49ers' Richie James has breakthrough game vs. Packers amid pressure to produce

Jennifer Lee Chan
·2 min read

James steps up for 49ers, has breakthrough game vs. Packers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

One bright spot for the 49ers in their 34-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night was Richie James. 

The third-year wide receiver bested his entire 2019 season total, catching nine passes for 184 yards and one touchdown. James had been questionable all week leading up to the game with an ankle injury that kept him out of San Francisco's loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8. 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan didn't originally intend for James to be so involved in the offense, but with fellow receivers Kendrick Bourne and Brandon Aiyuk landing on the COVID-19/reserve list, what had been planned for Aiyuk ended up being carried out by James. 

“I was just thankful to have him,” Shanahan said of James after the loss. "He got a lot of opportunities tonight. He was going in a little beat up, he didn’t get to practice, he knew there was a lot of pressure on him because he saw what the game plan was. I was just happy he was able to get out there and could make it through the game.”

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Shanahan revealed he didn’t know earlier in the week if James would be available to play. Despite James not being able to practice on a short week, Shanahan still had confidence in the receiver if his number was called. 

“Richie has been here so he knows what he’s doing,” Shanahan said. “I think the most impressive thing with Richie was we were told on Monday he had a 50-percent chance of playing, coming off an ankle injury. We found out on Tuesday that he was going to dress for the game.” 

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James gave credit to wide receivers coach Wes Welker in preparing him for the game. After Wednesday's walkthrough, the two went through the process a second time to make sure all of the details were covered. James said there was a heightened level of urgency among the receivers and he was going to do whatever it took to help get a win. 

“There was a little pressure in the room because we had to step up the most out of the group because they are looking at us like we are the weak link,” James said. “I’m willing to do anything for this team. If I need to go out there on a 95-percent ankle I would, so that’s just what I did."

Shanahan hopes to get more of his wide receivers back to practice in time for the team's trip to New Orleans to play the Saints in Week 10. The extra time they will get after the short week hopefully will give the depleted roster a chance to heal.