San Francisco 49ers

49ers notebook: Garoppolo both a hit and a miss his return after ACL injury

Garoppolo: ‘It feels good to be back’

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo talks about how it feels to be back under center for his team.
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo talks about how it feels to be back under center for his team.

Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t at his best, but it was just good enough.

He threw a pick-six on a pass Kyle Shanahan said never should have been attempted. His throws for potential big gains to Marquise Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne were slightly off target. The 2017 iteration of Garoppolo would have hit his wideouts in stride for touchdowns.

Overall?

“It feels really good,” Garoppolo said after the 49ers’ 31-17 win. “It feels good just to be back, it’s been a while since I’ve been out here with the guys for a full game. It was fun out there today.”

It was Garoppolo’s first game action since Sept. 23 of last season, nearly a calendar year, when he tore his left ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs. He threw for just 166 yards while completing 18 of 27 (67 percent), including a pretty touchdown throw to receiver Richie James Jr.

“I think the whole offense was shaky,” Shanahan said. “We had a couple good throws but Jimmy, and everyone else, including myself, needs to get a lot more consistent. There were some things out there that we missed. ... Fortunately our defense got some turnovers, they got four of them. It’s hard to win when you (have) two turnovers on offense, but four on the other side, especially when they score on two of them.”

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle praises his team's defense for giving the 49ers the chance to beat the Buccaneers in Week 1 of the NFL season.

The story of the game was San Francisco’s defense getting four takeaways, including two pick-sixes that accounted for 14 points in the 14-point victory. Otherwise, the 49ers offense might have cost the 49ers their first road win since the meaningless 2017 season finale against the Rams in which they sat their starters.

Garoppolo averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt (he previously averaged 8.2 yards for his career), indicating the 49ers weren’t pushing the ball downfield. Perhaps it was a sign Shanahan wasn’t confident in Garoppolo following his second quarter interception, or Tampa Bay’s defense was taking away deep shots.

The 49ers couldn’t get their running game going, averaging just 3.1 yards on 32 attempts, which might have impacted the passing game.

“We wanted to pick our spots, and I think we did that to a point,” Garoppolo said. “And we were taking what they gave us and I think that’s what a good offense does. They were making it tough on us early but I think we did pretty well.”

George Kittle led San Francisco’s pass-catchers with just 54 yards on eight catches, though he had two touchdowns negated by questionable penalties. The first came in the first series, following a Mark Nzeocha blocked punt, when fullback Kyle Juszczyk was called for offensive pass interference. The second came when right tackle Mike McGlilnchey was called for not being correctly lined up on the line of scrimmage.

The 49ers won’t get two touchdowns from their defense every week, and they know they’ll need more from their quarterback if they want to make a run to the postseason.

“Jimmy’s the reason we’re going to win any games,” Kittle said. “If he’s playing good, the whole offense is going to play good. That’s all it is. Jimmy’s the leader of this team.”

A motivated Richard Sherman talks about his interception and the 49ers being the underdogs after the team's Week 1 win over the Buccaneers.

Coleman could miss time

Running back Tevin Coleman exited the game at halftime and the 49ers are concerned he could miss multiple games. He’ll undergo an MRI tomorrow in Youngstown, Ohio, where the team will practice before next week’s game in Cincinnati rather than travel back to the Bay Area.

If Coleman is forced to miss time, it’s likely the team would promote second-year pro Jeff Wilson Jr. from the practice squad. Wilson led the team in rushing during the preseason.

Running back Matt Breida, slot cornerback K’Waun Williams and kicker Robbie Gould all dealt with hydration issues during the game, and all three wound up returning.

Sunday’s win was the first time the 49ers opened with a road victory since 2014. Linebacker Fred Warner’s forced fumble in the first half marked his second straight season opener with a forced fumble. He had one Week 1 last season against the Vikings.

The 49ers had two interceptions returned for scores in a game for the first time since playing the Saints in November of 2012. Nzeocha’s interception was the first of his career.

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