SANTA CLARA -- In the 49ers’ offense, it does not matter how many yards the pass travels in the air to the target.
The important part is how many yards are gained on the play. The receiver's yards after the catch is the built-in equalizer that makes it irrelevant how far the pass is thrown.
While 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has attempted just two passes of 20-plus yards down the field through the first two games, the only thing that matters is the result.
Garoppolo has averaged 9.15 yards per pass attempt in the 49ers’ road victories over the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles to open the season.
It might not have looked impressive in the small sample size, but only three quarterbacks in franchise history have averaged more than nine yards per attempt over a full season: John Brodie (1961), Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1991).
The 49ers relied on the short passing game in their 17-11 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 due to the coverages they were up against. The strategy also enabled them to slow down Philadelphia’s pass rush.
A year ago, 49ers quarterbacks were sacked five times and were hit 15 times against the Eagles. On Sunday, Garoppolo was not sacked and he was hit just two times. In the first two games this season, Garoppolo was sacked just one time.
Garoppolo said the team goes into games with a plan on how to attack the opposition. But, sometimes, the flow of the game forces a different strategy.
“You kind of have a good idea,” Garoppolo said. "But similar to this last week, you might have an idea going into it and they come out in something different than what you planned for, different than what you saw on tape.
“So you always have to take that into account once the game starts. But that's where I think our coaches do a great job of in-game adjustments.”
The 49ers could have an opportunity to try to get the ball down the field more on Sunday night at Levi's Stadium in the home opener. The Green Bay Packers have registered only one sack this season.
The 49ers always will want to run the football. That was not easy against the Eagles. And Garoppolo struggled with his accuracy early in the game. The 49ers’ offense experienced three-and-outs on their first three offensive possessions for the first time in Kyle Shanahan’s tenure as head coach.
Shanahan remained with Garoppolo and allowed him to work through his issues. Garoppolo ended up finishing the first half on a hot streak, including a perfectly thrown pass to wide receiver Deebo Samuel, which he caught 16 yards down the field and turned into a 40-yard gain.
On the next play, Garoppolo worked through his progressions to find receiver Jauan Jennings for an 11-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 7-3 lead in the closing seconds of the first half.
Garoppolo finished the day with 22 completions on 30 attempts for 189 yards and a touchdown. In two games, he has thrown for 503 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.4 passer rating.
He has proven flexible to adapt to whatever Shanahan and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel decide during the course of a game.
“Whenever Kyle or McDaniel come up with new stuff in the schemes, they reiterate it to the coaches, they tell us, and it's a smooth transition,” Garoppolo said.
Although certainly not perfect through two games, Garoppolo has done enough to help the 49ers open with two victories and silence any serious discussion about the club potentially turning to quarterback Trey Lance so early in his rookie season.