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SANTA CLARA — Thursday was Day 5 of Garoppolooza for the 49ers.

Since Sunday’s win against the Chicago Bears, players and coaches on the 49ers have gone gaga for Garoppolo — even players and coaches on the defense.

“We’re in our own cocoon,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Thursday afternoon in the 49ers auditorium. “But you can’t help but notice. He’s got a really cool demeanor to him. He’s got a really good arm.”

In the locker room, tight end Garrett Celek couldn’t stop saying how impressed he was with Garoppolo’s performance against the Bears.

“I know he’s still getting comfortable with (the offense). So for him to have that presence in the huddle, and just the way he was playing, how calm, collected and confident he was. That was big.

“I thought he threw a lot of great balls. Even when he had guys in his face and pressure, he made some pretty awesome throws that I think half the quarterbacks in the league can’t do. I can’t remember what play it was, but he was about to get hit and he threw this crazy throw to (Louis) Murphy and there were three guys on him. I was like, ‘Whoa, how did you do that?’”

Does Garoppolo change Celek’s expectations for the 49ers’ future?

“Big time,” Celek said. “As long he keeps playing to that level and even getting better, which I know he will because he still doesn’t have our playbook completely down, but I think once he’s comfortable with all of us as receivers, it’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Left tackle Joe Staley said he also is enthusiastic about Garoppolo, but wants to temper expectations.

“It was just one game. I don’t think too much about down the road. I’m just excited and focused on what we can do this week. We have a good challenge against a really good defensive front of Houston.”


The 49ers defense should have more energy than usual this Sunday when it faces the Houston Texans offense.

That’s because the 49ers defense hardly played last week against the Chicago Bears. Chicago’s offense was on the field for just 36 plays in that game. The 49ers offense was on the field for 73 plays.

“It was awesome to be able to sit back and watch (our) offense go to work,” Saleh said Thursday. “I don’t care what team you play for — you just don’t get opportunities to be able to be a spectator.”

Saleh said he could tell during the fourth quarter that his players were fresher than usual.

“It was the urgency at which they felt they needed to get the ball back for the offense, because (the offense was) doing so well.”

The 49ers offense did particularly well on third downs, converting 10 of 18. It extended drives, held the ball for long periods of time and allowed the defense to rest on the sideline. The 49ers defense was on the field for just 21:13.

And the 49ers defense played well with extra energy. It held the Bears offense to eight first downs and one touchdown. The Bears scored a second touchdown on special teams with a 61-yard punt return by Tarik Cohen.

Here’s what 49ers rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon said Thursday about the additional rest the defense got last Sunday.

“I felt it in practice (on Wednesday), just running to the ball. Just a little more energy, a little more juice.”


The 49ers defense will need all the juice it can muster this Sunday, because it will face one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL — DeAndre Hopkins.

Hopkins has caught 77 passes for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Last week, Texans quarterback Tom Savage threw Hopkins 14 passes, and Hopkins caught eight for 80 yards. Hopkins has gotten almost 12 targets per game on average.

Witherspoon said Thursday that Hopkins will be the biggest test of his young career.

“Definitely. (Hopkins is) completely well rounded. Good routes. Good hands.”

Witherspoon said Hopkins reminds him of another wide receiver the 49ers faced this season.

“I wasn’t active for the Rams game, but I remember watching Sammy Watkins play very physical off of his breaks, using his arms to extend and get open. That’s kind of what I saw (from Hopkins) as well.”

Both Watkins and Hopkins played college football at Clemson.

Against the 49ers in Week 3, Watkins caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Hopkins could be even more dangerous.

“They put DeAndre everywhere,” Saleh said. “He’s a heck of a receiver. I anticipate (nickel back) K’Waun (Williams) getting some of Hopkins, too. It’s going to be a cool challenge.”

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