Week 13 recap: Jimmy Garoppolo gets first 49ers win, San Francisco beats Chicago, 15-14

K Robbie Gould had a sweet Chicago homecoming, kicking the game-winning field goal to help the 49ers beat the Bears, 15-14.

Post-Game Review
We have found a QB, 49ers fans. In Sunday’s 15-14 victory over the Bears, Jimmy Garoppolo put in an amazing first start for a 49er team that needs improved QB play, and showed he can be Kyle Shanahan’s guy for the long haul. The 49ers defense also had a great day, capitalizing on the Bears general inefficiencies on offense.

Christmas came early for 49ers fans with Garoppolo’s improved play, going 26 for 37 with 297 yards on the day. Garoppolo showed an astounding combination of arm strength and accuracy, and was incredibly poised for a QB in his first game in Shanahan’s system. His passes had a lot of zip on them, especially when compared to Hoyer and Beathard, but his accuracy stole the show. He consistently hit his receivers in stride and in spots where only they can catch it. One bad decision was a pass to a triple-covered Louis Murphy, a pass Murphy somehow made, but other than that Jimmy G was a stud in every facet of the game. He did throw an interception, but it wasn’t his fault as Murphy had the ball ripped from him on the way down.

Even with a marked improvement of QB play, the offense couldn’t get the ground game going and couldn’t get the ball into the endzone, relying on Robbie Gould to kick 5 field goals to win. Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Kyle Juszczyk‏, and Garoppolo combined for 110 yards on the ground, but averaged a meager 3.2 yards per carry (34 carries). The 49ers redzone offense struggled mightily today, committing 7 penalties inside the Bears 20-yard line. This prevented the 49ers from punching the ball in any of the 5 times they were in the redzone. The penalties will be something the 49ers will improve on in the future, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating right now. Luckily, Robbie Gould got revenge on his old team, connecting on all 5 of his field goal attempts. One stat that should be noted is the 49ers stellar performance on third down, converting 55 percent (10/18) of their opportunities compared to their season average of 34 percent.

The 49ers defense made light work of a Bears offense that has ranked 29th in both total yards per game and points per game. Mitchell Trubisky was 12 of 15 on his pass attempts, but barely cracked 100 yards (102 yards). He threw an 8-yard touchdown to Dontrelle Inman after Garoppolo’s interception, but other than that, they didn’t make another trip to the redzone and didn’t have another offensive touchdown. The Bears dynamic backfield of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard was held to a combined total of 43 yards on 15 carries (2.8 ypc), and Trubisky added 19 yards on the ground on 4 carries.

Reuben Foster led the 49ers defense in tackles, again, with 7. Foster is finally coming into his own after battling through injuries and looks like the beast he was in college at Alabama. Number 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas also had a good game, applying pressure and a QB hit on Trubisky, two players familiar with one another after Thomas’ dominating Sun Bowl performance in college this past season.

Jimmy Garoppolo and Robbie Gould share the MVP honor this week because they were the leaders on the offense today. Garoppolo came out in his first game as a starter for the 49ers and put together a magnificent performance and showed he can be the guy of the future for the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan. Gould was there to mop up the 49ers redzone inefficiencies, and accounted for all the points scored in this game. He had a great game against his former team, and his nearly-automatic year continues with a perfect 5-5 from the field, giving the 49ers just enough points to secure the win.

The 49ers punting unit had a lot of trouble keeping Tarik Cohen contained. You can never allow a player to run 13 yards backward, reverse field, and go 61 yards untouched like Cohen did. Poor initial coverage, then poor effort on the ensuing pursuit made the 49ers special teams unit look silly. Then, Cohen broke off another large return (67 yards) that was luckily called back for an illegal block in the back that coincidentally had no effect on the play. Cohen is a stud punt returner, and an amazing athlete, but you cannot get embarrassed like that. The 49ers are lucky that second big return was called back, otherwise this game could have turned out much differently.

Play of the Game
It would be remiss to not have the play of the game be Gould’s game-winning field goal with 5 seconds left. The 49ers put together a great drive, starting from their 8-yard line and getting to Chicago’s 6-yard line before having Gould win it. Gould was emotional after making the kick against the team that he spent 11 years with before being cut in September 2016. He said it “meant a lot” to stick it to Chicago, citing his release as “motivation he has Ryan Pace (GM) and Jeff Rodgers (ST coach) and John Fox (HC) to thank for”.

Next Up
The 49ers have another road game next week as they head to Houston to play the Texans. The Texans are 1-4 since star QB Deshaun Watson tore his ACL and Tom Savage retook the starting job. The Texans offense has taken a major step back with Savage at the helm, but their defense lead by Jadeveon Clowney can cause headaches for opposing QBs.

These two teams haven’t meant since the 2013 blowout on Sunday Night Football where ex-Texans QB Matt Schaub threw 3 interceptions and got benched in a 34-3 rout. This will only be the 4th meeting all-time between the two squads, with the 49ers leading the series 2-1. However, the home team has won every game in the series so far.

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