quality control coach in 2004-’05 with Tampa Bay. Prediction: W.

WEEK 10
Monday, Nov. 12, vs. N.Y. Giants, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
The 49ers have a short week, followed by a long week. A year ago, the Giants’ trip to Levi’s Stadium resulted in the end of the losing streak of 49ers’ franchise-worst start. C.J. Beathard was under center that day, and Marquise Goodwin provided one of the highlights of the season with an 83-yard touchdown catch just hours after he and his wife lost their baby boy due to complications from pregnancy. Prediction: W.

WEEK 11
Bye week

WEEK 12
Sunday, Nov. 25, at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m. (FOX)
The 49ers will have to go light on the tryptophan from their Thanksgiving feasts to be ready for the cross-country travel and their matchup against Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. The 49ers will be making just their second trip to Tampa of the past 14 seasons. Prediction: W.

WEEK 13
Sunday, Dec. 2, at Seattle, 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
Is there any doubt Richard Sherman will be a little bit hyped to go back to Seattle with something to prove to Pete Carroll and John Schneider? The “12s” will find out what it’s like when Sherman is not on their team. It’s a different Seattle team, but Russell Wilson is as elusive as ever. Prediction: L.

WEEK 14
Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Denver, 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
These teams are skipping their annual exhibition game in lieu of the regular-season matchup. The Broncos’ last meaningful visit to Levi’s Stadium turned out pretty well – a victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Prediction: W.

WEEK 15
Sunday, Dec. 16, vs. Seattle, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
It’s not a rivalry until the 49ers prove they can actually beat the Seahawks, who hold a nine-game head-to-head win streak. (It could be 10 at this point.) The Seahawks’ dominance began in the NFC Championship game in January 2014, when Sherman broke up Colin Kaepernick’s pass and Malcolm Smith got the interception. Now, both Sherman and Smith are wearing the other uniform. Prediction: W.

WEEK 16
Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Chicago, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
These teams should know each other pretty well. It will be the fifth consecutive season in which the 49ers have played against the NFC North team. The teams have split the previous four meetings, as the 49ers evened the score last season with a 15-14 victory in Garoppolo’s first start with the 49ers. There is no threat of a snow storm or freezing rain in this locale. Prediction: W.

WEEK 17
Sunday, Dec. 30, at L.A. Rams, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
The 49ers have not lost to the Rams in Southern California since 1986. The stakes could be higher this season than we’ve seen in a long, long time as the 49ers could offer the defending NFC West champs their stiffest competition. This could be a huge game – or it could be like a year ago when the Rams rested every significant starter to get ready for the playoffs. Prediction: L.