49ers clobber Rams, ride five-game winning streak into 2018 offseason


49ers clobber Rams, ride five-game winning streak into 2018 offseason


LOS ANGELES – There were far-more important NFL games taking place Sunday afternoon in other locations.

Heck, the playoff-bound Los Angeles Rams essentially mailed it in with backups taking over prominent roles while star players rested for next week’s wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.

But the 49ers have been playing to their own tune this season. For virtually the entire year, the 49ers’ every move was made with an eye toward 2018.

And on the final day of the 2017 calendar year, the 49ers saw it as an opportunity to continue to build momentum heading into an offseason that will not feature a new head coach, a new general manager or both.

The 49ers finished the season on a five-game win streak with a 34-13 victory over the Rams. The team’s winning ways coincided with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s promotion into the starting lineup at the beginning of December.

But the day fell far short of perfect, as popular wide receiver Marquise Goodwin sustained a concussion late in the first half and was carted off the field. He was taken to a local hospital for precautionary evaluation, the club announced.

Rams safety Blake Countess delivered an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on Goodwin, who was running a slant route. Countess was also evaluated for a concussion after the play.

Countess was one of 17 non-starters who took over in the lineup as coach Sean McVay wanted to ensure that his team entered the playoffs with as many healthy starters as possible.

The injury concluded an incredibly trying season for Goodwin, who was ruled out of a game early in the season with a concussion.

On Nov. 12, Goodwin caught an 83-yard touchdown catch in the 49ers’ first win of the season just hours after he and his wife, Morgan, lost their child due to complications in pregnancy.

Two weeks ago, Goodwin caught 10 passes for 114 yards against the Tennessee Titans and revealed afterward his biological father had passed away just days earlier.

Goodwin caught 58 passes for 962 yards – the second-most receiving yards from a player in his first season with the 49ers. In 2013, Anquan Boldin had 1,179 yards after coming to the 49ers in a trade.

On the play after Goodwin’s injury, running back Carlos Hyde – and the offensive line – was clearly motivated to get into the end zone. Hyde scored on an 8-yard run with the final 5 yards coming as the pile pushed past the goal line.

Goodwin scored the 49ers’ first touchdown on Sunday when he caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo in the first quarter. Goodwin lined up in the slot, ran back toward Garoppolo at the snap of the ball. Then, Goodwin reversed field and was uncovered on the right side, where he caught the short pass and cruised into the end zone.

Garoppolo had his first multi-interception game in his seven NFL starts. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 292 yards with two touchdown and two interceptions.

Garoppolo missed more throws than he did in his previous four starts, but he dropped in a beautiful pass to tight end Garrett Celek for 28 yards in the middle of the third quarter. On the next play, Hyde scored on a 5-yard run for a 27-6 lead.

Hyde finished with 90 yards and two touchdowns on 15 rushing attempts. He is scheduled to be a free agent in March.

--Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner left the game in the second quarter with a chest injury. He was originally listed as questionable, but appeared to aggravate the injury when he returned to action. He was ruled out at halftime.

--Cornerback Dontae Johnson sustained a neck “stinger” in the third quarter. He returned to action later in the second half.

--Linebacker Reuben Foster and nickel back K’Waun Williams were shaken up but left the field under their own power after colliding while making a tackle in the fourth quarter.

--Rookie tight end George Kittle caught four passes for his career-high 100 yards, including a 44-yard reception on the first drive of the game.

--Kicker Robbie Gould made field goals of 33 and 48 yards in the first half to help supply the 49ers with a 13-3 lead. Gould entered the game with 37 made kicks on 39 attempts. With a fourth-quarter extra point, Gould set a single-season career-high with 144 points scored on the season.

--Among the Rams standouts who did not play were quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and linebackers Mark Barron and Alec Olgletree.

Sean Mannion made the first start of his three-year NFL career. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 169 yards with zero touchdowns and no interceptions.

Among the Rams standouts who did not play were quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and linebackers Mark Barron and Alec Olgletree.

--The Rams got their first first down of the game with 2:01 remaining in the first quarter when Buckner was called for roughing the passer on a third-down incompletion. It appeared as if referee Terry McAulay called Buckner for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Mannion.

--Defensive lineman Aaron Lynch, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent in March, was inactive for the ninth time this season. Lynch missed four games with a calf injury but was a healthy inactive for four of the 49ers’ final six games.

--Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon forced a third-quarter fumble after a short pass to rookie tight end Gerald Everett. K’Waun Williams recovered the fumble, which set up Garoppolo’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson.

Greg Cosell singles out 49ers player he believes is poised for a breakout season


Greg Cosell singles out 49ers player he believes is poised for a breakout season

With the 146th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected...

George Kittle.

The tight end from Iowa had a solid rookie season -- racking up 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns.

On the latest episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast with Matt Maiocco, Greg Cosell of NFL Films was talking about Kyle Shanahan and Rams head coach Sean McVay. And then unsolicited, pivoted the conversation to Kittle.

"You know, I think one player we should mention who I really liked coming out of college -- and I know he fought some injuries last year but I think that he has a chance to be a really meaningul part of this offense -- and that's George Kittle," Cosell said. "I think George Kittle is a really good tight end who can do a lot of things.

"He can line up and be a really good blocking tight end -- and obviously we know that Kyle's offense does start with the run game. I think he's more athletic than people probably give him credit for.

"I remember studying him coming out of Iowa and looking at some of his Combine measureables -- some were superior to those of OJ Howard from Alabama, and I think people would be surprised by that.

"In this offense he might not catch 80 balls, but he might average 14-15 yards a catch, and for a tight end that's pretty darn good."

Kittle had his best game in the season finale -- four catches for 100 yards at the Rams.

Why Greg Cosell believes Jimmy Garoppolo needs work on his 'quarterback feet'


Why Greg Cosell believes Jimmy Garoppolo needs work on his 'quarterback feet'

Greg Cosell, a senior producer at NFL Films, believes 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo “has a chance to be a top-level quarterback.” But there remains room for improvement from the player the 49ers awarded a franchise-record contract in the offseason.

Garoppolo has a quick release and can throw at a number of different arm angles to avoid oncoming pass-rushers. And while his accuracy underneath was unquestioned during his 5-0 run as the 49ers’ starter last season, most of the time, his deep throws did not reach the target.

Garoppolo completed just 4 of 16 attempts to targets 20 yards or more down the field last season for 134 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus.

[RELATED: Greg Cosell: Kyle Shanahan does one thing 'better than any coach in the NFL']

During the offseason program, Garoppolo appeared to struggle on his deep throws, too. Cosell, a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, spoke about Garoppolo’s mechanics.

“Because he has very quick feet, I think people just assume he has great feet all the time when he delivers the ball,” Cosell said. “There’s a difference between having quick, athletic feet and having really good quarterback feet. And I think he needs to work on the quarterback feet part.

“I think guys who have that kind of snap delivery, sometimes they don’t step exactly to their throw and they throw a little bit off-balance, and that could really impact your accuracy to a significant degree. So my guess is those are the kinds of things they’ve worked on. Those are tweaks. I don’t think it will prevent him from being a really good player.”

Garoppolo appeared in six games with five starts last season after the 49ers acquired him for a second-round draft pick in a trade with the New England Patriots. Garoppolo completed 120 of 178 pass attempts (67.4 percent) for 1,580 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions.

Cosell said it is important for all quarterbacks to use consistent mechanics when making throws from a clean pocket.

“Think of a major league pitcher,” Cosell said. “They theoretically should throw the ball the same way every time. So should a quarterback unless the defense dictates otherwise. If the defense doesn’t dictate otherwise, the throws should look the same.”