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Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Offense was good but could be better; Fans show out; Mooney worth the money; George Kittle asks for turf consistency

Oct 9, 2022 at 7:56 PM--

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Aside from a flurry of potentially costly injuries, Sunday was a good day for the San Francisco 49ers as they went to Charlotte and took care of business with a 37-15 win over the now 1-4 Carolina Panthers.

It wasn't a perfect performance, but the 49ers put together what was mostly a strong showing all around, including what looked like a step forward for their offense. The 49ers talked about that performance after the game as well as a number of other subjects, including some praise of the Faithful, who showed up en masse at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. We have a rundown of some postgame odds and ends in this edition of 49ers Notebook.

Now that's better

Two weeks ago, the 49ers looked more than a bit lost on offense in their dismal 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. Things were much different against the Panthers, with the offense putting up 397 total yards while converting 7-of-12 third downs. The running game accounted for 153 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns (120 of those yards came from Jeff Wilson, who had one of those touchdowns on 17 carries), while Jimmy Garoppolo finished with 253 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-30 passing.

There were things to come out of Sunday's game that the offense can work on in the days ahead, but for the most part, what they put on the field was positive.

"Some drives (were good)," Garoppolo said Sunday. "I think we've still got room for improvement. There were some drives where we just killed ourselves. Simple things we can fix. But today, it was a good day. We were rolling pretty good."

Garoppolo in particular has come a long way from the Denver game, during which he threw an interception, lost a fumble and stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was pleased on Sunday with Garoppolo, who after the loss to Denver spoke about still needing to get on the same page with the rest of the offense after missing the offseason due to injury.

"I thought he played real well today," Shanahan said. "I thought he made some big plays, some big throws. Didn't turn the ball over, which was huge. That's always a big thing, but it was a real big emphasis coming into this game. I was real happy with Jimmy."

The offensive line gave up two sacks and had multiple penalties, but they also played a big role in the overall success of the offense. Given the fact they're down two left tackles in Trent Williams (ankle) and Colton McKivitz (knee), the line held together well.

"It's tough whenever those guys are mixing and matching like that, just the communication," Garoppolo said. "I thought Jake [center Jake Brendel] did a great job, but across the board those guys played great. That's a good defense. They were giving us some tough looks with their different pressures and things like that, and I thought they handled it great."

Feeling at home

As they've done so many times in the past, 49ers fans took over an opposing team's stadium on Sunday by showing up in droves at Bank of America Stadium. The 49ers certainly took notice.

"It's a home game!" Wilson told after the win. "... As soon as I came off the field after our first touchdown, I looked around and said 'Yeah, this is our place.'"

Shanahan also praised the fans after the game, saying 49ers fans are among the best he's seen when it comes to supporting their team on the road.

"Our fans are awesome everywhere we go," Shanahan said. "It's so cool there at the end chanting our guys' names. I didn't know that until I got here, but our fans travel as well as any team I've been on."

Come at Mooney and you'll probably miss

Through his first five games with the 49ers, cornerback Charvarius "Mooney" Ward has made it clear why the team felt he was worth the three-year, $42 million contract they gave him in free agency. Ward had a number of key plays Sunday, totaling four tackles and four passes defended. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Ward has been the best in the NFL since 2018 at forcing quarterbacks to throw into tight windows.

Ward has eight passes defended through five games, but he'd probably rather add to his interception total (one).

"I just hope they keep targeting me so I can start picking some of those balls off," Ward said.

Ward's tackling has been a feature as well. It was on display Sunday with a tackle of running back Christian McCaffrey on 3rd-and-1 that forced the Panthers to punt on their first possession.

"We purposely get corners who are great tacklers," linebacker Fred Warner said. "That's something where you're not going to be on the field unless you are and willing. And we have some of the best in the league, if not the best, at putting their nose in there and making those types of plays. So that's huge for our defense."

Tough turf

The amount of the injuries the 49ers took on Sunday started some conversation about the playing surface at Bank of America Stadium, which was changed from grass to field turf in 2021. George Kittle offered some thoughts on the subject after the game, asking why NFL players don't have the playing surface consistency that can be seen in other sports.

"The thing that confuses me is... if you're not going to mandate grass, then why aren't all turf fields the exact same turf so guys get used to playing on the same turf everywhere? But every field has a different turf, so it's just like you're playing on a different surface," Kittle said. "NBA guys don't play on different wood. Like, what are we doing? Hockey guys don't play on different ices all the time. It's ice. So I just wish we played on a surface that was similar week in and week out so your body wouldn't be dealing with different, crappy turf."

Postgame speech

To finish up, let's take a look at Kyle Shanahan's postgame speech in the locker room, posted by Shanahan thanked the team for stepping up in the face of injuries, then showed optimism for the rest of the season by saying, "We've got a chance to do something this year, man." Watch below:

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