The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a last second win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 15, and there was plenty to celebrate. Jimmy Garoppolo and Robbie Gould were the well publicized heroes of the game, but there was plenty more to the 25-23 victory. Here’s what some of the team had to say during postgame locker room availability.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
(Inaudible) the ability to go up and down the field as quickly as you did.
“All game long they had a good game plan coming in. It was great. I love it when they blitz us like that, it makes everything a lot easier. I think we took advantage of it in the right way and got some big plays out of it.”
Did it make your choices easier? Where you’re going with the ball with the ball when you blitz.
“When they blitz like that it creates holes in the defense. They have guys dropping and doing responsibilities that they’re not used to. It’s good matchups for us.”
Did you think when you get the ball back with just over a minute left, is it the same old thing? Or is it a different kind of feel?
“Obviously there’s a lot of excitement in the stadium today. The crowd was on fire. Especially at the end there with the defense. I’ve never heard them that loud in my short time here. It was a good 2-minute drill, a lot of good execution across the board. Every guy stepping up in their own way. I thought the line did a great job today. Just through and through giving me time. Like you said, they brought a lot of pressure. I thought they did a phenomenal job for us.”
Staying with the run wasn’t that effective, did that help you out just in terms of having balance on play action?
“Yeah. The time of possession I saw a little while ago was in our favor which is always a good thing. It helps our defense out. It helps our offense get a rhythm. Finishing drives is really where we have to get to right now.”
WR Marquise Goodwin is probably playing the best football of his career. Early in the season before you got here he might’ve had some issues catching some passes. Where does your confidence in him stem from?
“Just the hard work he puts in. ‘Quise is one of the first guys that came up when I first got here and said hi to me and introduced himself. He’s just a hard worker, you really got to tip your hat to that. The extra time that we put in, not even just with him, but with all the skill position players. The extra meetings we have, the stuff in practice, the extra routes, it’s starting to pay off now.”
This is you guys third comeback win now in three games for you. Does this feel competitive? Like it’s kind of funny like, ‘Welp here we go again’ kind of thing?
“Well we’d like to win by a lot. That would make things a lot easier. I said this a couple weeks ago when we won in Chicago, we’re a young team and we’re learning how to win. I think these close games will only pay off in the long run. For next year and everything, we’re not looking that far ahead but it’s good to be in these close games. There’s different ways to win in this league. It’s not always going to be pretty, you got to grind it out sometimes.”
Did you have a message? Do you say something to the offense or do you kind of go out and let things happen?
“I always say something to the offense before every drive, I’m always talking on the sideline. That’s one thing that our offense does a good job of. There’s a lot of talking to each other, communicating what we saw out there. It helps us in the next drive. There was a lot of confidence coming into that last drive. We moved the ball well all day. We just needed to get in field goal range for [K] Robbie [Gould], and he took care of the rest.”
What was your message before the last drive?
“I don’t even remember to be honest. One of those guys might remember. We had to execute. Two-minute drill comes down to execution at the end of the day. All the excitements going on and you just have to stay cool and go execute.”
With all that excitement, the fans, the players and everything. Do you try to ride that excitement? Or do you try to dial back and be calm?
“It’s awesome for the fans to be excited. As a quarterback, I don’t know, I’m pretty even keeled to begin with. Just go out there, we knew what we had to do. We had to execute. We knew what yard line we had to get to, how many timeouts we had and all that stuff. There are a lot of variables involved in it, so you’re thinking of a lot of stuff. But, I think it played out well.”
In the 3rd quarter, I think you guys had one possession, they had the ball for like 12 minutes. How much did hitting that big one to Celek kind of maybe get you guys back on track just because you’d been off the field for so long?
“Yeah, Celek time. That guy, he always finds a way. It was a big play. There was multiple big plays today. [WR] K.B. [Kendrick Bourne] had a big one, the over the middle throw to him. There was guys stepping up all over the place. That’s what makes a good team. We’re building towards that. We just have to keep it going week in and week out.”
All of your teammates have talked about how they knew you were going to be good when you came here, but you’ve exceeded their expectations. Have you exceeded yours in any way?
“I set pretty high expectations for myself and I hold myself to a pretty high standard. It’s a work in progress. We still have two games left in this season. We’ve got a really good team coming in here next week. So, we have to keep preparing. Going out to practice, having good practices. I think that’s playing a huge role in this. We go out Wednesday through Friday and we really put in the time. It’s starting to pay off.”
You mentioned wanting to punch the ball in to get seven instead of three on these drives. What do you think the next step is to get to that level in the offense?
“I’m not exactly sure. The coaching staff, they work extremely hard. They give us great opportunities and put us in good situations. We as players have to go capitalize on them. It’s not one specific thing, I think it’s a multitude of different things. I think we’re going in the right direction. It’s a hard situation, third down in the red zone. They’re very specific and things have to go perfectly. We’re still working towards it and it’s something for us to improve on.”
You say anything to Robbie before he goes out and kicks it?
“Absolutely not. He’s in the zone, I know how that is. I don’t know how that is for him [laughter]. Just going out for the two-minute drill, we went and handled our business and he handled his. That’s what a good team does.”
What’s your leadership style? And how do you go about coming in the middle of the season and trying to win the respect of your teammates?
“I don’t know, I never really sat back and tried to figure out my leadership style. I think it just kind of comes naturally. I try to go out there and help the guys around me be as good as they can be and put them in a good situation to win. I think that’s ultimately what makes a good quarterback.”
This is your third start. First time you’ve been able to start three games in a row in the NFL. How much fun are you having?
“It’s fun. It is very fun. Football at the end of the day is a little kids game that grown men get to play. I’m just privileged to get to do that every day.”
WR Kendrick Bourne
Take us through San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo? Drive after drive, third down situations, what was he like in the huddle? Did he seem as cool under pressure as he looked?
“Yes. He is always composed. He has always showed us that. Once he first got here he has always been composed. He is a guy that you just respect when you see him. He has always had that characteristic about him. He has that leader character, so we bought in as soon as he got here.”
It seemed as though you guys were able to find those soft spots in the Titans defense. When a big play had to be made especially on third down you guys were able to make it.
“Yes. We were really good on third down today. Everybody did a great job and like you said Jimmy just being so poised every time that he is back there. He doesn’t really panic. He gets pressure a lot, but he is still able to make plays. He is a stud. He can move well. With him making those plays longer it has really been helping our team. It messes up defenses. It brings defenses down. Once he makes a play like that and something happens the defense starts to lay off. We just have to keep it up.”
TE Garrett Celek
Have you noticed that San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is particularly adept at in-game adjustments and San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo meshes well with that?
“Definitely. Jimmy’s got the ability to not be robotic. I know he goes through his reads, but to be able to say, ‘Alright, this guy’s open,’ and throw it, where some guys are too robotic in their reads, and they don’t see certain guys get open, I think Jimmy does that really well.”
You’ve been here for a while. How does it feel to have this progression and success in your career?
“It feels great. To be utilized in the offense makes me feel like I’m contributing to the team. I know I’ve been primarily a blocker in the past and to be able to really affect the game more than just in the run phase, it feels great.”
Is there something about QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s throws that make it easy to hold on?
“He’s got a great touch. I just think we’re all on the same level. The throws aren’t late. They aren’t tight throws into coverage. Right when you get open, he’s firing it in there. Everything’s kind of meshing really well right now.”
How’s his fastball?
“Jimmy’s got a fastball. He knows when to turn it up and when to turn it down. He’s got a nice touch.”
LB Reuben Foster
We heard the screams from the locker room after the game. Take us through what those emotions were like.
“It was exciting just to see everybody happy and to know how to win.”
You’re 4-10, but do you feel like you can play with anybody?
“We’re 4-10 but it doesn’t mean we aren’t starving. We’re hungry. We’re 4-10, so we’ve got to look forward to this year and next year. We have to treat these next two games like our playoffs.”
You held them to a field goal so they only went up within a field goal. What were you thinking when 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense gets the ball back?
“I was scared, but I know Jimmy. Jimmy is Jimmy. Jimmy’s going to find his way. Plus our wide receivers, our running back corps is something to deal with. Everything is in shape, everything is running great. From the threats of Jimmy as the quarterback, wide receiver of [WR] Marquise [Goodwin], the threats of [RB Carlos] Hyde running people over, it’s there and I like it.”
After your injury, you went right from the blue tent to the field. I’ve never seen that before.
“I can’t miss a beat. If I miss a beat I feel bad, especially if I can go out there and make a difference for my team.”
Speaking of making a difference, during that last drive when you stopped the Titans and forced the field goal, what was discussed in the huddle and what were the emotions like because you knew you needed a stop?
“We knew we needed a stop and [LB] Eli Harold was like: ‘Alright, just think about it, three minutes.’ We run more than that in practice. Just getting three minutes over with and going hard, no matter what, that’s what I felt like.”
WR Marquise Goodwin
What is it like playing with San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo?
“He’s just very in tune with everybody. It’s crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever played with anybody like him. If you look, my route, it may have been a good route and it may have not, but I don’t have to run a perfect route.”
You are on fire right now. You’ve had a bunch of good games in a row. How does it feel?
“I’m blessed. I’ve been dealing with a lot. I’m blessed. I’m thankful for the opportunity. God has shown me so much in this season. I had a lot going on this year losing my baby and I just recently lost my biological father this week. It’s just been a lot, but I really didn’t let the outside negative energy affect how I play, how I approach this game or how I come to work each day. I just kind of stayed positive and kept my mind fresh, and I relied on God to bring me through all of the situations that I’ve been through.”
You’ve had some issues earlier in this season dropping passes, but now you seem to be catching everything. What’s the difference?
“In the league you just have drops. If you’ve never played football, or if you haven’t played in the league especially, you really don’t know how hard it is to make every play. You can’t really let it affect you. I haven’t let it affect me at all. I remain who I am. I keep my faith in God knowing he’ll bring me through whatever circumstance that I’m in. I just believe in myself. I believe in my teammates and I believe in my coaches.”
You saved Jimmy from an interception during the game. Did he come over and thank you afterwards?
“He definitely did. He was just like, ‘Did you catch it?’ I told him, ‘Yeah I caught it. I’ve got you.’ He’s a great guy, a great QB, throwing dimes, making plays and extending drives. That’s what you want in a quarterback.”
In Chicago you were saying Jimmy is a winner. Today with 1:07 left when you guys take the field, were you feeling just as confident because you had him in there?
“I’m pretty sure someone on the sideline was recording me after they kicked the field goal. It didn’t really affect me because we had 1:07 left on the clock. We practice those situations every week. We were already prepared for it. We knew what we were going to do. There was no panic. He took control of the huddle, and he knew exactly what we needed to do to set ourselves up to at least get in field goal position or get a touchdown. That’s exactly what happened.”
K Robbie Gould
What was your thought process going into that last kick?
“We were real confident. We chose that end because that’s one of my favorite kicks. It’s a kick I get usually every day in practice. It was a lot windier in pregame than it was towards the end of the game. We thought that would be the most constant wind. The offense did a great job getting the ball down there and within range. Whenever you get a chance like that you obviously want to put it through. [LS] Kyle Nelson and [P] Bradley Pinion have been unbelievable as well as the field goal unit all year. Just trust your keys, hit it out towards the right center and it should come back about a quarter a post, and that’s what it did.”
How locked in are you right now compared to maybe when you weren’t at your best?
“When you have teammates like I have in the locker room and guys doing their job and taking ownership in it, the way this team has kind of gelled, it makes your job a lot easier. We talked a long time ago, a couple weeks ago, about making a run, finding ways to win games. It doesn’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to do everything right. Just come together as a team. I think you’re starting to see some of that towards the end of the season. For us in the locker room, seeing some of those hard losses in the beginning of the season turn into wins is pretty special. It’s a testament to the coaches and the organization and the guys in the locker room.”
Considering what you guys have been through this year, obviously you guys aren’t going to the playoffs and you’ve kicked a million kicks, but do you feel any pressure when you go out for that last one?
“You don’t think about it. Honestly I couldn’t even tell you how long it was. I just trust the keys. I know the distance based on what you see is where I’m going to aim. For the guys, it’d been pretty special. This is one of, if not my favorite season I’ve ever played in 13 years. Some people might say ‘Your record is what it is.’ I think there’s something to be said about the brick by brick that [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [general manager] John [Lynch] are putting together. It’s pretty fun to watch it all kind of gel, get out there every Sunday knowing you have a chance to win. Guys are excited about playing. We talk about beating playoff teams. That team is in the playoff hunt. We talked about setting a tone if we want to be in these games and get ready for those games next year, we’re playing playoff football right now. Even though we’re not going there, that’s the type of football we need to play. You saw a lot of that today, and the guys responded pretty well.”
How much satisfaction do you get out of making that kick considering QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s drive down the field and the way he played all day?
“I got a lot of satisfaction to be honest with you. You want to play playoff football? You’ve got to make every kick and every point count. My favorite part as a kicker making a kick like that is watching the other sideline go completely silent to be honest with you. I usually talk to myself before I get ready to go kick those kicks. The kicks that I need to go up by one, or the kicks we need to extend it by 10, I usually kind of get myself excited. It’s a team that you want to beat because you want to know that you can have a chance to make the playoffs next year. The guys in the locker room have worked every day, Monday through Sunday, grinding for a long time to start getting this winning feeling. You’re seeing some of that come together in a winning streak. I think we’ve won four of the last five or something like that. It’s pretty fun to be in there with that group of guys.”
You talked about some of those close losses turn into wins. Jimmy is kind of one of the common denominators in that. How much confidence do you guys have getting the ball back with that much time remaining?
“A lot. If you go and look at the throws that he’s been making the last couple of games, the way he’s come in here as a leader, the way he’s handled the huddle, the way he’s handled himself throughout the week preparing some young receivers and helping guys out, the routes that he tries to get them to run, and what he’s looking for against the defense and get everyone on the same page. He comes from a great pedigree in New England, obviously learning from one of the best. I’ve played there so I know the type of football player that he’s coming from and that we’re getting, and it’s a pretty special football player.”
The offense has put together a lot of scoring drives over these last three games, whether they’ve been field goals or touchdowns. How much does that help your rhythm? How much does that change things for you when you have confidence that you’re going to get a kick at the end of a drive?
“You want to talk about offensive efficiency, you want to end every drive with points in some capacity. Whether it’s a touchdown or whether it’s a field goal, you talk about building momentum as the game goes forward. As the offense goes you want to put those points on the board knowing that you’re extending the lead. Or you’re giving yourself a chance. You get in a game like this, if you miss one of those kicks in the first quarter like I did against Los Angeles, I go back to those kicks because those are the kicks that fuel me every day. I get mad about those. They would have to drive for a touchdown instead of a fifty-eight whatever yard field goal it’s going to end up being. Every kick, every point matters in this league. Especially when you’re going against some great football teams. I put the two losses we had against Washington, against Los Angeles on my back because I didn’t get my job done. Those are the kind of kicks I always go back and look at. I can tell you every single kick from the entire season. It’s just pretty special what this units doing this year. It has a lot to do with the guys in the locker room and the coaching staff that we have here. There’s a lot of bright days ahead for this group.”
You went through a long free agent process before you signed here. Could you walk us through what that process was? Do you feel like you actually made the right decision by continuing your career here?
“I can tell you I made the absolute right decision by coming here. I don’t make decisions for my family and my career just on a hunch. You know what I mean? I think I told you this in Chicago, I met Kyle seven years ago at the combine, with [Miami Dolphins head coach] Adam Gase and a couple other people sitting at a table. Just listening to him talk. I think he was the offensive coordinator at that time. Just the passion he had in the game, it made a lot of sense for me to come here. [Assistant special teams coach] Stan Kwan was the first guy to ever work me out. [Special teams coordinator Richard] Hightower was a guy I had in Chicago. I wanted to go to a place where people were going to be honest with me. I could get some honest criticism. You talk about a young kid like Bradley Pinion. If I’m not having a good day he’s allowed to tell me at 13 years in the National Football League ‘Hey, you got to get it done.’ You know what I mean? I expect him to do that. Same thing with Kyle Nelson. That has a lot to do with our room growing as a whole, and talking about accountability. The process I went through, I wanted to go to a place where I felt comfortable. I wanted to go to a place where people are going to be honest with me. At the end of the day I knew if you looked at the roster it had a lot of talent. Just a matter of seventy new guys could come together and how fast that could happen. I think that’s a big part of why in the beginning of the season we didn’t pull some of those close games out. Because guys didn’t really know each other like they know each other now. You’re starting to see guys play for one another. You’re starting to see each guy, whether its offense, defense, special teams, make plays. It has to do with gelling and understanding the systems. It’s been a lot of fun the last couple of weeks.
Obviously there’s been a lot of parody in this league, we all know that. But, how important is it for your team to play all these playoff contenders for the next few weeks? Rams, Jacksonville, and today Tennessee.
“It’s big. The NFC West is a pretty difficult division to play in. You’re probably talking about teams can only win maybe 12 or 11 football games to win the division. If we want to be the best like we talk about in the locker room, you got to beat those teams. For us, understanding that we’ve been there before. It’s not a shock to young guys. The hitting and speed of the game. The pace of what you’re used to from preseason to regular season, regular season to playoffs, you don’t get a slow start. I think the guys came out today, they played really fast, they played really hard. These are the type of things that happens when you play that kind or rhythm and you play that kind of tempo.”
FB Kyle Juszczyk
What is San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s demeanor?
“Jimmy is honestly different than most quarterbacks that I’ve been with because he’s so passionate and fiery. You don’t see that a lot from quarterbacks. He’s out there pumping us up and keeping us locked in on the sidelines. He does a great job of that.”
Are there specific examples of him rallying the team?
“Before the last drive, he came up to each and every one us and said to stay locked in because we might need to do this one more time. We were all counting on the defense to get a stop, but he said to not sleep and stay locked in because we might need one more.”
This is the first winning team that you guys have beaten, and they were playing for their lives. Is this, in some ways, more meaningful or tell you more about yourself?
“Getting wins in the NFL are tough no matter who you’re playing, so they all mean a lot. This definitely, we feel like, is a starting to set a standard of where we can be.”
It’s a small sample size with QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but is he exceeding some expectations of yours?
“Everybody here just thinks the world of him. He continues to perform, and he’s helped elevate everyone else’s play. So yes, I think he’s exceeded some expectations.”
As you look ahead to 2018, is there the thought that this can turn around pretty quickly?
“Yes, definitely. We all look at this like we’re building for that right now. [San Francisco 49ers head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] talked about this week that if we want to be in big games next year and play in playoff games, it starts now. That’s a playoff team, and we’re playing two more playoff teams coming up. We have to get used to this environment and performing against these kind of teams.”
TE George Kittle
On the final drive when you’re down and you have a long way to go with little time on the clock, what was the mentality?
“Everyone just has to do their job. We practice the two-minute drill every single day, so it’s something we’ve gotten pretty good at. Guys just have to step up, do their job and make the play whenever their name is called. We knew that we would be able to drive down and get a field goal or even a touchdown.”
What were you trying to attack against Tennessee’s defense at that point?
“They play pretty tight zone, so we tried to find a gap here or there. We tried to find [San Francisco 49ers WR] Marquise Goodwin like we found in those little holes all the day. The same was with [San Francisco 49ers WR] Kendrick [Bourne]. That last drive we just tried to find a seam ball here, a slant there, and it just kind of worked out. [San Francisco 49ers QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] had his rhythm all day, so that made it easier for us.”
What happened on that drive when you were able to get loose over the middle for 24 yards?
“I was just open. I looked around and said ‘Hey, this is cool.’ It was really fun. I knew I was wide open so I just turned a little early. Jimmy had thrown it already, so I had to catch it. I knew that we had to get to the 37-yard line for [San Francisco 49ers K] Robbie [Gould], so I just caught it, put my head down and held on to the ball.”
Are you surprised that a guy can come in from an outside organization and not only play well but also take on a leadership role like QB Jimmy Garoppolo has?
“With a guy like Jimmy, he asserted himself as a leader the first week that he was here. That’s just the type of guy that he is. He’s a guy that you want to follow. He puts himself up there. Jimmy breaks us down before we get on the field every single day. He’s one of the most fired up guys, just like [San Francisco 49ers T] Joe Staley. It’s really awesome to see that, and it’s easy to follow him. You want to play well for him. That’s what football is all about.”
T Joe Staley
How great is San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo?
“He is really good. He is awesome. It is really fun to be out there playing with him.”
We have all seen Levi’s Stadium when it hasn’t been too lively and the fans haven’t been there. What was it like today?
“It was fun today. It was a lot of fun. The fans really showed out. We knew that they were going to. We are kind of building something here and I think the fans sense that excitement. I think today was a big step against a team that was doing well. I think they were 8-5 with playoff expectations and I was glad to be able to go out there and prove to ourselves that we are building something pretty special here. It has been the same stuff we have been seeing all year. No one has been quitting or worrying about the score until the whistle blows. It is like you said with the 2-minute drill no one was panicking. It was like, (Alright, let’s go). It was what we were doing all game. I think we punted one time so that is pretty good.”
Does Jimmy bring an air of confidence that wasn’t here before?
“Yes. He is very calm, collected and focused. Not to say that wasn’t here before, but it definitely has a different aura around him. We are really excited about him. It is fun to block for him.”
WR Trent Taylor
When you’re moving down the field and you all got really explosive, are you almost shocked with how quickly you’re at the other end?
“It was kind of shocking. We started on the 25. I had the quick pass and then two plays later, we’re in field goal range. It happened real fast, but that’s just credit to all the guys on the offense that we’ve got out there making plays for us.”
WR Kendrick Bourne came through today and I think it was something like nine or 10 different receivers who had catches. All year we’ve been talking about some of the potential in the receiving room. Do you take pride in the way you spread the ball around?
“No doubt. It was great to see a guy like Kendrick kind of finally have a break out game like that, like he did today. We’ve known he’s always had the potential to have a good game like that. He’s very athletic with a lot of skill. We knew he had it in him, it was just a matter of time. It was great to see him finally have that kind of game.”
In your opinion, what’s happening here? Why is it working?
“I think we have the right people in place, the right leadership in place. When you’ve got good leaders like [49ers head] coach [Kyle] Shanahan and [general manager] John Lynch, you know that they’re always fighting for you, doing the best that they can for us. It just goes back to them. We all want to make sure that we’re leaving it out on the field for them. We got the right guys in the locker room. We all want to win, we’re all willing to go out there and fight for each other. It just all starts from within.”
It seemed like that was a really good play call dialed up for that spot. Is that one that you like to run with all of those blockers?
“Yeah, a nice screen play like that when you’ve got the offensive line that we’ve got, out there, clearing it up for you. It makes it an easy game for me when you’ve got blockers up there.”