For the first time since the Jim Harbaugh era, the San Francisco 49ers have won consecutive games. The 49ers followed up their victory against the Chicago Bears with an impressive 26-16 win against the Houston Texans. This win is huge for the 49ers. While the Texans are having a relatively down year, they are still the current AFC South champions. There are three key takeaways from their second consecutive win.
Week 14 San Francisco 49ers Takeaways
A Quarterback Makes All the Difference
Under C.J. Beathard and Brian Hoyer, the 49ers only managed to win one game to go along with ten losses. Since starting Jimmy Garoppolo, they haven’t lost, bringing their win total up to three. As of right now, their mid-season blockbuster trade appears to be a great trade. Garoppolo is a star in the making, and could lead the 49ers for several years to come.
In Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan finally has a quarterback that can execute his offense. Throughout the day, Garoppolo confidently sat in the pocket, progressed through his reads, and spread the ball out to multiple receivers. Eight different players caught passes, with Marquise Goodwin continuing his great rapport with his new quarterback. He caught six passes for 106 yards.
The Texans were on the opposite side of the quarterback coin. Deshaun Watson had the Texans looking like a legitimate Super Bowl contender before his season ending injury. His replacement, Tom Savage, has not played well. He is currently leading the league in fumbles lost despite only playing seven games. Savage had to exit the 49ers game with concussion-like symptoms, but T.J. Yates did not play particularly well either. The Texans continue to lose with journeyman pocket passers, which is the opposite of Watson’s mobile and explosive style. One has to wonder what the Texans would look like if they had decided wins were more important than politics, and employed Colin Kaepernick.
Carlos Hyde is the Running Back the 49ers Deserve, but Not the One They Need
Carlos Hyde is an incredible running back with a ferocious style. He never shies away from contact, and runs over opposing defenders. Under a power running scheme like Harbaugh used to run in San Francisco, Hyde would be a perfect fit. However, under Shanahan, he is a square peg in a round hole, a fact clearly apparent against the Texans.
Throughout his career as an offensive coordinator, Shanahan has had several different styles of running back. It wasn’t until he worked for the Atlanta Falcons that it became apparent he prefers running backs who are excellent pass catchers. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are perfect examples of what Shanahan is looking for. Carlos Hyde is not.
A box score scout would say that Hyde is a great fit. In 2017 alone, Hyde has surpassed his career receptions, catching 52 passes so far this season. However, Hyde has struggled this year as a pass catcher. He leads all running backs with five dropped passes. Early in the game against the Texans, Hyde was wide open down the seam for what would have been an easy touchdown. Hyde then slowed, looked incredibly awkward, and failed to get a hand on the ball. While Hyde is an impressive back, he is one that would be better suited to another style of offense.
The 49ers Defense is Loaded with Future Stars
The 49ers defense has struggled all year. Coming into the matchup against the Texans, the 49ers were the 25th ranked team in terms of defensive DVOA. They have suffered from the injury bug, losing their two starting safeties in Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt to season ending injuries. Despite the down year, the 49ers have multiple players who appear like they will be future stars.
DeForest Buckner has played well all year. Registering a sack, Buckner continued his case towards being an All-Pro defensive lineman. Reuben Foster was all over the field against the Texans, and his positive attitude makes him a beloved leader, despite his rookie status. Their play is very reminiscent of the last 49ers Super Bowl run, where they were lead by Justin Smith and Patrick Willis.
Two other players that appear to be stars are Ahkello Witherspoon and Adrian Colbert. Witherspoon is currently the 49ers top corner, though he rarely saw action against top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Perhaps a sign of respect for Witherspoon, or exploiting a flaw, but Hopkins continually attacked Dontae Johnson on the other side of the field.
Colbert had a very big game as well. Thrust into action due to injuries at the safety position, Colbert appears to be a very important piece for the 49ers going forward. His hard hit on Hopkins forced a fumble, and all but ensured the Texans would not complete any comeback. While the young defense is below average now, the building blocks are in place for a stellar defense.