Managing expectations isn’t usually one of the top tasks for NFL teams coming off six-win seasons.
Then again [url=http://www.bearscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-pat-o_donnell-jersey]Pat O'Donnell Jersey[/url] , no team has ever gotten to that underwhelming total with a season-ending, five-game winning streak fueled by the midseason acquisition of a quarterback who has shown signs of becoming one of the league’s most promising passers.
That’s exactly the situation the San Francisco 49ers find themselves in as they held their first training camp practice Thursday led by Jimmy Garoppolo and his $137.5 million contract.
”If our guys make a living just reading and listening to talk radio and stuff, that stuff could mess you up,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. ”I am aware that people have talked highly about us and that’s what comes with the territory when you win your last five games after starting so bad. I mean, we all know that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t.”
The 49ers were far from promising at the start of Shanahan’s first season as coach, losing their first nine games for the worst start in franchise history. That vibe began to change after San Francisco dealt a second-round pick to New England for Garoppolo after the eighth loss and things really began to change once Garoppolo was able to get on the field.
He threw a late garbage-time touchdown in a loss to Seattle that dropped the Niners to 1-10 and then took over as starter from rookie C.J. Beathard the following week. San Francisco didn’t lose again last season, posting the best record ever for an NFL team that lost its first nine games.
But there is little carry-over effect in the NFL with nearly half – 19 of 40 – of the teams that finished the season on a five-game winning streak the past 23 seasons missing the playoffs the following year.
”The way we finished last year was all positive and everything but this is a completely new season with new challenges,” left tackle Joe Staley said. ”Everybody has been very focused and understands that. It’s exciting to be able to build on something positive from last year and carry it into the offseason. But there’s no one in the locker room who thinks we arrived. We have a ton of work to do. We were a 6-10 football team. We were happy with the way we finished last year but that’s in the past.”
The presence of Garoppolo is the biggest reason for optimism for San Francisco even if he didn’t look particularly sharp in the first practice of the summer.
He completed 67.4 percent of his passes last season, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt with seven TDs [url=http://www.texanscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-shane-lechler-jersey]Shane Lechler Jersey[/url] , five interceptions and a 96.2 rating.
Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts last season, Garoppolo ranked first in yards per attempt, fourth in completion percentage. His 308.4 yards passing per game in his five starts also would have led the league had he played a full season.
San Francisco scored on an NFL-best 56.6 percent of their drives after Garoppolo took over as starter and ranked in the top five in the league in scoring offense (28.8 points per game), yards per play (6.1) and yards per game (409.6).
That all came with Garoppolo barely knowing the offense, learning just pieces each week as he scrambled to get up to speed. This offseason he was able to start from scratch and has a much deeper understanding of the scheme and his teammates that he hopes translates to even more success on the field.
”The situation I was in last year was so difficult because you’re preparing for a defense that you’re learning in a week, but at the same time, you’re learning brand new calls, new verbiage, all that stuff [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-rico-gathers-jersey]Rico Gathers Jersey[/url] ,” he said. ”So, it was combining all of that into one that made it so difficult. Being able to start from the ground up and learn the why’s of the offense, how it all ties together, how one play helps dictate the next play, it just makes more sense.”
The Niners made other upgrades this offseason, adding an explosive running back in Jerick McKinnon, beefing up the offensive line and signing cornerback Richard Sherman to upgrade the secondary.
San Francisco also was one of the youngest teams in the league last year and hopes to see natural improvement from all the rookies who got extensive playing time in 2017.
”That’s the expectation,” second-year safety Adrian Colbert said. ”We just have to continue to get better. We can’t get stagnant. We can’t decrease in our production. We have to continue to go. That’s our standard.”
Jonathan Lucroy flied out in his first chance at getting the winning hit. The next time up, he didn’t miss.
Lucroy hit an RBI single off the center-field wall with the bases loaded in the 11th inning and the Athletics capped their comeback Sunday with a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
”They stacked the left side up [url=http://www.coltscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-christine-michael-sr-jersey]Christine Michael Sr Jersey[/url] , so you don’t want to roll into a double play right there,” Lucroy said. ”I was trying to stay inside the ball and hit it somewhere up the middle or the other way.”
The A’s rallied for two runs in the ninth to tie it at 5, an inning that ended when Lucroy hit a flyball with runners on first and second.
Jed Lowrie led off the 11th with a single and Jake Jewell (0-1) hit Khris Davis with a pitch. After Matt Olson flied out, Eduardo Paredes replaced Jewell and walked Mark Canha to load the bases.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought left fielder Justin Upton in for a five-man infield but it didn’t matter. Lucroy hit a deep drive to win it.
”We had a couple guys coming out of the bullpen just brought too many walks with them and hit batters,” Scioscia said. ”We put too many guys on base from the ninth inning on and those guys got it done.”
Canha hit an early two-run homer, and added a tying single with two outs in the ninth. Marcus Semien homered to begin the Oakland ninth.
Blake Treinen (4-1) got the win.
Angels slugger Albert Pujols hit his 625th career home run
It was another blown save for Scioscia’s bullpen, the 15th by the Angels this season.
Blake Parker gave up two runs in the ninth. He also had a blown save Wednesday in Seattle. Canha’s tying single came off Cam Bedrosian.
”We made them work early on and they picked us up every single time,” Angels starter Andrew Heaney said. ”They may be struggling now and some guys are having their issues and that’s part of baseball.”
Chris Young homered and Mike Trout reached base five times for the Angels.
Pujols’ drive off Daniel Mengden was his fourth this month and 11th overall this season. It also moved the Angels’ 38-year-old slugger within five home runs of tying Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth place all time.
Pujols also had an RBI single in the third.
Trout had homered in four of his previous six games. He had singles in the fifth and ninth, walked twice and was hit by a pitch.
NICE BUT NOTHING TO SHOW
Heaney allowed Canha’s home run in the second and a sacrifice fly to Olson in the seventh. Beyond that [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jaylon-smith-jersey]Jaylon Smith Jersey[/url] , the left-hander was stellar with eight strikeouts in eight innings. ”One mistake to Canha that was a changeup down the heart of the plate,” Scioscia said. ”Outside of that he was dotting that outside corner, moving the ball in and changing speeds with his breaking ball all day.”
Mengden has issued 10 walks in his three June starts. He had only eight in his first 12 starts.
Athletics: 3B Matt Chapman (right thumb contusion) added throwing to his regimen, one day before his scheduled visit with a hand specialist in Los Angeles. Chapman’s biggest hurdle remains swinging a bat. … LHP Brett Anderson (strained left shoulder) is headed for Arizona to pitch in extended spring training.
Angels: RHP Jaime Barria (5-2, 2.61 ERA) faces the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of a two-game series Monday in Anaheim. Barria’s ERA is the lowest among all rookies with at least 40 innings this season.
Athletics: RHP Paul Blackburn (1-1, 11.05 ERA) starts against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday to begin Oakland’s 10-game road trip.
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