Friday, February 9, 2018

Niners lock up Garoppolo with Record Deal

If you're a long lost relative of Jimmy Garoppolo's, now's the time to come out of the woodwork as the newly dubbed franchise quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers just got paid. After helping turn a struggling 1-10 49ers team into a team that finished the 2017 season riding a league-best five-game winning streak to finish the season 6-10 as Garoppolo remained undefeated in his seven career starts, two things were very apparent following San Francisco's season-finale win over the division rival L.A. Rams on New Years Eve. 1. 49ers GM John Lynch had plans of keeping Garoppolo in a Niner uniform for many years to come and 2. Jimmy G. was due for a big payday. Lynch delivered on a promise he made back on January 2 when he assured Niner fans after the season that Garoppolo wasn't going anywhere, by inking him to a 5-year, $137.5 Million contract. The deal which includes $48.7 Million guaranteed, makes Garoppolo the highest paid player in NFL history on a per year basis as the 26-year old QB who will only be 31-years of age when his contract expires, will earn an annual salary of $27.5 Mil and $86.4 Mil. in the first three years of his deal.

While an extension was rumored to be in the works according to 49er brass, nobody expected a deal to get done this fast as Lynch won over the 49er faithful yet again by wasting little time to lock down their guy through the 2022 season. Lynch knew signing Garoppolo long-term was a huge step in the right direction as far as establishing the groundwork for a team that's been in rebuild mode since the departure of former head coach Jim Harbaugh following the 2014 season, as well as a major selling point in attracting free-agents who are scheduled to hit the open market to the Bay Area. However, he also knows that there's still lots of work to be done to get the team to where it needs to be in order to accomplish their ultimate goal of hoisting that sixth Lombardi trophy.
Despite inking Jimmy G. to his new lucrative deal that will pay him a record $27.5 Million a year, eclipsing the previous mark of $27 Mil. set by Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford who agreed to his deal just a year ago, the signing which will undoubtedly have an effect on the market for QB's moving forward, will likely be a bargain down the road with free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins seeking an expensive contract that is expected to leapfrog him over Garoppolo in dollar signs. And Cousins' deal will likely be left in the dust soon after by the continued QB carousel as Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are all due for new contracts as well. Even after adding Garoppolo's contract to the books, GM John Lynch will still have north of $100 Million in cap space available for this offseason if they choose to bring in a new toy or two on offense for Garoppolo to play with and build around their newly paid franchise QB, or perhaps bolster the offensive-line to keep Garoppolo's jersey clean or some much needed depth on defense. Lynch made it very simple in an interview with Michael Silver of the NFL Network following the team's press-conference as to why free-agents should choose to buy in and join the team, "It's 75 degrees and sunny outside, we got Jimmy Garoppolo, come and join us."

After just seven career starts, all of which were wins including five with the Niners and two in New England, Jimmy G. who dazzled on the field with his new team despite little time to adjust to a new offense, will now get a full offseason to study head coach Kyle Shanahan's complex system. Considering how foreign Garoppolo was to the system and how quickly he was thrown into the mix following the injury to QB C.J. Beathard, I'd say he did a pretty good. After getting the nod to start in weeks 13-17, Garoppolo impressed the coaching staff by throwing for 1,542 yards, third in the league during that span behind only Phillip Rivers' 1,567 and Jameis Winston's 1,584. Though the sample size remains small at just seven career starts, Garoppolo's stats are nothing to scoff at as he's led his offense to the most points per game (28.3) over the last 25 seasons with a minimum of seven starts, edging a former 49er great in Steve Young (27.6) and tying him with his former Patriots teammate and mentor Tom Brady (28.3). In addition to being just one of five QB's to win his first seven NFL starts since the 1970 merger, his 2,038 passing yards in those seven career starts are 4th most since 1970, behind only Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton and Billy Volek.

It seems like just yesterday that San Francisco acquired Garoppolo from the Patriots via trade back on October 31 for a 2018 second-round pick in April's Draft. The deal which sparked growing rumors of turmoil and dysfunction in the Patriots locker room and front-office as to why New England would deal Garoppolo, not to mention for as small a return as a single second-round pick, was praised by many on the 49ers end who went out and grabbed their man while other teams remained hesitant. For what it's worth, San Francisco's odds to win the Super Bowl next season have risen exponentially, having jumped out with the 10th best odds at 20/1. While a lot can change from now until the start of the season, I think it's safe to say the Niner Empire aren't the only ones buying in on Jimmy G.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest

Monday, January 29, 2018

Stocked and Loaded Super Bowl LII

With the 2017 NFL season nearing its end and the championship round of the playoffs in the books, the table is officially set for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, we'll either have a newly crowned champion for the first time in their franchises history or the dynamic duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will add yet another title to their already crowded trophy case. And unless you're a Pats fan or actually live in New England (or a bitter Vikings fan and rightfully so), chances are you aren't hoping for the latter. In fact, this blog took me a lot longer to post due to the fact that the match-up is probably one we could've all done without seeing as the Patriots are a team everyone outside of New England is pretty much tired of seeing in the Super Bowl. And then there's the Eagles who you would think would be a rather easy team to root for in this case, seeing as they have zero Super Bowl titles to their name, but their fan base has seemingly done virtually everything possible to make us not root for them.

I'm aware that Philly sports fans have had a long storied history of having a bad reputation which spans from throwing batteries at Terrell Owens to pelting Santa Clause with snowballs, but this season saw a new low for Philly fans. Entering their match-up with the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC Championship, videos went viral showing a trio of Viking fans walking to Lincoln Financial Field while being booed and having expletives thrown their way. Both of which are completely normal for an opposing fan when stepping foot into enemy territory. But after those boo's and expletives came booze as Eagle fans began throwing beer cans and bottles at the fans. Not only is this dangerous but it's also a waste of beer, therefore that's minus two points for Philly fans from the jump. And then footage went viral of Eagles fans chucking beer and other items at the Vikings team bus after the game. Again, dangerous and a waste of beer. Finally, Eagles fans took to the streets of Philly to celebrate their Super Bowl-clinching win like fans normally do, no surprise there. But footage surfacing of two Eagles fans holding a banner that read, "Fuck Millie, Philly Philly", referring to 99-year old Vikings super fan Millie Wall who won over the hearts of football fans across the nation during Minnesota's miraculous last-second victory over the New Orleans Saints to punch their ticket to the NFC Championship. Thankfully no beer was wasted for a third time around (at least that we know of), but another low-blow by Philly fans nonetheless. All of this considered, I might have to cheer for New England in the Super Bowl... Who the heck am I kidding, that's still not enough to make me root for the Patriots. So the lesser of two evils it is. Fly Eagles Fly! least I think that's how it goes. 
Kidding aside, this could be a much better game than everyone seems to expect between the two No. 1 seeds. As much as we hate to see them in the big game, Super Bowl's containing the Patriots have made for some of the more entertaining Super Bowl's we've seen in years passed. Then again for most of us it's hard to think back to a Super Bowl that hasn't included Tom Brady and company which isn't so much a shot at the brilliance of he and his head coach as it is a tip of the hat. With the duo already owning the record for the most Super Bowl titles with five, the future Hall of Fame tandem which has already reached legendary status, can add yet another notch to their belt with a win on Sunday. And with many thinking this could be their last true go around at a championship with rumors swirling about the recent dysfunction stemming from the Jimmy Garoppolo trade and the butting of heads regarding Brady's personal doctor, I wouldn't put it passed them considering the now 40-year old Brady is still playing at a high level and says he wouldn't mind playing until he's 45. Not to mention how far behind the rest of the AFC appears to be from the Patriots. Likely to be named MVP for the 3rd time in his career, an award that likely would've been awarded to a quarterback (Carson Wentz) who will be on the opposite sideline of Brady had it not been for a season-ending knee injury, Tom Terrific has shown no signs of slowing, but will be asked to win with a different set of coordinators on both sides of the ball moving forward. Leaving coach Belichick's staff following the Super Bowl will be offensive and defensive coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia who are expected to take over the head coaching vacancies of the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions, respectively. 

And then there's the Philadelphia Eagles who despite cruising into the playoffs owning the NFC's No. 1 seed and tied with a league-best record of 13-3 in the regular season, have been ruled underdogs during their entire postseason run. Playing at home in each of those two playoff games, they'll most certainly be underdogs for a third consecutive week while playing on a neutral field. And given how the team has reacted to the underdog label, they're perfectly fine with that and are hoping to keep the streak alive. With many including myself thinking the Eagles had none chance of making it to the Super Bowl the moment Wentz was lost for the season following his devastating injury suffered against the Los Angeles Rams, the team has continued to do what they've done all year long -- win. And though the injury that was initially reported as being a torn ACL and recently learned to be a LCL tear and torn IT band to boot most certainly ended any chances of Wentz taking home the MVP hardware, it has all but ruled out his team's desire to bring home the true prize of them all -- the Lombardi Trophy. 
Though Brady will be favored over an Eagles offense led by backup QB Nick Foles, don't let the backup label fool you as Foles who hasn't necessarily been on this stage before, making his Super Bowl debut, he's had his fair share of success as he helped Philadelphia to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth in 2013 while putting up gaudy numbers in the regular season to the tune of 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. And while he's been a shadow of his 2013 self in the regular season, his last few outings have been some of his best since then. After playing a safe game against Atlanta in which Foles failed to record a single touchdown but also steered clear of any turnovers while throwing for 246 yards in the close 15-10 win, he erupted for 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and 352 yards against a stout Minnesota defense that Foles was able to pick apart as he helped Philly cruise to an easy 38-7 victory. With the Patriots opening as 5.5 point favorites, those odds took a one point dip since then due to the uncertain health of New England tight-end Rob Gronkowski who's been monitored in the league's concussion protocol after sustaining a helmet-to-helmet hit which forced him to leave the AFC Championship game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Odds makers likely saw what Brady and the NFL's No.1 offense accomplished in the fourth quarter of their comeback victory over a stout Jacksonville defense and like their chances of repeating the feat against a Philadelphia defense that also ranks high. But Philly's defensive advantage is at stopping the run, not so much against the pass which is what you want when facing Brady. 

But even if the Eagles are able to pull off the upset, they'll likely do so thanks to the heroics of their defense which ranked 4th overall this season. Jacksonville who gave Brady and the Patriots as much as a run as we've seen anybody give them in years, gave us a blueprint formula of how to defeat New England, despite not actually beating them as the dynamic duo of Belichick and Brady orchestrated yet another comeback victory in the second half despite being down 20-10 entering the fourth quarter. If Philadelphia can somewhat duplicate Jacksonville's first half for all four quarters and prove to be a handful for Brady, which is easier said than done, and Foles can put together a game similar to the one he had in the NFC Championship against the league's No. 1 defense, the Eagles can leave U.S. Bank Stadium victorious, proudly wearing their dog masks for the rest of the world to see. 

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

First Longo, Now 'Cutch -- Giants stay Busy in Quiet Offseason

In what's been a slow developing market for the league's top available free-agents this offseason in Major League Baseball which has had very little excitement compared to years passed, baseball fans have been kept waiting for the next big splash. And though the San Francisco Giants have yet to dip their toes into the waters of free-agency, they've been one of the more active teams this winter in acquiring new talent. Providing us with the most excitement out of anybody up to this point with the lone exception of the blockbuster deal that sent National League MVP and Home Run Champion Giancarlo Stanton from Miami to the Bronx, whom the Giants had also pursued, the G-Men have successfully landed a pair of players via trade that they hope can help them regain their winning ways in preparation for another dose of some even year magic.

Following the acquisition of All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria on December 20 which gave Giants fans an early gift to unwrap in time for Christmas, the front-office went out and added another big bat in the lineup in the form of outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Sending a pair of prospects to Pittsburgh in exchange for the 5-time All-Star, the Pirates who appear to be in full on rebuild mode after trading away their two most well known players, received right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds from San Francisco. The decision to deal McCutchen who's in the last year of his contract, comes just two days after the ball club agreed to move ace Gerrit Cole to the defending champion Houston Astros. Both players helped put Pittsburgh back on the baseball map and into the postseason, snapping a 21 year playoff drought. Unfortunately, the Pirates would fail to make it past the division round, but gave baseball fans in Pittsburgh a reminder of what postseason baseball tastes like in the Steel City by clinching playoff spots in three straight seasons from 2013-2015.
After being named to five NL All-Star teams in nine seasons with the Pirates and putting up MVP numbers from 2012-2014 including a 2013 campaign which saw him take home MVP honors, the one nicknamed "Cutch" took a step back in 2016 and experienced a dip in production before seeing a resurgence in 2017, especially towards the end of the season. From May 24 on, McCutchen registered a .400 OBP and slugged .540 to finish with a .363 OBP and .486 SLG, both improvements over the previous season. Hitting .279 on the year, McCutchen tallied 28 home runs and 88 RBI's, both of which would've led a Giants offense that has long lacked a power threat in the lineup. Happy to now have him on their team, Giants brass and fans alike are hoping McCutchen can add a spark similar to the one another Pirates outfielder and former MVP had supplied after being acquired by San Francisco in the past who goes by the name of Barry Bonds. Of course the sting of Bonds' departure from Pittsburgh was one the team and its fan base had to deal with for many years until McCutchen debuted in 2009 and eventually took the team on a ride they hadn't been on since Bonds wore No. 24 and was still in a Pirates uniform. Like Pittsburgh who looked upon McCutchen to be their saving grace, the Giants are hoping their newest acquisitions have plenty left in the tank as the club looks to bounce back from a last-place finish in the NL West and a dreadful 98-loss season which ranked as the franchise's third worst season since the club moved out west from the streets of Manhattan, New York.

As for Longoria who has two years remaining on his contract and is coming off his third career Gold Glove Award, the new Giants third baseman should fit in quite well in an infield that has stout defenders all across the board in fellow Gold Glovers Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Spending the first 10 seasons of his big league career with the Tampa Bay Rays where he left as the franchise leader in home runs (261), RBI's (892) and runs scored (780), the 3-time All-Star left behind a similar legacy than the one his new teammate left in Pittsburgh. Like McCutchen, Longoria helped end a funk in Tampa Bay by leading the Rays to their first glimpse of postseason baseball with playoff berths in 2010, 2011 and 2013 as well as the team's one and only World Series appearance in 2008, a season in which Longo was named AL Rookie of the Year. With 2017 being a down year offensively for Longo who hit .261, drove in 86 runs and smacked 20 homers, he still managed to top every Giants hitter in both categories as San Francisco was the only team in the league who failed to produce a single player with 20 HR's. With that in mind, the Giants dealt outfielder Denard Span, their No. 1 prospect Christian Arroyo and two additional prospects to Tampa in exchange for the longest-tenured player in Rays history.
Sure Giants fans would've much rather have seen the brain trust of Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans make the move for the duo much earlier in their careers with both players now in their 30's, McCutchen 31-years old and Longoria 32, but the two bring with them a plethora of experience as well as some well decorated resumes and are tremendous upgrades at their respective positions over what Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to work with the season prior. And for an outfield that had hit 40-some home runs combined a season ago, they're adding a guy who hit 28 dingers on his own in 2017 as McCutchen leaves one pitcher-friendly ballpark for another. Ranking dead last in the league in home runs hit by team, the Giants who hit 128 homers, hit 23 fewer long balls than the next closest team (Pittsburgh). Those additions in the lineup as well as a full season from ace Madison Bumgarner who was lost for nearly three full months after sustaining injuries stemming from a dirt biking accident, figure to help the Giants make a rebound in 2018. And with the division-rival Dodgers, D-Backs and Rockies all making the postseason in 2017 and poised to duplicate the feat, San Francisco will need all the help they can get. And they may not be done making moves.

With Giants skipper Bruce Bochy expected to have McCutchen man right field and shift Hunter Pence from right to left, a center fielder could very well be next on the list as such free-agent names as Carlos Gonzales, Cameron Maybin, Jon Jay, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain have all been rumored as well as a possible trade for Billy Hamilton of the Reds. However, the possibility of signing Cain who at one point seemed like a lock to land in San Francisco, now appears like a long shot given how close to the luxury tax threshold the Giants now are after acquiring McCutchen who will make just over $14 Million in 2018, with Pittsburgh dishing out $2.5 Million. So until the first pitch of the regular season is thrown, don't rule anything out just yet as the G-Men could very well be in the news again with yet another move being made.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

49ers Romp Rams to Finish 2017 Strong

Week 17 - Playing their last bit of football until the 2018 season, the (5-10) San Francisco 49ers would pay a visit to Los Angeles to take on the (11-4) Rams in the 2017 regular season finale. In what would be the 137th all-time meeting between the two, the New Years eve match-up would provide only a small taste of what should be a revival of the long standing rivalry for many years to come. With a young core of players and coaches alike, the 49ers and Rams have brewing what could be one of the better rivalries in all of football for 2018 and beyond. For Los Angeles who's already equipped to fit that bill, all they'll need is for San Francisco to hold their end of the bargain. Having solidified themselves as the top team in the NFC West thanks to the tutelage of first year head coach Sean McVay, the newly crowned Los Angeles Rams have the pieces in place to be a force out west for quite some time. As for the rebuilding 49ers, rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan has to also like his chances moving forward now that he finally has a quarterback in place that fits his complex system.

A week after clinching their first NFC West division title since 2003 and earning their first playoff appearance since 2004, the Rams would have little to prove on Sunday as McVay elected to sit a majority of his starters in preparation for next week's Wild Card meeting with the Atlanta Falcons. But no matter who the Rams threw out there, Jimmy Garoppolo and the suddenly streaking 49ers were on a mission to continue their winning ways by closing the regular season strong. Entering Sunday's game with an NFL-best four game winning-streak, Garoppolo and company would march down the field on each of their first two possessions. A week after scoring their first 1st quarter touchdown of the season which snapped a streak of 13 consecutive games without one, the 49ers repeated the feat as receiver Marquise Goodwin hauled in a pass from Garoppolo and ran into the end zone untouched to give his team an early 10-0 lead. Equally as impressive would be the San Francisco defense who forced back to back three and outs on each of the Rams' first two possessions as backup QB Sean Mannion had a rough outing in his first career start. And while his counterpart would start off hot, Jimmy G. would have his fair share of woes as well.
Facing their largest first quarter deficit this season since a Week 14 shootout with the Philadelphia Eagles, a pair of Sam Ficken field goals would be all the Los Angeles offense would have to show for in the first half, capitalizing on two Jimmy Garoppolo interceptions. Rookie cornerback Kevin Peterson would make the most of his first career start, getting the best of Garoppolo both times by picking the 49ers QB off for the first two interceptions of his career. San Francisco on the other hand, would take a 20-6 lead into the half following the second field goal of the day by Robbie Gould and the first of two touchdowns by running back Carlos Hyde. The Niners would watch their lead climb to 34-6 following Hyde's second rushing touchdown as well as a 12-yard passing touchdown from Garoppolo to a wide-open Aldrick Robinson on the first play of the fourth quarter. Though it would take the Rams until the fourth quarter to pay a visit to the end zone, Lance Dunbar would cap a 15-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown to make it a final score of 34-13.

Rushing for 88 yards in the win, Carlos Hyde who had not recorded a lost fumble all season long, would be stripped of the ball and charged with his first lost fumble of the season with just over four minutes remaining in regulation, putting a dent in his unblemished 2017 resume. The two turnovers forced by the Niner defense on Sunday would come in the form of fumbles as Cassius Marsh and Ahkello Witherspoon forced fumbles on Sean Mannion and Gerald Everett, respectively. A scary moment in the game would come midway through the second quarter when 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin took a blow to the head after being struck by Blake Countess, forcing him to leave the game as he was carted off the field and treated for a concussion. Goodwin who's been Garoppolo's most trusted receiver since his arrival, would fall just 38 yards shy of the century mark on the year, finishing with a career-high 962 receiving yards, surpassing the total he had compiled over his previous four seasons combined. Goodwin also finished the season with an average of 17.2 yards per reception, the fourth most in the NFL.
With the win on Sunday, the 49ers closed out the season with an overall record of 6-10 and riding the best standing winning-streak in the league, this following the dreadful 0-9 start that had many pundits questioning whether or not the Niners would ever touch the win column in 2017. The Niners also remained undefeated in games in which Garoppolo started as he became just the 6th QB in NFL history to win his first 7 career starts. With Goodwin departing in the first half due to injury, Garoppolo's go-to target would be rookie tight-end George Kittle who hauled in four passes for a career-high 100 yards. Garoppolo would finish with 292 yards, two touchdowns and 2 interceptions on the afternoon compared to Mannion's 169 yards. Robbie Gould who entered Sunday having made 20 consecutive field goals, added another pair to his streak, finishing his solid first year as a 49er with 39 made field goals in 41 tries. Focusing on 2018, the Niners will look to continue their winning ways as the duo of Shanahan and Garoppolo hope to see similar results since Garoppolo's arrival, the only difference is they plan to do so while playing meaningful football.

As for the Rams who finished the season with an overall record of 11-5, coach Sean McVay who's name will be in the hat for NFL Coach of the Year honors, witnessed a +7 win improvement from his team in his first year at the helm and will only look to improve on that mark moving forward. Already known for having a stout defense, McVay also did wonders for the Rams offense in 2017 which rebounded from being the worst offense in the league to being the No. 1 offense in all of football. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff who was taken first overall out of Cal a season ago, adapted quite well to McVay's system and resembled the franchise quarterback Rams brass were expecting when they selected him first overall. And then there's running back Todd Gurley III who led the league in rushing touchdowns (13) and could very well become the first non-quarterback to win the MVP Award since Adrian Peterson in 2012. With both Goff and Gurley getting some much needed rest in time for their Wild Card match-up versus the defending NFC Champion Falcons on Saturday, the Rams will look to move one step closer to their ultimate goal of bringing a Lombardi Trophy back to southern California.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Monday, December 25, 2017

49ers, Garoppolo Route League's Best Defense for 4th straight Win

Week 16 - Entering Sunday's meeting with the playoff-bound (10-4) Jacksonville Jaguars, the (4-10) San Francisco 49ers would once again look to play the role of spoiler while also keeping their recent winning-streak alive. After throwing a wrench into the works of the playoff-hopeful Tennessee Titans a week ago, the 49ers would look to duplicate that success against a Jacksonville team still vying for a top 2 seed to secure a first-round BYE in the AFC's Wild Card round. But if the red-hot 49ers had any plans of increasing their winning-streak to four consecutive games, Jimmy Garoppolo and company would need to knock off the NFL's number one defense. Something Jimmy G. and the rest of the 49ers offense would have very little trouble with on Sunday as the Niners QB often spent the day carving the league's best defense like a Christmas day ham.

With San Francisco receiving the opening kickoff, Garoppolo would pick up right where he left off with a blazing start to orchestrate the 49ers' first opening-drive touchdown of the season, running 10-plays before Garoppolo rushed it in himself from the 1-yard line. Garoppolo would finish his first career rushing touchdown with an emphatic spike in the end zone while receiving daps and pounds from his Niner teammates. Even more impressive, San Francisco's opening-drive touchdown would also be the first surrendered by Jacksonville since Week 10 of the 2016 season. After setting an NFL record with 15 made field goals in three games the last three weeks, Niners kicker Robbie Gould who was named the NFC's special-teams Player of the Week for the second time this month, would have a much quieter day on Sunday. Having made 20 consecutive field goals since his last miss, Gould would be called upon for only one field goal as San Francisco scored on each of their first two possessions to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. And what an odd quarter it would be, as Jacksonville who was tied for the second best first quarter point-differential (+51) in the league entering Sunday, found themselves trailing by two scores against a San Francisco team boasting the NFL's worst first quarter point-differential (-49).
The opening minutes of the second quarter would be equally as unforgiving to the Jags as quarterback Blake Bortles had a pass intercepted and taken to the house to give the 49ers a 16-0 lead before Gould had his extra-point attempt blocked and returned for two-points to put Jacksonville on the board. Bortles' pick-six would snap a streak of 98 consecutive passes without an interception and would ultimately be a sign of bad things to come for the Jags QB, but not before a pair of Jacksonville touchdowns tied things up at 16-all. After a rushing touchdown by rookie running back Leonard Fournette, Garoppolo would again march his team down the field, but their plan to score would be halted as the 49er QB was pressured into lobbing up a pass that was intercepted in the end zone. Thanks to a bit of luck, Bortles would capitalize on the lone 49er turnover as his pass into the end zone bounced off of one receiver and into the lap of another with 14 seconds remaining, tying the game just before the half. The Jags' scoring barrage would continue into quarter number three as Jacksonville made it a 19-0 run to take their first lead of the game on kicker Josh Lambo's field goal.

The 49ers would open the second half with only the second three and out since Garoppolo was named the starter, but Jacksonville's lead would be short lived as Bortles was picked off by K'Waun Williams who made his first career interception worthy of the highlight reel. Several plays later, Garoppolo would find tight-end George Kittle for the touchdown. Setting things up for a wild fourth quarter that would see a combined five touchdowns scored, Garoppolo would kick things off by displaying some of his baseball skills with a sidearm pass into the end zone to receiver Trent Taylor. Looking to answer, Bortles would be picked off for a third time on Jacksonville's first play following the touchdown. Three plays later, Carlos Hyde would join the party with a 6-yard touchdown run to make it a 37-19 ballgame with under 9 minutes remaining. But just when it appeared the 49ers were going to run away with it, the Jags came storming back with a touchdown of their own, capped by a successful two-point conversion. Making things even more interesting, Jacksonville would recover the ensuing onside-kick. Three plays and 26-seconds later, the Jags would pull within four points as Bortles threw for his second touchdown pass of the afternoon.
Trailing 37-33, four points would be as close as Jacksonville would get down the final stretch as Lambo missed the extra-point and Jacksonville's ensuing onside-kick went out of bounds as tempers began to flare. Failing to keep their cool, the Jags defense would be called for their second unsportsmanlike penalty of the second half when defensive-tackle Malik Jackson was flagged for a headbutt, costing his team a crucial 15-yards. San Francisco would welcome the extra 15-yards with open arms as 49ers backup running back Matt Breida dealt the decisive blow, striking for pay dirt with a 30-yard rushing touchdown to send the Levi's faithful into a frenzy. With the clock hitting double-zero, the 49ers would walk away with the 44-33 victory, marking the first time an NFL game would finish with a final score of 44-33, playoffs included. The 44-point outburst by San Francisco is the most points allowed by Jacksonville this year and would mark the first game in which the 49ers scored 40+ points since their last meeting with the Jags back on Oct. 27, 2013 on the road in London.

As for the defense, former Jags linebacker coach and current 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, would get the best of the team he spent the last three seasons with as the San Francisco defense forced three turnovers with a trio of interceptions. A week after holding the opposition to under 100 yards rushing for the third consecutive week for the first time since 2013, the Niner D made it four straight after holding Fournette to under 50-yards on 18 rushing attempts. Throwing for 382 yards in the loss, Jags QB Blake Bortles would help his team amass more than 400 yards of offense for the fourth straight game. And though Garoppolo would throw for 140 fewer yards than his counterpart (242 yards on 21 of 30 pass attempts), he's the only QB in the NFL this year to log a QB rating of 100+ against the Jacksonville defense. With the win, Garoppolo improves to 6-0 in his career, the best start to an NFL career since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and becomes the first Niner QB to ever go 4-0 to start their 49er career. San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk who is the only member of the 49ers to be named to this year's NFL Pro Bowl, would set a career-high in receiving yards in the first half of Sunday's game before finishing with a team-high 76-yards on 5 receptions, including a 44-yarder.
With the loss, the Jags fall to 2-11 all-time when playing in the Pacific time-zone and 10-5 on the year as the loss eliminates them from clinching a first-round BYE. As for whoever faces Jacksonville in the first round of the playoffs two weeks from now, a smart thing to do would be to dissect the footage of how Garoppolo and the 49er offense took them to school on Sunday as the mixture of play-action calls and constant men-in-motion played a key role in catching the Jags defense off-guard after they allowed a season-high 226 yards in the first half.

Week 17 Preview - Closing out the season on the road against a division rival, coach Kyle Shanahan will look to make it five straight victories as the 49ers pay a visit to the L.A. Coliseum to take on the (11-4) Rams. With both teams meeting back in Week 3, a 41-39 barn burner, both squads have taken on entirely different identities than the teams we saw in the Rams close victory on Thursday Night. While the Rams had yet to hit their stride and were still a team of mystery at the time of their Week 3 win, the 49ers were just three games into what would eventually be a nine-game losing streak. But with Los Angeles proving that they're for real to the tune of a 11-4 record and sending the franchise to their first playoff appearance since 2004 and the 49ers turning things around since the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo, Sunday's regular season finale probably won't equate to what we should be seeing from these two young teams for many years to come moving forward. Claiming their first NFC Western Division crown since 2003, Rams head coach Sean McVay who's in his first year at the helm and has done as good a job with his team as anyone in the league this year, might lean towards sitting a few of his guys to avoid injury, but doesn't necessarily want to take them out of their rhythm either. Most notably QB Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley III who's bounced back from a sophomore slump and has emerged as a true MVP candidate. Either way, the Rams defense figures to be yet another test for Jimmy G. and the suddenly streaking 49er offense who will look to close the season out on a strong note with their fifth straight victory. 

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Monday, December 18, 2017

It's a G Thing: Garoppolo & Gould Shine as Niners Win Third Straight

Week 15 - Coming off their first multi-game winning-streak in three seasons, the new-look San Francisco 49ers who have begun to finally resemble an NFL team behind the recently acquired Jimmy Garoppolo, kept on rolling as they returned home to Levi's Stadium on Sunday. Hosting the Wild Card hopeful (8-5) Tennessee Titans, coach Kyle Shanahan's Niners would look to improve on their recent winning ways while also playing the role of spoiler against a team vying for a playoff spot. And while the previous two wins against a pair of lowly opponents were nice, a win over an above average Tennessee team would be yet another step in the right direction for this young 49ers squad.

The opening-drive by San Francisco which would result in a Robbie Gould field goal, would be an omen of things to come for the Niners who were able to move the ball rather easily but forced to settle for field goals as Gould registered another busy day in the kicking department. Struggling to score a first quarter touchdown for the 11th consecutive game, the 49ers would jump out to 6-0 lead before Tennessee answered with a field goal of their own to cut the deficit in half. Looking to ditch the field goals for a touchdown, the third time would be a charm for San Francisco as Jimmy Garoppolo capped off a 17-play drive by connecting in the end zone with tight-end Garrett Celek for the second time in as many weeks. Setting a career-high in touchdown receptions with four, Celek's score coupled with another Robbie Gould field goal would make it a 16-3 ballgame as San Francisco scored on each of their first four possessions for the first time this season. But the Titans would manage to inch a bit closer before the end of the half as quarterback Marcus Mariota found former 49er tight-end Delanie Walker in the end zone for a touchdown, allowing Walker to redeem himself after turning the ball over one possession earlier with a fumble.
After taking a lead into the half for only the third time this season, the 49ers would quickly witness that lead evaporate as Delanie Walker's touchdown sparked a streak of 17 unanswered-points for Tennessee who went from trailing 16-3 to leading 20-16 following Mariota's second touchdown pass of the afternoon. The Titans touchdown just three plays into the fourth quarter would ignite an intense final quarter that saw four lead changes before this one was finally decided. Answering Tennessee's touchdown with another pair of field goals to give San Francisco the lead again, Mariota led the Titans on an 11-play drive that would set up kicker Ryan Succop for a go-ahead 50-yard field goal. With 1:07 remaining in regulation and his team trailing 23-22, Jimmy Garoppolo would go to work, marching his team down the field after connecting on passes to three different targets -- Trent Taylor, George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin, to move the ball 45-yards before a short run by running back Carlos Hyde set things up for Robbie Gould who would once again be called upon to be the savior. And like he's done so often this season, Gould would answer the call, splitting the uprights from 45-yards out to give the Niners the dramatic 25-23 victory as time expired. Entering the game with the longest active streak in the NFL with 14 consecutive made field goals, Gould went one step further by adding another five field goals on Sunday to improve his streak to 19, in what figures to be another Pro-Bowl season for the 13-year veteran.

With his parents in attendance, Garoppolo would put on a show for his family and the 49er Faithful as he threw for 381 yards, becoming the first Niner QB with back to back 300-yard performances since Jeff Garcia in 2000. While the running game saw a quiet day from both Carlos Hyde (25 yards) and Matt Breida (16 yards), receiver Marquise Goodwin recorded another productive game under Garoppolo, recording game-highs in receptions (10) and receiving yards (114). Though San Francisco's 2017 season has been over and well decided for weeks now, Garoppolo has breathed life back into the franchise and has given fans and team brass hope moving forward. Since naming Garoppolo the starting quarterback heading into Week 13, the team that had one victory through the first 11 weeks and often struggled to remotely resemble an NFL team, has now pulled off three straight victories and appears to be having a good time while doing so as 49ers general manager John Lynch even made it out onto the field to congratulate his new QB and celebrate Sunday's wild win the moment Gould's game-winning kick made it through the uprights. And though there's still plenty of work to be done moving forward, this team is finally making strides in the right direction. As for the Tennessee Titans who fall to 8-6 on the season following the loss, their chances of winning the division which were already slim prior to Sunday's loss, took another major hit as they remain in a three-way tie in the Wild Card along with (8-6) Kansas City and (8-6) Buffalo.
Week 16 Preview - After pulling off the upset victory over the Titans, the 49ers will now aim their attention to one of the best defenses in the league as the red-hot (10-4) Jacksonville Jaguars pay a visit to Levi's. Winners of three straight and 7 of their last 8, the Jags are coming off a 45-7 dismantling of division-rival Houston and are looking to continue their recent dominance despite already clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2007. Behind quarterback Blake Bortles who has logged three straight solid starts in which he's eclipsed the 300-yard mark twice and has thrown for 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, the Jags have scored 24-points or more in four straight outings and are expected to get their starting running back Leonard Fournette back on the field versus San Francisco after sitting out of Sunday's game with a quad injury. The former LSU standout who has missed three games this season due to injury, is still 77-yards shy of the 1,000 yard plateau in his and will look to capture that feat against a 49ers defense that has stepped up against the run as of late, allowing an average of only 3.7 yards per carry to opposing backs the last six weeks. SF will look to improve on that feat and keep Fournette and the number one rushing team in the league in line and force Bortles to get the job done through the air. If San Francisco's offensive-line can keep their QB on his feet and Garoppolo can catch the Jacksonville defense off-guard, the 49ers just might be able to keep things rolling and put a dent in the Jags' stellar record.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Niners Oust Texans for Second Straight Win

Week 14 - With the (2-10) San Francisco 49ers heading into Week 14 coming off their first road victory of the season and second win overall, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the new-look Niners would head into Houston in search of their first pair of back to back road victories since 2014 and first multi-game winning-streak under rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan. A week after setting a franchise record for the most passing yards by a 49ers QB making his debut, Garoppolo would set a career-high in that same category on Sunday against a good Texans defense that has been without its captain in J.J. Watt since Week 5.

Getting off to yet another slow start on offense, San Francisco would fail to score a first quarter touchdown for a ninth consecutive game as Houston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a career-long 55-yard field goal from kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn. Threatening to answer with a score of their own, the 49ers offense would march to the Houston 34-yard line before Garoppolo was picked-off for the second time of his career on a botched play by he and receiver Trent Taylor who stopped and turned instead of cutting like Garoppolo had anticipated. Sunday's game would also turn out to be another busy one for Niners kicker Robbie Gould who followed up a five field goal performance a week ago against the Bears which helped him take home NFC Special-teams Player of the Week honors for Week 13, with four more made field goals in this one. With the game tied at 3 with less than three minutes remaining in the second quarter, both teams would exchange touchdowns just before the half. Ignited by a pair of big receptions by 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk who hauled in passes of 29 and 31 yards, running back Carlos Hyde put the finishing touches on the successful drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
Houston would be quick to answer on their ensuing possession led by an impressive nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive orchestrated by third-string QB T.J. Yates who would enter the game in place of the injured Tom Savage. Savage would leave the game in the 2nd quarter after suffering a concussion following a hard hit on third down by 49ers defensive-end Elvis Dumervil. It would be a scary moment as the Texans QB was seen lying on the ground with his hands twitching in what some experts fear was a possible seizure. Making matters worse, Savage would return on Houston's following possession, taking three more snaps before having to punt on a three and out. Savage would try making his way back onto the field one possession later before being stopped by a member of the medical staff who would escort him to the locker room, putting an end to his day. Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins would haul in his first of two touchdown receptions on the afternoon to bring Houston within a point with under a minute remaining. And while it appeared both teams would head into the half even at 10-points apiece, Houston would fail to convert on the extra-point as Fairbairn's kick went wide left. San Francisco would have other plans as Carlos Hyde crept into enemy territory with a 31-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive. Garoppolo would move the ball another 31-yards in three plays before setting up Robbie Gould for a 35-yard field goal to help San Francisco jump out to a 13-9 lead at halftime.

Opening the second half, the Texans offense would pick up right where they left off in quarter number two as Yates and Hopkins connected once again in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown from 29-yards out. Unfortunately for them, it would be the last time Houston would score as they were shutout in the 4th quarter and watched as the 49ers put up 13 unanswered-points. After a field goal to tie it, tight-end Garrett Celek would break a tackle and turn up the field for a 61-yard completion that would set up Garoppolo's second touchdown of the season as he appropriately awarded Celek by throwing to him near the goal-line. Things would settle down as a series of punts from both teams kept it a one-possession game before a costly fumble by DeAndre Hopkins allowed San Francisco to take a double-digit lead as Robbie Gould registered just another day at the office by converting on his fourth field goal of the day. The Texans would get as close to the San Francisco 34-yard line to set up Fairbairn for a 52-yard field goal to make it a one-score game, but his kick would crash into the left upright, sealing the 26-16 win to make it two in a row for Shanahan and the Niners.
With the win, Garoppolo improves his career record to 4-0, becoming just the second QB in the last 13 seasons to win his first four starts, joining Broncos QB Trevor Siemian (2016). Jimmy G. finished with a career-best 334 passing yards in Sunday's win, giving him 627 yards in his first two starts in a Niner uniform, the most by a 49ers QB in the team's history since the merger in 1970. Meanwhile, the team improves to 3-10 on the season after logging their first winning-streak since a three-game win-streak in Weeks 10-12 in 2014. Along with Garoppolo, the accurate kicking of Robbie Gould has played a huge role in San Francisco posting back to back road wins for the first time since the Jim Harbaugh era as Gould has now connected on 14 straight field goals for the second time this season after beginning the year having made 15 straight. 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin also seems to be enjoying his new quarterback under center as the speedy Goodwin has caught 14 passes for 205 yards with Garoppolo as the starter, including a team-high 106 yards on Sunday and trailing only DeAndre Hopkins' 11 grabs and 149 yards for the game. Running back Carlos Hyde finished with 78 yards on 14 carries to lead all rushers and the 49er defense held Texans back Lamar Miller to only 53 yards on the ground in 17 attempts.

Week 15 Preview - Next on the schedule for the 49ers is a home game against the (8-5) Tennessee Titans who are currently in the AFC playoff picture for the second Wild Card but are coming off a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Returning to Levi's Stadium for what will be the first home start for QB Jimmy Garoppolo since joining the Niners, Jimmy G. and company will welcome the struggling Marcus Mariota who has already thrown for more interceptions this year (14) than he did in either of his first two seasons, while also nursing a banged up left knee. But Mariota won't be the only one the Niner defense will have to keep tabs on as the unpredictable but dangerous running back tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry look to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Sunday's loss as they combined to rush for just 54 yards on 19 carries. Sunday's game will also see the return of former 49er tight-end Delanie Walker who spent his first 7 seasons with the Niners before signing with Tennessee in 2013 where he's developed into one of the league's better tight-ends and has been named to a pair of Pro Bowl's since joining the Titans. With Tennessee trailing the (9-4) Jacksonville Jaguars who currently lead the AFC South by a game, the 49ers could play spoiler down the stretch with a win on Sunday, and could also put a dent in Jacksonville's hopes to lock up the No. 1 overall seed as they'll make a trip to Levi's the following week.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Former Bear Gould Plays Hero in 49ers Win at Chicago

Week 13 - In a match-up between two under-performing teams, Jimmy Garoppolo and the (1-10) San Francisco 49ers would pay a visit to the windy city to take on Mitch Trubisky and the (3-8) Chicago Bears. With San Francisco leading the all-time series versus Chicago by a slim margin entering Sunday at 33-31-1, Sunday's game would be another close affair in the latest chapter of the 49ers-Bears rivalry. Making only the third start of his career and first in a 49ers uniform, newcomer Jimmy Garoppolo would impress in his return home with a little help from a former Chicago Bear. Having grown up just 26 miles north of Soldier Field in Arlington Heights, Jimmy G. would make quite the impression on Niner fans as he helped lead San Francisco to their second victory of the season and first on the road. It would also be a memorable day for former Bears kicker Robbie Gould who was kept busy all afternoon long while providing all the scoring the Niners would need on Sunday to beat the team he spent 11 seasons with. A year after being cut by the team Gould set multiple franchise records with for most career points and field goals made, the 35-year old kicker would connect on five field goals to exact his revenge in his first return to Soldier Field as a member of the visiting team, including the game-winning field goal with seconds to spare.

Having trailed in 62% of minutes played this season (3rd most in the NFL), Garoppolo would lead the San Francisco offense down the field on their opening possession before fizzling out in the red zone and having to settle for a Robbie Gould field goal, something they would make a trend out of virtually all afternoon long as all five of Gould's field goals came inside the 20. The Niners' inability to strike pay dirt would be the result of multiple red zone penalties. Chicago on the other hand would make only one trip inside the red zone on Sunday, but would make the most of it as Trubisky capitalized with an 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Deontrelle Inman who hauled in his first score as a member of the Bears. Helping set up Chicago's touchdown would be a 49er turnover as Garoppolo was charged with an interception, the first of his career, on a ball that was stripped from the receiver as Bears corner Kyle Fuller wrestled the ball out of Louis Murphy's hands before both players fell to the ground. The so called "interception" which was more of a fumble than anything, would set the table for Trubisky while also ending a streak of 104 career passes without an interception for Garoppolo.
Aside from Trubisky's lone touchdown pass, rookie running back Tarik Cohen would provide the rest of Chicago's offensive fireworks with an explosive 61-yard punt return to give his team a 14-6 lead in the first half. After being surrounded by multiple Niner defenders and appearing to be dead in his tracks on the punt return, Cohen reversed from sideline to sideline before bursting up the middle for a special teams touchdown that would've made Devin Hester blush. It would mark the first punt returned for a touchdown by a Chicago Bear against the Niners since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers took one to the house in 1967. A man of many traits, Cohen has dazzled in his rookie campaign and now has a passing touchdown, receiving touchdown, rushing touchdown and special teams touchdown under his belt this season. The special teams score would be a wake up call for a San Francisco squad that has been the best coverage unit in the NFL thus far, having held opponents to an average of 2.5 yards per return before Cohen's big play. A pair of Niner weapons would make some big plays of their own on Sunday as rookie receiver Trent Taylor and speedster Marquise Goodwin each eclipsed the 90-yards receiving mark while combining for 14 receptions and helping Garoppolo set a new career-high in passing yards.

Completing 26 of 37 pass attempts (70%), Garoppolo finished with 293 yards through the air as San Francisco held onto the ball for a season-high 38:47 in time of possession. Though it's still very early in the career of Garoppolo who has only three career starts to his name, the newest member of the Niners received some high praise from running back and fellow San Francisco teammate Carlos Hyde who said Jimmy G. reminded him of, "a young Tom Brady." And while he's still light years away from being held in the same regard as one of the game's all-time greats, it's safe to say the two share a handful of similar traits as Garoppolo displayed a comfort level that I wouldn't have imagined possible behind an offensive-line as spotty as San Francisco's. Garoppolo also excelled on third down (10 of 18), an area the Niners offense has been exceptionally awful in this season as the ten third down conversions were the most by a 49er team since 2007. Taking over with just under five and a half minutes remaining in regulation and trailing 14-12, Garoppolo made excellent work of the field and game-clock on San Francisco's final possession as he helped march his team 86-yards into field goal position while eating up 5:23 of time to set up kicker Robbie Gould who put the dagger into the heart of his former team with his fifth field of the day to give the 49ers the 15-14 win.
Week 14 Preview - Continuing their road trip, the 49ers will travel to Houston to take on the (4-8) Texans. Coming off a 24-13 loss to the division rival Titans on the road, the Texans will look to bounce back as they return to Reliant Stadium and play host to Garoppolo and the Niners. One of Kyle Shanahan's earliest employers in the NFL where he spent a total of four seasons as the team's wide receivers and quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator, Shanahan hopes to break even against his former employers after a Week ? loss to the Washington Redskins whom Shanahan also worked for in the past. Backed by a solid defense that features one of the most dominant defensive-lines in all of football, even without perennial Pro Bowler J.J. Watt who is out for the year with a ? injury, Garoppolo will be on high alert all afternoon long. The same can be said about the San Francisco secondary which will have to keep close tabs on one of the NFL's best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins who has tallied nine receiving touchdowns on the season and has already eclipsed the 1,000 yards receiving mark for the third time in five years. Throwing to Hopkins will be Texans quarterback Tom Savage who is looking to improve off a career-high 365 yards passing on 31 of 49 pass attempts in Sunday's loss. One way to limit Savage in the passing game will be getting to the QB who has had a hard time hanging onto the ball when he's being pressured as he's fumbled the ball eight times this year, losing seven.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Garoppolo Debuts in 49ers Loss to Seattle

Week 12 - Coming off their BYE week and playing host to the rival (6-4) Seahawks in damp and windy Santa Clara, the (1-9) 49ers would get their first glimpse of their expected quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo as starter C.J. Beathard would fall to injury late. Looking to avoid their ninth straight loss to Seattle entering Sunday, San Francisco had hopes of taking advantage of a banged up Seattle secondary missing both Cam Chancellor and Richard Sherman due to injury. Factor in some poor weather along with the plethora of injuries from both sides and you'd get an ugly first two quarters of football as both teams failed to get much of anything going in a sloppy first half which featured 11 punts combined.

After receiving a gift thanks to the elements as 49ers kicker Bradley Pinion's opening kickoff blew out of bounds setting Seattle up at the 40-yard line, QB Russell Wilson would get picked off on the very first play of the game for the first time in his career as Eric Reid came up with the early interception. Sadly, San Francisco would fail to do anything with it as Seattle forced a three and out. Showing promise on their following possession, Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh who had missed a 52-yard field goal in Seattle's Monday night loss to the Falcons which would have sent the game into overtime, failed to convert on a 48-yard try. With a scoreless first quarter in the books, 49ers QB C.J. Beathard would have his pass intended for receiver Trent Taylor intercepted as linebacker Bobby Wagner out-wrestled Taylor for the ball to set his team up inside the red zone. Wilson would trot into the end zone untouched just two plays later as Seattle struck first to take a 7-0 lead. Despite the touchdown, Wilson who entered Sunday's game among the top 3 in the NFL in percentage of teams offense (1st), passing yards (2nd), and touchdown passes (3rd), had a rather pedestrian first half as the San Francisco defense held him to only 80 yards passing. However, the 49er offense wouldn't have a whole lot to cheer about in the first half either as they managed to get on the board via a Robbie Gould field goal just before halftime, cutting the deficit to four.
Trailing 7-3 entering the second half, the 49ers would settle for a second field goal to pull within a point, but that's as close as they would get as Wilson and company answered with touchdowns on each of Seattle's first two second half possessions. The second of which coming on a touchdown pass to tight-end Jimmy Graham on the first play of the fourth quarter, allowing Wilson to accomplish a milestone that only three others had achieved before him. Joining Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan as the only four quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 150 TD's in their first six seasons. He would later add another accolade to his resume as he eclipsed the 3,000 passing yards mark to become one of just four players to log 3,000+ passing yards in each of his first six seasons, something only Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Peyton Manning had done before him. Having suffered from a poor offensive-line virtually all season long, the Niner defense was unable to record a single sack on Wilson all afternoon as head coach Pete Carroll's fifth different o-line combo of the season paid dividends for their Pro Bowl quarterback. This after allowing three QB sacks to the San Francisco defense in their previous match-up.

After being held out of the end zone by the Seattle defense in their Week 2 meeting, the 49ers would avoid a repeat performance in the rematch as they managed to score a garbage time touchdown when the recently acquired Jimmy Garoppolo made his Niner debut while filling in for an injured C.J. Beathard. Trailing 24-6 with under 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Beathard marched the San Francisco offense inside the red zone to the 18-yard line before being shaken up by a hit from Seahawks defensive-end Micheal Bennett, as the rookie QB was attended to on the field before heading to the sideline with just over a minute to play. With wins in his only two career starts, both as a member of the Patriots, Garoppolo looked good in the handful of plays he saw. After a 5-yard scramble on his first play under center and facing 4th down with 5 yards to go, Garoppolo connected with receiver Aldrick Robinson to move the chains. He would find Louis Murphy in the end zone one play later as time expired, giving San Francisco their one and only highlight of the afternoon as he finished 2 for 2 with 18 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers fell 24-13. 49ers running back Carlos Hyde who remains the only active player in the league to rush for over 100-yards against Seattle in their own home, was held in check for the most part on Sunday, finishing with a game-high 47-yards rushing on 16 carries.
Week 13 Preview - For San Francisco who was hoping to keep Garoppolo off the field this season in preparation for a clean slate and fresh start come 2018, the highly coveted QB who was acquired from New England at the trade deadline for a 2018 2nd round pick and is expected to be Kyle Shanahan's quarterback of the future, may see more action this season than originally planned depending on how quickly he adjusts to Shanahan's system and whether or not Beathard is healthy enough to return. But one thing that is certain is that Garoppolo will get the green light to start in Week 13 as the team prepares to head to the windy city to take on the 3-8 Chicago Bears. Last in the NFC North, the Bears have lost four straight behind the struggles of rookie QB Mitch Trubisky who Chicago traded up one spot to get from the 49ers in this year's Draft and are coming off a 31-3 shellacking of the Philadelphia Eagles. Held to only 140 net yards in their loss to Philly, the Bears figure to be one of the more favorable opponents for the 49ers as they eye their second win of the season and first on the road under coach Kyle Shanahan. 

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

49ers Taste Victory in Emotional Win over Giants

Week 10 - For the first time in 2017, the San Francisco 49ers are in the win column. Though it would take them much longer than they had hoped, the Niners were able to claim their first victory of the season and first win under the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan regime against a struggling (1-7) New York Giants team. In an emotional game that featured two teams with the fewest amount of wins this late in a season since 1984, the 49ers would ride a season-high in rushing yards (186) on their way to a 31-21 victory. Despite liking their chances of getting win No. 1 of the season entering Sunday's game, San Francisco would still be 3-point underdogs against a team that had been embarrassed at home by a score of 51-17 one week earlier.

With both teams scoring field goals on their opening possessions, the game would quickly jump out to a 3-3 score as the 49ers benefited from a penalty on New York's special-teams which gave San Francisco the ball at their 40-yard line after the opening kickoff failed to reach the end zone and rolled out of bounds. A 28-yard rush by running back Carlos Hyde on the first play from scrimmage and an extra 15-yards tacked on thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty called on New York would set the table for kicker Robbie Gould before being answered by Giants rookie kicker Aldrick Rosas. San Francisco's second possession appeared to be heading in the same direction before being halted on a failed 4th and 1 attempt at New York's 36-yard line. After another Giants field goal, both teams would exchange fumbles as another promising 49er drive went up in flames as fullback Kyle Juszczyk fumbled the ball away for the second consecutive week. But the San Francisco defense would respond just three plays later with a forced fumble of their own as second-year defensive-end Ronald Blair's first of two sacks on Giants QB Eli Manning jarred the ball loose, forcing the turnover.
The biggest story of the day for the 49ers, however, would be that of receiver Marquise Goodwin who had received the unfortunate news that he and his wife had lost their unborn child due to pregnancy complications just hours before kickoff. Courageous enough to still hit the field and play on Sunday, albeit with a heavy heart, Goodwin would show up in a big way for his team as he hauled in his first touchdown reception as a 49er on an 83-yard bomb from rookie QB C.J. Beathard. Though it would be his only reception of the game, it would mark the longest pass reception by a 49er since 2005 as Goodwin used his speed coupled with a stiff-arm to break free of the defender as he struck pay dirt before being overcome with emotion as he dropped to his knees and blew a kiss to the sky. Making his 208th consecutive start, Eli Manning would be quick to respond to his 49er counterpart as he connected in the end zone with tight-end Evan Engram. Entering Sunday, San Francisco had led in games for a league-low 29 minutes and 37 seconds before leading in much of this one as Beathard would help the 49ers jump back ahead on their ensuing possession with a lead that they wouldn't relinquish for the remainder of the afternoon as he found tight-end Garrett Celek for a 47-yard touchdown to give SF a 17-13 lead heading into the half. It would also mark the first time the 49ers would lead heading into halftime this year.

New York would open the second half by marching into field goal range before things went sour after Rosas missed a field goal from 34-yards out. But another 49er turnover would once again put an end to an otherwise nice possession as Beathard was picked off by Olivier Vernon who disrupted a screen pass intended for Matt Breida before tipping it to himself for the interception. It would be the only blemish on the day for Beathard who finally received some protection from his offensive-line as the rookie QB was sack-free all afternoon long, this after taking an absolute beating against the Cardinals a week ago. And on the first play of the fourth quarter, Beathard would rebound from his earlier mishap with an 11-yard touchdown run to make it a 24-13 ballgame for San Francisco's first double-digit lead of the season. That lead would increase one possession later as Breida logged the first rushing touchdown of his career with a 33-yard score to give the Niners a 31-13 advantage. With scoring being a non-factor for the offense on Sunday, San Francisco's punting unit wouldn't be called upon until the 5:46 mark in the 4th quarter.
With the game all but decided, the Giants would get a garbage time touchdown from Manning to receiver Roger Lewis as well as a successful 2-point conversion with just over a minute remaining. But New York's onside-kick attempt would be recovered by the Niners who were able to get into victory formation and milk the clock for the 31-21 win. The victory at home would be San Francisco's first win at Levi's Stadium since their Week 1 shellacking of the Rams over a year ago on Monday Night Football and one that would result in a Gatorade bath inside the 49ers locker room for head coach Kyle Shanahan who was congratulated by his players. Game balls would be given out following the celebration as GM John Lynch personally handed a ball to Goodwin for his courageous efforts and heroics in spite of the family tragedy.

After a career-high in pass attempts (51) in his last outing, quarterback C.J. Beathard (19 for 25) would out-duel Eli Manning (28 for 37) 288 to 273 in the yards department as both QB's threw for a pair of touchdowns and finished with one turnover each. Giants receiver Sterling Shepard would finish with a game-high 142 yards receiving and 11 receptions and Carlos Hyde would lead all backs on the ground, falling two yards shy of the century mark with 98 yards rushing on 17 carries. On the defensive side, 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster tallied double-digit tackles for the second consecutive week with 10 (6 solo, 4 assisted) to lead all tacklers. As for the Giants who dropped to 1-8 on the season for the first time since 1980, New York has now gone 13 games without scoring at least 24-points, the longest active streak in the NFL. The loss also adds some warmth to head coach Ben McAdoo's hot seat as his status to return next season remains up in the air following the Giants' dreadful 1-8 start.

Week 12 Preview - With the 49ers heading into the BYE on a winning note, Kyle Shanahan will look to get his guys mentally and physically ready for their next opponent as the Niners play host to division rival Seattle in Week 12. Since San Francisco's 3-point loss to Seattle in Week 2, the (6-3) Seahawks are looking much better than the team that barely escaped Century Link Field with a win in the first meeting between these two bitter rivals. But after suffering a loss at home just two weeks ago to the Washington Redskins, the Seahawks are still very beatable if the Niners can stick around at home much like they did in their first meeting while applying pressure to QB Russell Wilson. Carlos Hyde will look to add another busy day against the Seahawks defense as his 124-yard performance on the ground in Week 2 remains the only 100-yard performance for the 49er running back this season. Hosting the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons this week, Seattle currently trails the (7-2) L.A. Rams by a game in the NFC Western Division standings.

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