49ers

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.

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

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AP

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'

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USATSI

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.”