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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo adjusting to less time on the sideline thanks to an improved 49ers defense

Sep 11, 2019 at 4:56 PM--

Watching cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon pick off Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston late in the fourth quarter on Sunday and seal the Week 1 victory was an exciting moment for fans and the players on the sideline.

One 49ers player, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, missed all of the excitement. He became accustomed to having more time on the sideline reviewing snapshots of the opposing defense with his quarterbacks coach — Shane Day, this year — and working on any in-game adjustments.

The 49ers defense appears to be much-improved. One week isn't a large sample size, but the unit looks as formidable as advertised after upgrading its defensive front. The defense forced four takeaways against the Buccaneers, more than half the NFL-record low amount (7) earned all of last season.

Garoppolo may not have the luxury of so much time this season, and that is fine with the quarterback.

"Yeah, it's a good problem to have, for sure," Garoppolo told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "We try and get over there, and look at the pictures as quick as you can with Shane and the rest of the QBs, and when the defense is getting turnovers like that, though, you're never going to be upset about that."

Garoppolo is learning to depend on the sideline reaction to tell him something significant just happened on the field. That was the case with Witherspoon's interception returned for a touchdown. The 49ers went on to win 31-17.

"If something big happens, a turnover or something like that, the sideline's going nuts," Garoppolo said. "Like Witherspoon's interception, I didn't even actually see that one. Everyone just started going nuts on the sideline, and it was, yeah, a great spot to be."

It's a good thing Garoppolo got the warning. He had to scramble to grab his helmet and get back on the field for the two-point conversion. As the quarterback said, it's a nice problem to have after having more time on the sideline in previous seasons.

Tight end George Kittle said after Sunday's game that the defense's increased production inspires the offense.

"It's hard to watch an offense go down on your defense (for) like a 12-play drive for a touchdown," Kittle said. "That kind of drains the offense too, sitting there. When your defense makes those big plays, it just gets everyone excited, and it gets the offense moving. It's good vibes, really. It just gets you going."

The 49ers celebrated the victory on Sunday and then quickly shifted focus to the Cincinnati Bengals, their Week 2 opponent. The team remained on the East Coast and is practicing this week in Youngstown, Ohio.

Garoppolo was asked what the focus is this week with a matchup against the Bengals on the horizon.

"You know, just little details offensively, complementing the defense," he answered. "When they make a big play, how do we answer that up and everything once we get the ball. Yeah, I think we have a good game plan so far, and we'll keep it going the rest of the week."

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