Hands in his jeans pocket. His pink, checked shirt un-ironed and untucked. Stubble on his cheeks.
C.J. Beathard on Sunday afternoon looked like a guy waiting for his Uber ride to arrive, not one who had just thrown his first NFL touchdown pass, who had nearly pulled off an upset on the road and who had grabbed a starting spot from a trusted veteran.
“It was very cool,” the rookie quarterback said.
That casual attitude is why coach Kyle Shanahan had faith in Beathard when he tapped him in the second quarter Sunday and why he quickly announced Beathard would start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys: He’s a hard guy to faze.
“By no means were things perfect, but the game is not too big for the guy and he comes in and he doesn’t hesitate,” Shanahan said after the 49ers’ 26-24 loss to the Washington Redskins. “He’s extremely tough. He came in there and gave us a little bit of a spark.”
The reviews from teammates were similar.
“He was calm, cool and collected – like he’d been out there before,” running back Carlos Hyde said.
Said tight end George Kittle, Beathard’s teammate at Iowa: “He was confident and ready to go. That’s just who he is. He doesn’t care what the situation is, he’s just always ready to go.”
Added tackle Joe Staley: “He just came in there and I told him, ‘Let loose, man. You have nothing to lose.’ ”
Beathard followed the veteran’s advice, completing a 13-yard pass on his first snap of the game and finishing with 245 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception – which came on a final, desperation heave – in about 2 1/2 quarters of play.
Beathard went into game with the 49ers trailing 14-0 and with the Brian Hoyer-led offense struggling with a familiar theme – an inability to convert third downs. As relaxed as he is in demeanor, Beathard’s entrance seemed to jolt not just the offense but the entire team, which was on the third of a three-game road sequence and seemed in danger of being blown out of FedEx Field.
Set up by a fumble return by safety Jimmie Ward, Hyde’s 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter tied the game at 17-17. Beathard’s 45-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Aldrick Robinson brought the 49ers within two points with under two minutes left. When the 49ers took possession one last time with 52 second remaining, their first win of the season appeared in their sights.
Receiver Pierre Garcon’s diving catch of a tipped pass along the sideline gave San Francisco a first down at Washington’s 40-yard line. Even if the 49ers didn’t gain another yard, Robbie Gould would have had a shot at a 58-yard game winning field goal, not a farfetched outcome considering he connected on a 52 yarder in the third quarter.
Two plays later, however, Garcon was called for pass interference when, trying to work his way to the inside of the field, he ran into a Washington linebacker running to the outside. It was the second time this season a 49ers receiver has been flagged for the same penalty in the closing seconds of a tight game. Trent Taylor was called for pushing off a Rams cornerback at the end of a 41-39 loss to Los Angeles in Week 3.
As was the case then, the 49ers were left in disbelief Sunday.
Asked if a receiver can be called for a “pick” on pass play if he’s the intended target, Shanahan said, “Absolutely not. It’s a slant on a flat route.”
Said Beathard: “I thought 100 percent it was defensive pass interference. From my point of view, that wasn’t even a question.”
The penalty essentially left the 49ers with their fifth consecutive loss by three or fewer points. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Next week the 49ers are home but playing a Dallas Cowboys team that filled Levi’s Stadium with its fans when they played there last year. After that it’s back to the East Coast to play the 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
The last 49ers team to start 0-6 was Bill Walsh’s 1979 squad, which dropped seven in a row before getting a win and finishing 2-14.
Said Shanahan of the team’s string of narrow losses: “It’s challenging, but it’s better than not being close.”