DeAndre Hopkins was as ferocious as advertised Sunday, but the Houston Texans’ receiver didn’t feast on rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon as many expected.
Instead he did the bulk of his damage – 11 catches, 149 yards and two touchdowns – against veteran Dontae Johnson, who he chased from the game after his second touchdown, which gave Houston a 16-13 lead in the third quarter. Johnson also was flagged twice for pass interference and once for defensive holding while in coverage against Hopkins.
On the series after Hopkins’ second score, Johnson remained on the sideline while rookie Greg Mabin, who had been victimized for a touchdown during a brief appearance last week in Chicago, entered. The 49ers also adjusted their coverages and Hopkins wasn’t nearly as a big a factor for the last quarter and a half.
“We realized that he was a real factor in the game,” Mabin said. “We just tried to do a couple of different coverages to disrupt him and get him off of his game.”
After that adjustment, Hopkins had just one catch for five yards. He fumbled the ball away on that catch after a hard hit by free safety Adrian Colbert, which effectively sealed the 49ers’ victory.
“From what I saw live, he did a good job,” coach Kyle Shanahan said of Mabin. “I’ll see when I get on the plane. But regardless, Dontae’s done some good things for us this year. I was excited Greg was able to come in and get some experience. That’ll help him. He helped us today and that’ll help him going forward.”
Johnson is scheduled for free agency after the season. He went back into the game late in the fourth quarter after Witherspoon injured his knee.
Witherspoon will get an MRI on Monday, but early tests suggest it’s not a long-term injury.
Beadles starts – Tackle Trent Brown was a surprise scratch with a bad shoulder, forcing Zane Beadles into the lineup where he faced Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney for most of the day.
Clowney, who entered the game with nine sacks, had four hits on Jimmy Garoppolo and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Shanahan, however, gave Beadles praise for filling in on short notice.
“He’s backed up, really, every position,” Shanahan said. “We had to use him at tackle today. That is not an ideal spot to put him in. He’s definitely more of an inside player. But Zane doesn’t hesitate. He loves a challenge and he’ll go out and battle anyone.”
Brown injured his shoulder during a Nov. 23 practice. He missed the following game against Seattle but played last week against the Chicago Bears. Shanahan said he’ll be a week-to-week decision.
Familiar setting – Sunday’s game was Shanahan’s first in Houston since the most recent Super Bowl in which his Atlanta Falcons team blew a 28-3 lead.
Shanahan said he hadn’t thought about that game – and the setting – during the week but that it came to mind as he was walking the field during the pre-game routine.
“I had some real good feelings in that game, obviously not toward the end,” he said. “The feelings today definitely were much better at the end.”
Et cetera – Fullback Kyle Juszczyk’s 64 receiving yards were a career high, topping the 56-yard game he had last year as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
▪ DeForest Buckner had a sack Sunday, giving him 2 1/2 for the season. That’s good for second place on the team behind Elvis Dumervil, who has 5 1/2.
▪ Witherspoon (Christian Brothers High School) was one of the 49ers’ three team captains. Eli Harold and Garrett Celek were the others.