SANTA CLARA – Here are the 49ers’ grades after their first win of the season – a 31-21 win over the Giants.
QUARTERBACK: A. It’s amazing what a difference protection makes. For the first time this season, the 49ers gave C.J. Beathard time to throw, and he threw extremely well. He completed 76 percent of his attempts, completed passes to eight different receivers, averaged 15.2 yards per completion, threw two touchdown passes, including a beautiful 83-yarder to Marquise Goodwin, ran for a touchdown, outplayed Eli Manning and posted the third-highest QB rating in the NFL this week. How can the Niners possibly bench Beathard after this performance? Jimmy Garoppolo can wait.
RUNNING BACKS: A-minus. Matt Breida scored a 33-yard touchdown and Carlos Hyde ran hard as he has most of the season. But Hyde’s most important contribution came in the pass game as a blocker, because made Beathard’s 83-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin possible. During that play, the Giants blitzed and Hyde blocked a blitzer rushing up the middle. If Hyde missed that block, as he missed numerous blocks earlier this season, Beathard would have gotten sacked, the Niners wouldn’t have scored a touchdown they might not have won this game. Hyde was clutch. But, I give this group an A-minus and not an A, because fullback Kyle Juszczyk fumbled and committed a holding penalty. He has been a major disappointment this season.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A. Marquise Goodwin caught one pass – the 83-yard touchdown pass — and made the key block during Garrett Celek’s touchdown catch. Undrafted rookie Kendrick Bourne became the go-to possession receiver on third down. And Louis Murphy, who was on the team during training camp, then got cut, then got re-signed last week, made a 40-yard catch. None of these guys dropped a pass.
TIGHT ENDS: A. Garrett Celek caught four passes, including a 47-yard touchdown pass. He replaced starting tight end George Kittle, who missed the game with an injured ankle. The offense seems to function better when Celek plays instead of Kittle.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A. Trent Brown and Joe Staley each committed one false-start penalty, and Laken Tomlinson allowed a hit on Beathard. Otherwise, this group was perfect.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A. The Giants slid pass protection toward DeForest Buckner most of the game and forced other defensive linemen to make plays. They did. Leger Douzable was excellent for the second game in a row – he made six tackles. He has been an upgrade over Arik Armstead. And Ronald Blair, who returned from IR last week, has been an upgrade over Solomon Thomas. Blair recorded a sack and a sack-fumble against the Giants. On both plays, he beat the offensive tackle around the edge, something I’ve yet to see Thomas do. Blair has a future on this team.
LINEBACKERS: A. Reuben Foster made 10 tackles and Brock Coyle made six. The Niners don’t need or miss NaVorro Bowman.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B-plus. Eric Reid gave up a touchdown catch to tight end Evan Engram in the red zone, and the secondary gave up a touchdown catch to wide receiver Roger Lewis during garbage time. But, I’m not downgrading this group for the garbage-time TD. That play didn’t matter. The secondary played well most of the game. The longest catch the Niners gave up was a 26-yarder, followed by a 15-yarder. The defense forced the Giants to grind out long, mistake-free drives, which they couldn’t do. And free safety Adrian Colbert made it especially tough for Eli Manning to throw deep. Every time Manning went downfield, Colbert clobbered the intended receiver. The 49ers may have found their free safety of the future.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Punt coverage and kick coverage were excellent, and kicker Robbie Gould was perfect.
COACHES: A. Sure, the 49ers played a bad team. But the Giants didn’t give away the game. The Niners had to earn the win, and they did. They played hard, they were disciplined and they didn’t commit the self-inflicted errors that defined the first-nine games of their season. Kyle Shanahan gets credit for all of that. He was outstanding against the Giants, aside from one play, that fourth-and-1 when he called the same handoff for Juszczyk that didn’t work on fourth down earlier this season. We’ll let that slide though, because Shanahan did so many things right. He called 33 runs, he called screen passes, he called deep passes, he moved the pocket and protected his quarterback. If Shanahan becomes a successful head coach, we will remember this game as his breakout performance. He should feel proud of himself and his team.