The unsung heroes of Sunday’s 49ers victory over the Bears were the blockers up front who protected new starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo had a terrific game in leading his team to a 15-14 victory over Chicago. And, he showed he could move well in the pocket to escape pressure and buy extra time to complete throws downfield. But also evident was the improved pass-blocking efficiency of the offensive line Sunday.
“With right tackle Trent Brown returning from a shoulder injury, Garoppolo got solid protection for most of the day,” wrote Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “He was hit just five times, including two sacks, but he rarely had defenders in his face.”
Wagoner noted the Bears were among the NFL’s top 10 defenses in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, yet Garoppolo had a clean pocket on most of his dropbacks. In fact, Garoppolo had a 95.7 passer rating when he was not pressured Sunday.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus noted three offensive linemen graded particularly high in the win: center Daniel Kilgore, Brown and left tackle Joe Staley. Staley, in fact, was rated as one of the top 10 offensive performers in the NFL this week.
“Keeping his new quarterback clean was always going to be key for Joe Staley this week, and that’s exatly what he did,” wrote Gordon McGuinness of PFF. “From 40 pass-blocking snaps in the win over the Bears, Staley did not allow a single sack, hit or hurry, giving him a 100.0 pass-blocking efficiency rating.”
Kilgore also did not allow a pressure and had the team’s highest run-blocking grade.
With strong protection, Garoppolo was able to complete 26-of-37 throws for 293 yards and a 7.92-yard average per attempt.
It gave head coach Kyle Shanahan a glimpse of what he hopes the 49ers offense can become. And it started up front with strong protection.
“I thought it was a good first start,” Shanahan told the media. “He handled the offense well. He definitely moved the chains. It’ll be fun to go back and watch the tape … For his first time doing it, especially without being here (very long), it was pretty impressive. It was fun to watch him do some real good things, and it was fun to watch him lead us to a win.”
Now 2-10, the 49ers will travel to Houston this week to take on the Texans Sunday. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. in the Bay Area.