Richie James Jr. gives 49ers glimpse of his future in win vs. Seahawks

Richie James Jr. gives 49ers glimpse of his future in win vs. Seahawks

SANTA CLARA -- Richie James Jr.’s rookie season hasn't gone as he envisioned.

Yet, in an otherwise disappointing freshman campaign, the wide receiver provided the 49ers with a huge special-teams play Sunday in their 26-23 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium.

James didn't nail down a role as the 49ers’ slot receiver when he had a chance. He also was taken off punt returns when he muffed punts in back-to-back weeks.

But in Week 15, he made his contribution to the team with a 97-yard touchdown on a kickoff return after the Seahawks jumped out to a 6-0 lead. James became the first 49ers rookie to score on a kickoff return since Amos Lawrence in 1981.

James received some great blocking, broke a tackle, made kicker Sebastian Janikowski miss and outran the Seahawks’ pursuers in route to the end zone. Then, James kept sprinting along the back of the end zone and to the 49ers’ sideline.

“I wanted to keep running,” James said after the win. “I ain’t lying, I was tired for at least three series after that. I had to catch my breath for a minute. I shouldn’t have done that, but I did. “

James was a seventh-round draft pick from Middle Tennessee. He said he hopes the learning experience of his rookie season will make him a better player next season on a team that he expects to make a large leap.

“For me, it’s disappointing because I wanted more,” James said. “But at the same time, I have to be conscious that I made an NFL roster as a seventh-round draft pick. A whole year on an NFL roster is not a bad thing. Yeah, I can do so much more. That’s what next year is for. That’s what I build off.”

James has appeared in 11 games this season, catching five passes for 94 yards. Even though Trent Taylor has taken over as the 49ers' slot receiver, James believes he's growing more comfortable as he comprehends coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook.

You've all the heard the words,” James said. “You get into it, and things have started to click. I’ve gotten so much better over time, learning the offense and learning concepts.

“It gives me something to look forward to, for sure. It’s going to be a huge year next year with everybody coming back from injuries. This team is going to be unreal.”

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo can enter NFL record books vs. Falcons

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo can enter NFL record books vs. Falcons

So ... is Jimmy Garoppolo still the 49ers' weak link?

He the sure hasn't been playing like it.

After tearing his ACL last season, it took Garoppolo some time to get fully comfortable on the football field. But as the season has drawn on, the 49ers quarterback has gotten better each week and has been the definition of deadly over the last month. As a result, Garoppolo has a chance to enter rare NFL company Sunday when the 49ers welcome the Atlanta Falcons to Levi's Stadium.

Garoppolo picked the Saints apart in Week 14, going 26-for-35 for 349 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 131.7 passer rating in the 49ers' 48-46 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That performance marked the fourth consecutive game in which Garoppolo has completed at least 70 percent of his passes and compiled a passer rating of 110 or higher. That is even more impressive when you think about the conditions the 49ers and Ravens played in during Baltimore's Week 13 win. 

Should Jimmy G hit those two marks against the Falcons on Sunday, he'll tie Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes for the longest such streak of games during a single NFL season. Wilson had five straight games during the 2015 season, while Mahomes did the same last season.

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Garoppolo has been playing better and better each week as the 49ers continue their march to the No. 1 seed in the NFC and Jimmy G should be able to put up solid numbers Sunday as the Falcons. Atlanta has the NFL's 24th ranked pass defense, allowing 258.4 yards per game and opposing QBs are completing 67.7 percent of their passes against the Falcons secondary.

So there's no reason to think Jimmy G will be slowed down Sunday.

Why Kyle Juszczyk's wife was upset with 49ers' Matt Breida on Sunday

Why Kyle Juszczyk's wife was upset with 49ers' Matt Breida on Sunday

SANTA CLARA -- Fullback Kyle Juszczyk’s wife, Kristin, was watching the 49ers’ game Sunday on a flight from New York to the Bay Area when she saw her husband sustain an injury after catching a short pass in the fourth quarter.

“Immediately when I went down, she started crying,” Juszczyk said. “And, then, when I got up ... "

When Juszczyk got up following the penalized hit from New Orleans Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Kristin saw something on the screen that made her direct her emotions toward 49ers running back Matt Breida.

“Oh, my, God, my wife freaked out,” Juszczyk said, laughing.

“When I got up, Breida hit me on the head, and she’s like, ‘I could f--king kill you, Breida!’ Classic.”

Breida was shown on live TV patting Juszczyk on his helmet several times as the 49ers’ fullback left the field en route to the medical tent for a mandatory concussion evaluation.

Inside the tent, Juszczyk was asked questions and tested for eye movement and stability. He did not experience any concussion symptoms and returned to the game.

“Luckily, my head was OK, so it didn’t matter,” Juszczyk said of his Breida’s ill-advised gesture of support.

Immediately after absorbing the hit, Juszczyk grabbed at his helmet with both hands.

[RELATED: 49ers fear top nose tackle D.J. Jones out for season]

“Honestly, it just kind of scared me,” he said. “You take that hit, and it did hurt my neck. So I just reached back there.”

Juszczyk said he still feels as if he was in a car accident, but his neck is feeling better due to a lot of treatment, including acupuncture. He was a full participant in the 49ers’ practice on Wednesday.