Forget about cross-country jet lag. The 49ers alertly woke up Sunday in Jacksonville and staked themselves to a 20-3 halftime lead over the Jaguars.
Here are some first-half takeaways as the 49ers (4-5) look to win for the third time in four games:
DEEBO DOES IT AGAIN
Deebo Samuel entered the game needing only 21 yards to become the first 49ers’ wide receiver since 2014 to eclispe 1,000 yards in a season. He hasn’t had a pass come his way.
However, he touched the ball five times, and they were all runs, highlighted by a 25-yard touchdown carry to the left pylon for a 10-0 lead 11:24 before halftime. Samuel split the lead blocks of Laken Tomlinson and George Kittle en route to his third rushing touchdown this season.
Samuel has a team-high 47 rushing yards so far, and starter Jeff Wilson Jr. has 39 yards on 14 carries. Samuel had only six carries (22 yards) in the first eight games. Then came Monday night’s masterpiece that included five carries for 36 yards.
His rushing prowess was called upon, in part, because of injuries to the running back corps, from Raheem Mostert’s season ender in Week 1 to the ailments that kept out Elijah Mitchell (finger) and JaMycal Hasty (ankle) in this game.
OPENING DRIVE BALL HOGS
OK, a field goal wasn’t the sexiest result of a 20-play, 13-minute opening drive. But it got the 49ers the lead to show for an exhausting possession. How exhausting?
On Thursday, 49ers safety Jimmie Ward gave insight as to what a 20-play, 11-minute touchdown drive may have done to the Los Angeles Rams in the 49ers’ 31-10 upset: “That can really hurt a defense for the whole game. It’s hard to get your legs backs after you’re out there for 11 minutes.”
Well, the Jaguars’ defense was quickly back on the field once Trevor Lawrence and their offense went 3-and-out in 1 1/2 minutes. The 49ers’ ensuing, second series opened with Brandon Aiyuk bouncing off an attempted tackle and racing 34 yards into Jaguars territory, closing the first quarter.
Officially, Sunday’s opening drive covered 13 minutes, 5 seconds — the NFL’s longest since 2000, according to Fox Sports.
Jimmy Garoppolo and Aiyuk are a red-hot combination, and it paid off with a third-and-goal touchdown pass from the 6-yard line for a 17-0 lead.
Earlier, Aiyuk had a 13-yard reception on a third-and-12 play, so obviously, Garoppolo and the 49ers are trusting him more and more to emerge from an early-season slump.
Aiyuk has caught all six of his targets, for 78 yards. Garoppolo is 10-of-14 for 124 yards with a 122.6 passer rating — poised for his fourth straight game with a 100-plus rating.
By the way, Garoppolo’s touchdown pass came from the shotgun, where he’s thrived since the 49ers’ Halloween win at Chicago. Of Garoppolo’s 14 passes this game, he’s taken shotgun snaps on half of them (6-of-7, 87 yards).
JAUAN JENNINGS’ EFFECT
Jauan Jennings, after redshirting his rookie year, has come on strong in place of injured No. 3 wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
First, Jennings kept the 49ers’ opening drive by pouncing on a Jeff Wilson Jr. fumble at the Jaguars’ 16-yard line.
Then, midway through the second quarter, Jennings’ intensity led to the ejection of Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins. With the 49ers poised to settle for a field goal (after Fred Warner’s recovery of Josh Norman’s forced fumble), Jenkins tussled with Jennings, who lost his helmet and then got punched by Jenkins.