QB Beathard shows grit during Niners’ narrow loss to Bolts
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Although C.J. Beathard knew he should slide, the San Francisco 49ers desperately needed a first down in the fourth quarter of a two-point game.
So Beathard kept running toward Casey Hayward, and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Pro Bowl cornerback knocked the wind clean out of the quarterback with a devastating shoulder hit.
“Especially in a situation like that, on third down when you’re inches away from converting, it could change the game if we get that first,” Beathard said. “If I could do it again, I’d do the same thing.”
Beathard didn’t get that first down. After he caught his breath, the Niners still dropped to 1-3 with a 29-27 loss Sunday.
But after the first game of Beathard’s second stint as San Francisco’s accidental starting quarterback, his teammates and coaches were enthusiastically confident in his ability to fill in splendidly for Jimmy Garoppolo this season.
“He gave us a chance to win today,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He played very tough and made some big plays, especially in situations with guys going in and out. He handled adversity well, and a little chaos with some of the injuries.”
Beathard went 23 of 37 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Chargers, capably connecting on a series of big throws — none bigger than an 82-yard touchdown pass to tight end George Kittle late in the third quarter.
“C.J. has got more grit than anybody that I know,” said Kittle, Beathard’s college teammate at Iowa. “He’s got a severe dad bod. He can run longer than anybody I’ve ever known, which is kind of crazy, and he can take any hit. So it’s pretty cool. Don’t know how he does it.”
The 49ers lost both of Beathard’s starting offensive tackles to injuries at StubHub Center. Joe Staley didn’t return, while Mike McGlinchey came back in less-than-ideal shape. The Chargers were credited with eight quarterback hits and one sack of Beathard, along with plenty of regular pressure, particularly in the second half.
Beathard took it all and came back for more.
“Ain’t no room for being sweet, (and) there ain’t nothing sweet about C.J.,” 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster said. “So that’s why we have faith and we believe in C.J. It was really not surprising, but it was surprising because I could see it in his eyes every time he came on the sideline, like, ‘Defense, let’s go. We’ve got your back. We ride with y’all.’ Just him saying that means a lot to me and the defense, because you know where his head is at.”
Beathard dropped to 1-5 as an NFL starter with this loss, but his teammates loved his moxie. Hayward’s big hit sent Beathard to the sideline — once he could stand up again — but he returned for the 49ers’ final two offensive series.
“I knew I was OK,” Beathard said dismissively. “I just couldn’t breathe. I got my air knocked out pretty bad, and I was able to come back eventually. I felt fine.”
If Beathard had actually got that first down, the 49ers would have had to give the next snap to Nick Mullens, who was promoted last week from the practice squad. Shanahan said the Niners will look at signing another backup quarterback this week.
Los Angeles essentially ended the game by forcing Beathard’s second interception with 2:31 to play.
Derwin James’ blitz sent the ball out of Beathard’s hands, and it hit center Weston Richburg before the Bolts’ Isaac Rochell grabbed it for an interception.
Shanahan said he wished Beathard “would have saw that and got rid of it,” but Beathard said he was trying to get the ball away before the Chargers’ disruptive rookie safety got to him. It was another failed gamble, but the 49ers will accept it if Beathard continues to grow from these painful experiences.
“He is going to be a great quarterback in this league,” Niners running back Matt Breida said. “He is a tough competitor, as you can see. He’ll take the ball and run with it, take big hits, and get up and get back in the game. It’s going to be hard to get C.J. out of the game.”