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49ers finish off dream end to season by blowing out Rams

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Carlos Hyde (28) and the 49ers weren’t going to be denied after their teammate was forced from the game due to a vicious hit in the first half on Sunday. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Jimmy Garoppolo is going into another offseason with an undefeated record.

The 49ers’ franchise quarterback led his team past the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, 34-13, and a group that started the season 0-9 finished it by winning six of their last seven games including five straight.

This victory wasn’t as impressive as those that came in recent weeks: The Rams sat all of their star players and a significant number of starters. But the Niners could only beat who lined up across from them and they did it convincingly.

It was so encouraging, several players said after the game that they wished the season wasn’t ending. That doesn’t typically happen after a group endures a losing season. But Garoppolo isn’t your typical quarterback.

Since he took over as the starter, the 49ers have scored on more than half of their possessions. That’s a marked improvement for a team that averaged 17 points per game over its first 11 games.

And in recent weeks, he’s had a knack for getting Kyle Shanahan’s offense clicking early in the contest. For the third straight week, Garoppolo turned the first two drives of the game into points.

He said after the game that his timing in joining the franchise was perfect.

“We could keep going,” Garoppolo told reporters. “It’s unfortunate that our season comes to an end like this. Hopefully next year we keep this good thing going.”

At this point, the only way he could do to be more beloved by the Faithful is get the team to move back to The City.

“He came in, he didn’t try to do anything out of his personality, he was just himself,” Shanahan said. “He’s been the same every day and when you act that way, guys respect it.”

On to 2018 …

Goodwin’s season ends early

Marquise Goodwin had his breakout campaign abruptly ended toward the end of the first half.

Garoppolo missed him on a crossing route and Blake Countess launched himself at the defenseless receiver. He had 28 yards and a touchdown before the play.

It’s the kind of sequence that will spark 1,000 debates until the NFL is able to figure out its player-safety dilemma.

Several people backing the 49ers wanted Countess to be ejected and fined. Others, many with ties to the home sideline, thought the defensive back was doing his job and that Goodwin falling toward the end of the play meant it wasn’t dirty.

Garoppolo didn’t agree in his postgame press conference, calling the play “unbelievable.”

“It was a dirty play,” he said. “It’s not good for anybody or our sport.”

The good news: Goodwin came out of the incident better than expected. Shanahan said he passed the scan and that “it wasn’t as scary as it seemed.”

But still, it was a tough way to end Goodwin’s season — when he set career marks for most catches and yards.

And if you’re looking for an indicative play for how the 2017 49ers felt about each other, look no further than the snap after Goodwin went down. The call was a run for Carlos Hyde. Shanahan figured it would go for two yards. But the offensive line got behind the running back and pushed the pile six more yards into the end zone.

It was a show of resolve that was noticeably absent in recent years past.

“The o-line wanted to make a statement,” Garoppolo said. “Carlos, everyone was fired up. We did that one for Quise I think.”

Find your keepers

Good NFL teams have depth. And good teams have to invest in those kind of players when they’re young.

General manager John Lynch and his ace personnel team (led by Adam Peters and Martin Mayhew) proved they could find impact players in the beginning of the draft, but it was some cheaper players that proved crucial on Sunday.

Matt Breida simply keeps getting better and George Kittle is a near-ideal safety blanket for quarterbacks.

Breida, an undrafted free agent, finished the season with back-to-back performances with 70-plus rushing yards. He finished the season with 4.2 yards per carry — which would’ve placed him in the top-20 if he had enough carries to qualify.

Kittle, selected in the fifth round, caught four passes for 100 yards. He did most of his damage early, but he was there when Garoppolo needed him.

Ten players caught a pass against the Rams as Garoppolo spread the ball around the field. And the collective results were impressive.

The Niners had 10 more first downs than Los Angeles. They outgained their opponent by 212 yards despite running the same number of plays.

“We have a bunch of good people in our locker room, they stayed together [through adversity],” Shanahan said. “That’s just a credit to some of the character we have in there.”

Another offseason with a focused, savvy front office should bring great things to Santa Clara. Thinking momentum from the field will carry over from Week 17 to next training camp is probably wishful thinking. But the forward movement from the Niners’ braintrust is a welcome development after years of inertia.

Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

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