San Francisco 49ers

Three takeaways from 49ers’ preseason win over Chiefs that don’t involve Garoppolo

49ers Jimmy Garoppolo talks third preseason game against the Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked like his old self in his return to Kansas City in the third preseason game Saturday night against the Chiefs.
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked like his old self in his return to Kansas City in the third preseason game Saturday night against the Chiefs.

Here are three non-Jimmy Garoppolo-related takeaways from the 49ers’ 27-17 win in Kansas City on Saturday night. You can read about Garoppolo’s bounce-back performance, here. San Francisco improved to 3-0 in the preseason.

Movement in the secondary

The 49ers played most of their starters on defense — save for defensive ends Nick Bosa (ankle) and Dee Ford (knee) as they continue to work back from injury — including Jimmie Ward.

But there was an unexpected wrinkle in the secondary from coordinator Robert Saleh. Ward moved to slot cornerback in place of the injured K’Waun Williams, allowing Tarvarius Moore to play free safety in nickel packages. Ward was the free safety on base downs.

The move could push Emmanuel Moseley down the depth chart and might put him on the roster bubble when final cuts are made Aug. 31. Moseley played the slot the last two preseason games and could be on the wrong side of the numbers game when Williams returns. Williams had surgery on his knee earlier this month and is expected to return at some point early in the season.

Ward, who began practicing this week after breaking his collar bone in May, had three tackles and drew an offensive pass interference call against rookie receiver Mecole Hardman. Overall, a solid debut for Ward as he was tasked with playing two positions despite having just two light practices this week.

Breida steps up

Running back Matt Breida has continued to develop in a valuable piece of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He rushed for 44 yards on seven carries (6.3 average) and made a diving 20-yard touchdown catch on a deep throw from Garoppolo. He finished with 75 all-purpose yards.

Breida split first-half snaps with Tevin Coleman (nine carries, 19 yards) and looked like the more dynamic player. The 49ers entered the night without Raheem Mostert following a thigh injury during practice this week.

Mostert is expected to make the final cut for his work on special teams. But if he were to miss any more time, on top of the uncertain status of Jerick McKinnon, Breida could become an even more important player once the regular season begins.

Additionally, Jeff Wilson Jr. looked strong in the second half, rushing for 45 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers ideally would get Wilson to the practice squad, but he might not clear waivers if another zone running team wants to add him to its active roster.

Mullens gets first post-Garoppolo snaps

Shanahan has kept his decision about Garoppolo’s backup close to the vest. But Saturday might have offered the most telling signal yet. Nick Mullens entered the game in the second half after Garoppolo, which is an indication Mullens has a leg up in the competition with C.J. Beathard, who is likely to start the preseason finale Thursday against the Chargers.

Mullens had a glaring mistake Saturday missing a wide-open Jordan Matthews deep downfield for a would-be touchdown, but was played well working against the Chiefs backups otherwise. Mullens finished with 8 of 11 completions for 84 yards and took a sack. He led three possessions resulting in a field goal and Wilson’s two touchdowns.

The NFL world was shocked to learn Saturday night of Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement from the Colts. Perhaps they might be interested in talking with San Francisco about trading for Mullens or Beathard.

The 49ers had 31 penalties for 317 yards combined in their first two preseason games. They improved those numbers drastically Saturday, committing just four for 25 yards.

San Francisco got good news on the health front. There were zero injuries reported to the press box during the game.

Mitch Wishnowsky update: He punted twice for 114 yards yards (57.0 average) and pinned the Chiefs at their 3-yard line with a 62-yard punt in the third quarter.

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