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49ers intercept Jimmy Garoppolo three times in red zone at practice

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SANTA CLARA -- It was not nearly as memorable as his infamous training camp practice of last summer, but 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had one of those days that would not look good on the stat sheet.

During one red-zone session on Wednesday, the 49ers’ defense intercepted three of Garoppolo’s passes, including two balls that were tipped.

Of course, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh liked what he saw from San Francisco's swarming defense in making things difficult for the team's offense to function.

“Every year you make sure you talk about making sure you’re contesting throws at a minimum, it’s contested through small windows,” Saleh said. “You look at our red zone two years ago, we gave up a lot of uncontested touchdowns. It just felt easy.

“(Last year), the final numbers weren’t good, but up until the final four or five games of the year, I think we were top-five in the league in red-zone defense. The emphasis is always to compete like heck in the red zone and create tight windows and make sure there is no ball that’s uncontested.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman got it going when he picked off a Garoppolo pass on the right side on which Garoppolo threw off-balance due to pressure from Arik Armstead during a red-zone drill. Sherman made the interception at the 5-yard line and returned it all the way.

Then, newly added veteran Johnathan Cyprien made his third pick in the short time since he’s been on the team. With backup strong safety Marcell Harris sitting out practice, Cyprien took advantage of the additional reps when he grabbed a deflected pass.


A short time later, rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw made the grab for an interception on a pass that was tipped high into the air at the line of scrimmage.

Garoppolo got a small measure of revenge on the next play when he fit in a tight pass to Kendrick Bourne for a touchdown.

RELATED: Injury-riddled 49ers still have many options in passing game

Garoppolo’s rough stretch brought back memories of last summer, when he threw interceptions on five consecutive pass attempts during a practice on the Santa Clara practice field.

Last week, Shanahan spoke about the luxury of practices is to learn from mistakes without it having any impact on games that count.

“You get experience from practice,” Shanahan said. “You can coach it the exact same way as you would in a game, but it’s a little bit easier because the emotions aren’t there of winning and losing the game, and everyone in the world seeing it.”