December 3, 2017. It feels like a decade ago. That was the first start Jimmy Garoppolo had as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Let’s relive that victory over the Chicago Bears. The final score was 15-14. It was ugly, but winning is all that matters. Nobody picks apart a QB’s win/loss record by saying “well he won a low-scoring game that one time,” or “he won a bunch of close games.” Those are the type of games that separate the great from the good.
The first third down of the game was telling. It was 3rd & 10, and Garoppolo hangs in there and throws a comeback route to Marquise Goodwin for a gain of 15 yards to move the chains. The drive stalled after an offensive pass interference call on Goodwin, but the 49ers were able to get a field goal.
Referencing total yards, or TD/INT ratio is lazy. There are plenty of smart stats out there that paint a much better picture than those. The interception Garoppolo threw this game on target. Bears defender Kyle Fuller just snatched it out of his hands. On the stat sheet, it’s Jimmy G’s fault. That goes for dropped passes, interceptions, and everything in between.
Moving the ball
After the interception, the 49ers scored on their next three possessions. Points are important. Only one of those were touchdowns, but for the first start against a good defense, scoring on four of your first five possessions is a great initial impression.
In 2018, the 49ers moved the ball well, considering the circumstance. They were 13th in yards per drive. Like Garoppolo’s first start, finding the end zone will be where the 49ers need to take the next step.
Take us home
The 49ers got the ball with just over five minutes left. They were trailing by two and had the ball on the eight-yard line. Rewatching the drive, the poise Garoppolo showed said it all. The offense converted three first downs. Jimmy G was in complete control. As a quarterback, knowing where to go with the ball is half the battle. On a 33-yard throw to Trent Taylor, Garoppolo held the safety, then came back across the field and hit him in stride.
Garoppolo didn’t stuff the stat sheet. His box score reads 26-37, for 293 yards and an interception. He willed his team to victory. That’s what the Niners will need in 2019. Wins.