Jimmy Garoppolo's overcorrection after Week 1 interceptions nearly cost 49ers against Lions

SANTA CLARA - Jimmy Garoppolo was scared to mess up. And Kyle Shanahan told him about it.

After throwing three interceptions during the 49ers 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Week 1, Garoppolo didn’t want to throw more picks against the Lions Week 2. So, he held the ball and took six sacks. He overcorrected.

“That’s something he’ll go through throughout this year,” Shanahan said Monday during his press conference. “We’ll go through it with him, and we’ll learn as we go.”

The 49ers still beat the Lions 30-27, but Shanahan was displeased with the passing game, meaning Garoppolo. Shanahan was direct in his criticism. “We didn’t get enough production in that. I think you can see that on third down especially and the six sacks that we had. Obviously, we ran the ball very well, but in the pass game they played a lot of man coverage and I don’t think we did a good job beating it and attacking it and getting the results.”

The 49ers scored plenty of points and rushed for 190 yards. They did certain things well. But, they converted only three of 11 third downs and gave up those six sacks. The sacks bothered Shanahan the most.

“You go back and watch the tape, and every one of them was versus man-to-man coverage,” Shanahan said. “It’s not that (Garoppolo) is scared to let it rip into zones. He was just waiting on someone to beat a guy, and it wasn’t happening fast enough.

“Just get rid of it,” Shanahan said, explaining what Garoppolo should have done and should do in the future. “I thought there were a couple where he had a chance to get rid of it. When it’s man-to-man coverage, if you wait on a guy and he doesn’t win, sometimes you’ve got to get rid of it. You can’t just stay and look at him. Or, you’ve got to progress to No. 2. Once you stay there, you’ve got to let it go. You don’t take the sack.”

Call that direct and public criticism of his high-priced quarterback.

This is all part of Garoppolo’s learning process. He has started only nine games in the NFL - slightly more than half a season. He has lots to learn.

But so do the rest of the 49ers. Garoppolo wasn’t the only reason for the sacks. “All of our guys struggled a little bit yesterday,” Shanahan said. “I thought Pierre Garcon did the best beating man coverage. The Lions played very, very tight man coverage, aggressive coverage. It wasn’t just press coverage - it was holding.”

Shanahan was saying the Lions bent the rules to create an unfair advantage, something most teams do if they can get away with it.

“It’s part of the game, because rarely does that stuff get called,” Shanahan continued. “You’ve got to get used to it.”

Marquise Goodwin is used to it. Cornerbacks grab and hold him all the time. But Goodwin didn’t play against the Lions - he sat out with a deep thigh bruise. His replacement, rookie Dante Pettis, is not used to cornerbacks embracing him like lovesick octopi.

“(Officials) let them get away with (holding) a lot more in the NFL than in college,” Shanahan said. “Dante needs to get better at (beating tight coverage).”

Pettis finished with just one catch for 35 yards.

The 49ers leading receiver, Garcon, had four catches for 57 yards. Modest numbers. “I should have gone to him more in the game,” Shanahan said, meaning he should have called more plays for the 49ers best healthy receiver. Shanahan blamed himself for something after blaming Garoppolo, the receivers and the Lions defensive players. He spread the blame all around.

“Pierre is a hard guy to hold,” Shanahan explained. “He’s angry, physical and he runs through it.”

That’s a contrast with the other, younger 49ers receivers who need help beating aggressive man-to-man coverage. “That is something we could have done a better job on, something we work real hard on,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we move guys around a lot. That’s why we’ve got certain types of plays that we do. But, didn’t do a good enough job of it yesterday.”

Calling effective plays is part of Shanahan’s learning process. He has coached only 18 games in the NFL - slightly more than one season. He has lots to learn, just like Garoppolo.

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