Three things to know from 49ers' 44-33 win over top defense in the NFL

Three things to know from 49ers' 44-33 win over top defense in the NFL

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 44-33 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16 on Sunday:

Rookies typically wear down late in the NFL season due to the increase in the number of games over college football. But the 49ers’ first-year players appear to be peaking late in the season.

After such players as draft picks Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, Ahkello Witherspoon, George Kittle and Trent Taylor helped put the 49ers in position to win, it was undrafted running back Matt Breida who supplied the finishing touch.

Breida took a pitch from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and flashed his speed to get around the left corner en route to a 30-yard game-clinching touchdown run with 1:24 remaining for the 10-point victory.

Kittle and Taylor added touchdown catches from Garoppolo, and Witherspoon supplied one of the 49ers’ three interceptions of Blake Bortles, who entered Sunday as the hottest quarterback in the NFL.

Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick, and Foster played a role in shutting down Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 selection in the draft. Fournette gained just 48 yards on 18 rushing attempts for a meager 2.7-yard average.

The 49ers are building a lot of momentum going into the 2018 season, and the play of the rookies is a big reason it appears to be a program on the rise.

"A lot of it is new coaches, new players," Kittle said. "We are just really learning to come together as a team. I think we are finding our rhythm now. I feel like we are just clicking on offense, which is one thing we struggled with early. Our defense has been playing well all year. We were just struggling from the beginning, now we are just rolling. We are on a heater. I think we are going to stay that way."

Garoppolo faced his stiffest challenge since entering the 49ers’ starting lineup. Going up against the top defense in the league, Garoppolo made more than enough plays to enable the 49ers to pull off the upset over the AFC South champions.

"I thought he played very similar in this game that he has the last few games," Shanahan said. "He made the right reads for the most part, made the right throws. I’m sure there’s a couple he’d want to have back, just like any game. It was that he’s been very consistent.”

Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith during the week described this game as a “hat and T-shirt week” – alluding to the Jaguars’ intention to celebrate the division title in the 49ers’ stadium.

While the Tennessee Titans’ loss clinched the Jags’ championship, their hopes as the top seed in the AFC playoffs were extinguished with the loss to the 49ers. And Jacksonville did not appear to be much in the mood for a celebration before returning to the East Coast.

The Jacksonville defense leads the NFL in sacks and entered the game allowing a league-low 168.9 yards passing per game. The 49ers’ offensive line generally gave Garoppolo time to throw, and he was sacked just once. Garoppolo completed 21 of 30 pass attempts for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think it was a good test for us, especially as an offense," Garoppolo said. "Our team overall responded. It was an overall team win today. Offense doing our part. Defense getting us field position. Special teams. It all came together really nice today. That’s what makes a good team. We’re moving in the right direction right now. It seems week by week we just keep getting better.”

Said left tackle Joe Staley, "Jimmy is playing great football for us at the quarterback position. It is probably the most important position in team sports. He is doing a terrific job out there. He raises all shifts up there and everybody is playing really good football right now. We have a close locker room. I am really proud to be a part of it. It is pretty special here.”

Garoppolo surpassed Hall of Famer Kurt Warner’s record for passing yards in his first four starts with a new team. Garoppolo has thrown for 1,250 yards with the 49ers. Warner had 1,217 yards passing in his first four starts with St. Louis Rams in 1999.

The 49ers (5-10) will take a four-game win streak into the season finale next week at the Los Angeles Rams.

Coach Kyle Shanahan was regarded as one of the best offensive coordinators in the league. And those skills were on display Sunday, as he put together a masterful game plan against the top-ranked Jacksonville defense.

The 49ers went with multi-receiver formations to spread out the Jacksonville defense. Shanahan kept the Jaguars off balance with a variety of quick passes and misdirection. Shanahan found the weaknesses in the Jaguars’ defense, which resulted in players running free all over the field in the passing game.

Garoppolo missed some of his throws, but he also made good on the key downs. The 49ers converted 10 of 15 on third downs for a remarkable 67-percent conversion rate.

The 49ers scored five offensive touchdowns against a defense that allowed just 14.9 points per game. After Jacksonville clawed back into the game in the final two minutes, Shanahan’s call for a pitch to Breida on a third-down play was well-timed and well-executed, resulting in a 30-yard touchdown run to seal the victory.

"The guys made their blocks and we had a strong feeling they’d be in man coverage and playing the run and daring us to throw, which you know you need to get a first down there because I believe they still had one timeout, so you can’t run the clock out," Shanahan said.

There could more of this kind of precision execution in the future as the 49ers get more acclimated to Shanahan’s system and the talent level on the roster improves.

49ers 2018 scheduled released: Analysis and predictions

49ers 2018 scheduled released: Analysis and predictions

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bye week

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Report: 49ers will play at Packers on Monday Night Football


Report: 49ers will play at Packers on Monday Night Football

We won't know the full 49ers 2018 schedule until 5pm, but we are starting to learn some specifics.

The 49ers will play at the Packers on Oct. 15, according to ESPN's Rob Demovsky.

That will be in prime time on Monday Night Football.

We already know of another prime time game for the 49ers: Thursday, Nov. 1 at home against the Raiders.

San Francisco and Green Bay did not play in 2017 or 2016.

The last meeting between the franchises was on Oct. 4, 2015 -- a 17-3 Packers win at Levi's Stadium.

Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers opened the 2012 season with a 30-22 win at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers then beat the Packers 45-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

In 2013, the 49ers beat the Packers in the season opener, 34-28.

Four months later, San Francisco prevailed in a wild card game, 23-20.

Check back at 5pm as 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco will provide analysis and a prediction for every 2018 regular season game...