Friday Morning Huddle: Houston, we don't have a problem
The 49ers look to have found their franchise Quarterback. QB Jimmy Garoppolo made his first start in red and gold in the week 13 matchup against the Bears in Chicago. Garoppolo lead his team to a 15-14 victory. Down two points late in the 4thquarter, Garoppolo engineered a 4 minute drive that ended in a field goal to insure the teams 2nd victory of the season. Garoppolo showed poise in the pocket and pinpoint accuracy with a quick release, he was everything the 49ers expected when they traded a 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft to the New England Patriots in exchange for Garoppolo.
Looking ahead to this week’s matchup in Houston to take on the Texans, this is another winnable game for the 49ers. Coming into the season the Texans were looked at as a talented roster that needed a QB. Well they found that QB in Deshaun Watson, who had a fantastic season up until the point he tore his ACL ending his rookie season short. Injuries have been the biggest issue with this Texans team including all pro DE JJ Watt. Can the 49ers use the momentum they have with a road win in Chicago and get back to back wins for the 1st time since 2014?
TDs not FGs
Jimmy Garoppolo took the 49ers offense into the red zone in week 13 5 times, and the team came away with 5 FGs. The red zone issues in week 13 were mostly due to penalties and mental mistakes. On one play RB Carlos Hyde had a 2nd and 1 inside the ten, and missed the hole he was supposed to hit and bounced it outside losing a yard. If Hyde would have hit the proper hole he would have gotten the 1st down and it would have been 1st and goal from the 5. Instead the offense got a penalty on 3rd down and couldn’t get the 1st on a 3rd and long. If the offense doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot in the red zone, the 49ers new QB can use his accuracy and quick release to turn those red zone drives into TDs instead of FGs.
WR Trent Taylor and WR Marquise Goodwin
Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to have found his favorite target on 3rd down, and that’s rookie WR Trent Taylor. Taylor caught all 6 balls thrown his way for 92 yards, one being a key 3rd and 10 for a big gain late in the game that lead to the eventual game winning field goal. Marquise Goodwin also seems to be a favorite target of Garoppolo. He caught all 8 balls thrown his way for 99 yards. Goodwin arguably had his best game of the season. Goodwin and Taylor will need to continue this great play heading into Houston this week.
Give Garoppolo a clean pocket
Garoppolo had a 95.7 passer rating when he was not pressured in week 13. The offensive line did a fantastic job of giving him a clean pocket. Garoppolo also helped the offensive line by getting rid of the ball on time and stepping into a clean pocket when it was available. C Daniel Kilgore and G Laken Tomlinson both had their best games of the season. This was a combination of good play by them and quick passes and decisions by the QB. Good QBs make players around them better, and Garoppolo proved in week 13 that he’s one of those QBs. This week should be no different, when given a clean pocket to work with, Garoppolo will move the offense downfield.
DB Ahkello Witherspoon vs WR DeAndre Hopkins
Texans WR Deandre Hopkins is one of the best players in the game. He has a knack for catching the ball over unsuspecting cornerbacks. This week rookie DB Ahkello Witherspoon will get the task in stopping Hopkins. With the Texans using backup QB Tom Savage at QB, Hopkins hasn’t been quite as effective as he was when Deshaun Watson was the QB, but he is still an elite player that will be difficult to handle. Witherspoon has shown this year that he has what it takes to play in the NFL. But can he be the team’s number one corner, covering the opposing team’s best player’s week in and week out. This week will tell us a lot about what kind of player Witherspoon is.
Coming into the season the Texans were considered a playoff team, now they’re pretty much out of the hunt, mostly due to injuries. This will still be a big test for this young 49ers team. Can the rally around their new found franchise QB and get back to back wins for the 1st time since 2014. HC Kyle Shanahan has the team buying into his system and the way that he wants this team to function. Two wins on a two game road trip will be a great place to start for this young and up and coming football team.