Wow. Just, wow. It’s been about 20 hours since the San Francisco 49ers thrillingly beat the New Orleans Saints, 48-46. One thing that I’ve grown to appreciate about this team is that no matter the outcome of the game, the players will always speak their minds. You won’t ever have to twist the arms of Joey Staley or Mike McGlinchey to get soundbites. Staley talked about the confidence the offense had before they took the field with just under a minute left in the game. “Just had to get in field goal range. We have all the confidence in Robbie [Gould], but huge play by George [Kittle], though. He’s been doing that all season. That’s why he’s the best tight end in the NFL.”
McGlinchey echoed those statements: “George is the best in the world. There’s not really much you can say other than that. It took them to almost rip his neck off to bring him down. I mean he’s the best in the world. He’s phenomenal. He’s probably our best player, and we needed him to come up huge in that moment, and he did.”
Kittle is a treat to watch. The wow plays never get old. There are at least five plays a game where he’s blocking the defender into oblivion. He’s as good as you’ll see at the position.
Shanahan digs deep into the playbook
Akash will have more on this later this morning, but Kyle Shanahan may have called his best game of the season. Despite being down 20-7, he stayed aggressive and continued to get the offense in great situations. Shanahan had an interesting quote about his play-calling:
“You decide on how many risky calls you want to keep doing based on how your defense is playing,’’ San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. ‘’But we knew we were going to come out early with that stuff, and their offense was scoring a lot, so we never felt like we should slow down with it.’’
The trick players came early and often for San Francisco. It wasn’t just limited to trick plays. Shanahan used misdirection, jet sweeps, reverses, you name it. He has New Orleans off-balance all game. Here’s Emmanuel Sanders smiling on his throw:
“The last time we ran, it actually was a duck. I was like, ‘Man, don’t throw a duck in the game because that’s going to be on ESPN’s NOT Top 10.”
Jimmy has a field day
It’s impossible to discuss 49ers’ player quotes without Richard Sherman, who said Jimmy Garoppolo “played like the best quarterback in football today. He beat a legend.” Sherm also said, “thank goodness for our offense.” Here’s more of Sherman on being able to win a tight game in a playoff atmosphere:
“I think it gives him a ton of confidence. I think he hasn’t cared about the naysayers and what the outside world has thought this entire time. I think it’s a wake-up call for them as well about the quarterback he can be in the clutch moments and crucial moments of the game. I think there’s been a lot of question marks, and I think that he answered the questions today.”
In our pre-game prediction, I was confident Garoppolo would have a field day if the 49ers kept him upright. Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns. The first drive was as impressive as Jimmy has thrown the ball all season. He threaded the needle and hit receivers in stride. As the game went on, Garoppolo kept the offense ahead of the chains and made plays with both his arms and his legs. When Jimmy is doing that, San Francisco is a different beast to deal with.
Composed going into the final drive
“Coach Shanahan said as an offense, we feel like we lost the game last week. 4th & 1, we just couldn’t get it done. We have to learn to not put our defense in those positions. I think we did that today.”
That’s Kittle on the Baltimore game from a week ago. Garoppolo said that the team didn’t do anything different than usual, and everybody was calm on the sideline in a good state of mind. It’s easy to be relaxed and confident when you’ve scored as many touchdowns as San Francisco had.
The timeout Shanahan called on 4th & 2 proved to be critical:
“We had to call a timeout right before. It was hard to hear the right play calls in the huddle just because they couldn’t hear through the microphone. I had to use a timeout there, and it quieted down so we could call that. It ended up being worth it because Kittle made a hell of a route, broke that tackle, and taking it down the sideline.”
The players have the best seat in the house when Kittle has the ball. Here’s Jimmy on Kittle’s catch that eventually helped San Francisco win:
“Once he caught it and turned upfield and squared the guy up, I didn’t know what he was going to do, but I knew the guy was in a bad situation on the other side,” Garoppolo said. “George is a beast with the ball in his hands, so it’s just get him the ball in space, let him go to work.”
That was fun. Let’s do it again. Next time, in Santa Clara.