HOUSTON (AP) — Tom Savage threw for a career-high 365 yards last week before the Houston Texans were once again done in by one of his turnovers in a loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The latest error left Savage searching for a way to limit his mistakes as the Texans (4-8) prepare to host the San Francisco 49ers (2-10) on Sunday.
“Now I’m being labeled as a fumbler and a turnover machine, which I know I’m not,” Savage said.
“It comes down to just executing and doing it and then just proving to yourself you’re not a turnover guy.”
Savage gained that label by losing seven fumbles and throwing six interceptions in just six starts this season. Ten of those turnovers, including all of his interceptions, have come in the past four games where the Texans have gone 1-3.
While acknowledging that he has to cut down on his turnovers, the Texans are also quick to point out the improvement that he’s made in other areas of his game since taking over when Deshaun Watson was injured in November.
“He does a great job of understanding it’s about winning and it’s about putting the ball in the end zone,” quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said.
“We still didn’t get that done. So, for as good as the performance was, as much as it can help him individually … he realizes that ultimately we didn’t get done what we needed to get done, so there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.”
While Savage is only filling in for the season as Watson recovers from a knee injury, the 49ers may have found their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo.
Acquired before the trade deadline from New England, Garoppolo shined in his first start on Sunday, throwing for 293 yards to help the 49ers to a 15-14 win at Chicago.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if it’s too early to get excited about what Garoppolo could do for the team.
“To come in there in that situation and to make some of the plays that he did, when he is in that situation, definitely excites everybody,” Shanahan said. “I think everyone knows the potential and the possibilities. It’s not that you have to temper, you just have to be realistic. It was one game.”
Here are some things to know about the 49ers-Texans game.
STAYING FRESH: The 49ers defense got a needed break last week in the win over Chicago. San Francisco came into the game having faced the second-most plays in the league with 761.
But the defense was on the field for only 36 plays last week, the fewest for any team in a game this season. Much of the credit goes to the offense, which converted 10 of 18 third downs and was on the field for 38:47.
“It got us a lot of rest,” defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said. “We almost felt like we were spectators at the game just watching and stuff. It was very motivating to see the offense drive the length of the field to give the defense the rest we need to perform at a high level.”
INJURIES PILE UP: Houston’s already long list of injuries got even longer when several more players were injured against the Titans.
Receiver Bruce Ellington sustained a season-ending hamstring injury and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz also went on the injured reserve after receiving his third concussion of the season. The Texans are also likely to be without Braxton Miller on Sunday after he also sustained a concussion in last week’s game.
Those injuries have left Houston thin at receiver and tight end, but the group could get a boost against the 49ers if Will Fuller can return. Fuller, who returned to practice this week after missing three games with a rib injury, is second on the team with seven touchdown receptions.
TOP TARGET: Speedster Marquise Goodwin is developing into San Francisco’s top receiver after Pierre Garcon went down with a season-ending neck injury.
Goodwin has been able to use his blazing speed to create cushions by the defense that have allowed him to catch more short and intermediate routes instead of just deep throws.
Goodwin already has career highs with 35 catches for 677 yards. He set a personal best last week with eight catches against the Bears.
“He scares people with his speed,” Garoppolo said. “No doubt about it. The guy’s a legit, I don’t know what his 100 is but it’s fast. It takes the top off defenses and makes them think about that. It allows him to run some different types of routes. But, he’s an all-around good receiver for us.”
CLOWNEY’S CONTRIBUTIONS: Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has led the Texans this season with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus out with injuries. The top overall pick in the 2014 draft has a career-high nine sacks and his 18 tackles for losses are also the most in his career and rank second in the NFL.
“I hadn’t seen him on tape for a while and just watching him Monday … it wasn’t very fun to watch him, to tell you the truth,” Shanahan said. “You get excited hearing that J.J.’s not in there, which thank goodness he’s not, but Clowney is, I think he’s really come through and he’s lived up to the expectations that everybody’s wanted him to.”