San Francisco 49ers

How the 49ers frustrated a playoff-bound team for NFL’s longest current win streak

Tight end George Kittle, left, celebrates with 49ers teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
Tight end George Kittle, left, celebrates with 49ers teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. The Associated Press

Two weeks ago, the Jaguars had the Seattle Seahawks flustered and fighting during a big win in Jacksonville.

On Sunday it was their turn to get shoved around.

Riding a wave of energy high unseen in Levi’s Stadium, Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdowns and completed 70 percent of his passes as the 49ers offense scored 37 points against the top-ranked defense in the league. An interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Dontae Johnson accounted for another touchdown in a 44-33 win, the most points the 49ers have scored since a 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 playoffs.

A Jaguars squad that had won three in a row, wrapped up a division title earlier in the day and had built a reputation as perhaps the most physical team in the league – thanks largely to their win over the Seahawks – seemed more than a little ruffled. They committed 12 penalties, tussled with the 49ers throughout he day and even were caught on camera skirmishing among themselves on the sidelines.

“They were very chippy out there, yelling at each other, yelling at us,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “I definitely think they were a little frustrated. … I don’t think they were used to a team moving the ball the way we did.”

“I was definitely surprised by that,” receiver Trent Taylor said of Jacksonville’s lack of composure. “Hopefully they can take a lesson going into the playoffs from this game that they need to fix that. It definitely helped us win today, so we appreciate it.”

Among the highlights on Sunday:

▪ Entering the game, the Jaguars pass defense was especially renown and was holding quarterbacks to a 55.9 percent completion rate and 65.2 passer rating, both the best in the league. Garoppolo’s rating for the game was 102.4.

▪ Jacksonville also had the NFL’s top rushing offense heading into Week 16, one that averaged nearly 150 yards a game. The 49ers held the Jaguars to 92 rushing yards.

▪ The 49ers and Jaguars both had a league-best, three-game winning streak going into the game. San Francisco now has the NFL’s longest current win streak and hasn’t lost since Garoppolo took over as the starter on Dec. 3.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he was particularly happy that the Jaguars went into halftime with momentum but the 49ers wrestled the lead back.

After Jacksonville had taken its first lead of the day with a field goal in the third quarter that made the score 19-16, nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams dropped back into the middle of the defense and with one hand knocked down a Blake Bortles throw and returned it to the Jaguars’ 26-yard line.

Five snaps later, Garoppolo squeezed a pass to tight end George Kittle at the goal line for a touchdown. The quarterback’s best pass of the day, perhaps the season, came on the 49ers’ next drive.

On third down at the Jacksonville goal line, Garoppolo took the snap and looked to his right. With no one open and the Jaguars defense bearing down on him, he took off to his left and then, across his body, threw a sidearm pass to Taylor. Garoppolo looked like a shortstop on the play and the delivery was so quick – and right in front of a Jaguars defender – that even Taylor said he didn’t see the ball leave the quarterback’s hands.

“The guy was in front of me so I had to throw it around him,” the quarterback said. “Playing baseball paid off I guess today.”

Asked about the touchdown, a relaxed Shanahan quipped that he showed Garoppolo how to make that particular throw.

“No, his body’s different, the way he can throw,” he said. “ I joke with him, say he’s like a Jugs machine. Sitting there ready to throw at any time.”

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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