Matt Maiocco

49ers take on role of spoiler down the stretch

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AP

49ers take on role of spoiler down the stretch

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers’ three victories over their past four games have come against teams in the bottom quarter of the league.

The competition gets a lot more challenging for Jimmy Garoppolo and Co., as the 49ers close out the season against three teams currently jockeying for playoff positioning.

First up, the Tennessee Titans, who come to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday as the current No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with an 8-5 record. After back-to-back road victories, the 49ers can finish the season with some momentum against teams that are playing for their postseason lives.

“I think getting these last two have been big for us,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We got close in a number (of games) early in the year and then came up short, which I think got real frustrating. We hit a lull with that and with the little bit of injuries in the same span.

“Then, I thought we rebounded where it started versus the Giants, then had a setback versus Seattle and then played better versus Chicago and that led to us playing better last week versus Houston. I hope that continues to lead us into playing better this week. The more you win, that’s how you develop real confidence and the more you win players believe truly that they have a chance to win instead of just hoping. The more that happens, the easier it gets.”

Garoppolo will face his biggest tests since arriving on the scene with the 49ers. His 624 yards passing the past two games are the most in franchise history for a player making his first two starts.

But after facing the Titans (8-5), the 49ers conclude the season against Jacksonville (9-4) and the Los Angeles Rams (9-4).

“We have a little bit of momentum with us right now,” Garoppolo said, adding that the 49ers first must concentrate on putting together good practices.

“I think that’s what’s really helped us these last two weeks is we’re putting in the time, practice has been good tempo and everything and I think that carries over to Sunday.”

After facing Tennessee, which as the league’s No. 18 pass defense, the 49ers face the best pass defense in the league when the Jaguars come to Levi’s Stadium on Christmas Eve.

Jeff Garcia pinpoints Jimmy Garoppolo's elite skills

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AP

Jeff Garcia pinpoints Jimmy Garoppolo's elite skills

Among quarterbacks who have dropped back more than once this season, Jimmy Garoppolo ranks first in the NFL with a 9.0-yard-average per pass attempt.

The 49ers (3-10) have won both of Garoppolo’s starts, and his 627 yards passing in those two games are the most for a player in franchise history in his first two starts.

The 49ers’ last Pro Bowl quarterback, Jeff Garcia, discussed the elite skills he has witnessed from Garoppolo in his short time in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

“First of all, he has eliminated mistakes,” Garcia said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “You see the way the offense has been able to put drives together to get into the red zone. Now, they haven’t all led to touchdowns, but he’s been a great decision-maker.”

The 49ers settled for five field goals in a 15-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. On Sunday, the 49ers scored on five consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters in a 26-16 win over the Houston Texans.

“He’s been very accurate with his throws,” Garcia said. “You see when he completes balls, the receivers are in a position to continue running for yards after the catch. The balls aren’t thrown behind. They’re not low. The receivers don’t have to leave their feet for many of the throws. That is key to turning what could end up being fourth downs into first downs.”

Garoppolo has completed 48 of 72 pass attempts (66.7 percent) with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating is 92.7. 

“His timing -- he’s getting the ball out on time,” Garcia said. “Even when he has a free rusher coming off the edge, which happened a couple of times with (Jadeveon) Clowney, he’s able to step in there and throw an accurate ball and make a play. Those things hadn’t been done prior to his existence on the team.”

49ers confidence soaring as Garoppolo takes charge

49ers confidence soaring as Garoppolo takes charge

Jimmy Garoppolo spent three games as the 49ers’ backup before starting the past two games.

But just five games into his tenure with the 49ers, he is already considered a player everyone looks up to.

“Man, Jimmy’s been everything,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “He’s already a leader on this team. He runs this offense with confidence, and I think guys really believe in him. He keeps us up on the sideline.”

Garoppolo threw for 334 yards in the 49ers’ 26-16 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday after a scoreless first quarter.

“We didn’t start the game off great on offense,” Juszczyk said. “We missed some big plays and it would’ve been easy to tank, but Jimmy was right over there talking to us. It never fazed him. He was telling us to keep it up and eventually we’d punch it through.”

Juszczyk is one of several offensive players who has seemingly benefited from Garoppolo’s elevation into the starting lineup. Juszczyk had receptions of 31 and 29 yards to set up the 49ers’ first touchcdown.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin caught six passes for 106 yards after catching 99 yards in passes against Chicago. And tight end Garrett Celek added a 61-yard reception.

“The guys have played better,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “ I think they have done better as the year has gone. They’ve done great these last two weeks. I think when you’ve got a guy like Jimmy who has been making some impressive throws, who’s been doing it on the practice field and he’s carried it to the game, I think guys always know they’ve got a chance, and they lived up to it.”

Garoppolo was sacked twice and hit nine times. He stood in the pocket and delivered passes down the field during the game. Afterward, he stood up and complimented the pass protection he received from the 49ers’ offensive line.

“Jadeveon Clowney is one of the best in the league at what he does,” Garoppolo said. “I think those guys played great, I really do. You’re going to give up some things here and there, but overall I think it was a phenomenal day for those guys.”