What a difference a QB makes.
For the first time in a long time, the San Francisco 49ers have a true QB1. In his first start with the Niners, Jimmy Garoppolo proved that he is indeed the future and the future is now.
With the help of kicker Robbie Gould, Garoppolo came to his hometown of Chicago on his dad’s birthday and led the Niners past the Bears, 15-14 and to a record of 2-10. The 49ers’ final offensive drive was 86 yards on 14 plays, leading to Robbie Gould’s 5th and game-winning field goal. QB1.
“I tried to say all week that it’s just a normal game,” said Garoppolo. “Obviously I’ve never come back to Chicago like this, so it’s exciting. I had a ton of people here today. It was one of the more fun games I’ve ever been a part of.”
Garoppolo finished the day 26-of-37 for 293 yards, no touchdowns and an interception (which really wasn’t his fault, as the ball stripped out of wide receiver Louis Murphy’s hands after he caught it).
“…[I]t was not clean and it was not perfect, but there was never a time in the game where the guys on the sideline felt like we were going to lose,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “…[T]hat is what we are trying to get done here and you want to believe you can win the game. True belief happens from having success and having those experiences and not just hoping…”
The 49ers dominated the game in statistics with 388 yards to Chicago’s 147, leading the time of possession 38:47 to 21:13, but due to penalties and missed opportunities, they could not get in the end zone. Hence, it not being clean, but man, can Jimmy Garoppolo play quarterback and that was the most important lesson of the day.
“Being in the NFL…you see a lot of different games, different ways to win,” said Garoppolo. “It’s not always the prettiest win, but at the end of the day, you want to get the W. The red zone, that’s a tough area…I’ve only been here a short while, so it’s going to take a little time, but I think, overall, we’re going in the right direction.”
It may have been Jimmy’s day, but the team’s MVP was Gould, who was 5-5 in field goals. Gould played for the Bears for 11 seasons and it was clear that his performance today meant that much more to him, calling the day “bittersweet.”
“I was pretty excited,” said Gould. “To go out there and do your job and have some fun and compete against a lot of people I have respect for. To come in here, get a win like that, and kick a game winner, I don’t think I could have written it any better to be honest with you.”
His quarterback does not disagree.
“Unbelievable,” Garoppolo said. “…[I]t’s crazy how things happen. Everything happens for a reason and for him to 5-5 like that and step up. Special teams did a great job today. Defense holding them to only seven points…That’s a team win and a great thing to move forward with.”
Garoppolo was 14-14 on passes to Trent Taylor and Marquise Goodwin, who finished the day with 92 and 99 yards receiving respectively.
“He’s great, detailed,” said Goodwin. “Just look at him, I mean, he’s got it together. He’s got it all together. He came…and [he’s] helping us flip this thing around. Some people are just winners. He’s a winner.”
Garoppolo gave his coach, and 49ers fans everywhere, a scare when he threw to Murphy in triple coverage, but miraculously, Murphy made the catch as the QB took a hit. It was a pretty incredible pass and catch.
“Never like throwing into triple coverage, but sometimes you have to overcome coaching and make plays,” Shanahan joked. “I hold my breath and when I’m about to be upset and when the receiver comes up with it, I say good job and move on to the next play.”
Garoppolo said he didn’t see Murphy make the catch as he was going down and Murphy didn’t see Garoppolo get hit.
“I couldn’t believe he threw it,” said Murphy. “We worked on it in practice. We hit it in practice, but that wasn’t the coverage we had in practice, but man, he just trusted me. That’s what you want from a quarterback…you want him to trust you and vice-versa. He gave me a chance, man, I made a play. I know early on in the game, I didn’t make a play for him, and I told him, I was going to make a play for him.”
The 49ers were 10-for-18 on third downs, an area where they haven’t been that efficient in eons and Taylor caught 1/2 of them, meaning his five of his six receptions were on third down. The rookie wide receiver spent the night vomiting until about 6 am, but he wasn’t going to miss the game. This team has a lot of grit.
“That’s just what you do for your team,” Taylor said. “That’s just the winning mentality you’ve got to have as a team, just everybody sacrificing for each other, doing whatever it takes to get a victory.”
Taylor has shown tremendous potential all season. It looks like he needed a quarterback that could turn that potential into results, but that doesn’t come by chance. It is no accident that Garoppolo had such clear communication with his receivers today.
“His work ethic throughout the week, he’s on top of everything, making sure everything’s explained the right way, making sure we’re all on the same page, so it’s just a credit to him and his work ethic,” said Taylor “…He’s good at hitting the spots and understands the game really well. It’s just the beginning. We’ll see how we do.”
Yes, it is just the beginning, but the Jimmy Garoppolo era is well underway and now the 49ers have some work to do to build around him. It’s going to be a busy offseason, but for now, dare I say, on to Houston? Nah. Next up on the agenda, the Houston Texans. Go Niners!
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