CARSON — The 49ers’ season might have turned a week ago when Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t run out of bounds.
Now, it seems that much of the 49ers’ hopes for the remainder of the season are based on having a quarterback who’s willing to suffer a little punishment for the good of the team.
C.J. Beathard made his first start of the season Sunday, and put together a solid showing in the 49ers’ 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at StubHub Center.
Afterward, everyone in the losing locker room was talking about the toughness that was on display — just as it was a year ago when Beathard started five games for the 49ers as a rookie.
“You see a guy like that putting his life on the line and trying to get the first down every time or touchdown, it makes you want to do it, too,” 49ers running back Matt Breida said.
Early in the fourth quarter, Beathard broke out of the pocket on a third-and-5 play from the Chargers’ 19-yard line, took a huge hit from cornerback Casey Hayward and came up just short of the first down. Beathard remained on the ground, and the 49ers’ medical staff checked on him.
Backup quarterback Nick Mullens warmed up, as the 49ers believed Beathard had picked up the first down. Instead, kicker Robbie Gould came on to make a 33-yard field goal, and Beathard was back in the game for the team’s next series after receiving medical clearance.
“I knew I was OK,” Beathard said. “I just couldn’t breathe because I got the air knocked out really bad. I knew it would come back eventually. I felt fine.
“They just checked out my head, protocol or whatever. They just made sure I didn’t have a concussion.”
Beathard’s toughness even resonates with the defensive players, linebacker Reuben Foster said. Beathard expresses support for the defense during breaks in the action, and Foster said there’s nothing soft about the QB.
“Like I said, he ain’t no roody-poo,” Foster said. “We got a lot of faith in C.J.”
Last week, Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury when he planted his left foot to try to cut back inside at the left sideline. His knee gave out, and he sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Beathard, who was sacked only once but ran seven times for 19 yards, said he had absolutely no regrets about Sunday’s play on which he took the big hit.
“It’s not really a debate, especially in a situation like that, third down and inches away from converting, could change the game if get that first,” Beathard said. “If I could do it again, I’d do the same thing.”
Beathard completed 23 of 37 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. One of his picks came when tight end Garrett Celek failed to make the catch near the goal line in the third quarter. The ball was returned 82 yards down the field to set up a Chargers field goal.
The second interception was a killer, as Chargers safety Derwin James hit Beathard while he threw, setting up defensive lineman Isaac Rochell’s pick with 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We got to see that he’s blitzing and get rid of the ball,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Said Beathard: “I tried to see if I could get it out before (James arrived). I wasn’t able to. He’s a good player and made a nice play.”
The Chargers scored 20 unanswered points over the second and third quarters to take a 26-17 lead, but Beathard hit tight end George Kittle for an 82-yard scoring pass to get the 49ers back into it. Kittle caught six passes for 125 yards.
“C.J. is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around,” said Kittle, who was teammate of Beathard’s at Iowa. “He hates losing more than anybody I know. He played the game angry. That’s just how he plays. It’s awesome.”