Jimmy Garoppolo keeps making impressive passes for the 49ers. He’s even witnessed some of them.
One of the quarterback’s best in Sunday’s 26-16 win over the Houston Texans was a 29-yard gain down the sideline to fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who hauled in the ball between two outstretched Texans defenders in the second quarter. The completion brought the 49ers into Houston territory and led to a two-yard touchdown for Carlos Hyde and San Francisco’s first lead of the day.
Garoppolo recalled throwing the pass but didn’t see the reception – “I heard it was a phenomenal catch,” he said – because he was being taken down by a Houston defender at the time. That’s been a theme the last two games.
“That’s something that’s been super-apparent to his teammates – he’s not scared to stand in there and take a hit when he throws the ball,” Juszczyk said afterward. “And he’s been very accurate while doing so. We definitely appreciate him putting it on the line there for us.”
Garoppolo’s best pass in Chicago last week may have been an over-the-middle throw to Trent Taylor that also came while the quarterback was absorbing a hit. He nearly hooked up with Hyde on Sunday on a deep touchdown pass on a similar play but the running back misplayed the over-the-shoulder attempt and it fell incomplete.
Garoppolo was sacked twice, hit nine times and had a mark on his lower lip, a souvenir from taking two shots to the face from the Texans defensive line.
“I took a couple,” he acknowledged. “One of them got called. But that’s part of being the quarterback, I guess.”
The willingness not just to take on those hits, but to make defenses pay for blitzing, is perhaps the top criterion Kyle Shanahan wants in a quarterback, and the 49ers head coach talked about it after the game.
“If you don’t (have that) as an NFL quarterback, you can’t be successful,” he said. “You’ve got to have guys who are fearless, who hang in there, keep their eyes down the field. (Garoppolo) does that very, very well.”
Including two games last year with the New England Patriots, Garoppolo is 4-0 as a starter and with every throw substantiates the belief that he is the 49ers’ quarterback for the future.
He and the 49ers offense got off to a rough start Sunday, including a poorly thrown pass to Taylor that wound up in the hands of Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson. At the end of the first quarter, Garoppolo was 3 for 7 for 25 yards and an interception for a 13.1 passer rating.
But he and the offense found their flow in the second quarter and he finished with a 61 percent completion rate and 334 yards, his first 300-yard outing in the NFL.
More important, Garopplo has made everyone around him look a little better. Tight end Garrett Celek, for instance, caught a third-quarter pass in stride and ran 61 yards, the longest play of the day for either team.
Receiver Marquise Goodwin finished with six catches for 106 yards, just the third 100-yard receiving game of his five-year career.
For the first time this season, meanwhile, Juszczyk looked like the so-called “offensive weapon or OW” the 49ers thought they were getting when they signed him to a big free-agent deal in March. He finished with a career-high 64 receiving yards.
After starting the season 0-9, the 49ers have won three of their last four games. Juszczyk said the team has definitely experienced a December lift.
“I think we all wish we could have hit a restart button on the season a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “At this point, we all kind of wish we could play a few more games (beyond) what we have left.”