The haters have been out for Jimmy Garoppolo since his shaky fourth quarter performance against the Kanas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. He did little to silence them with his Week 1 performance against the Arizona Cardinals.
Garoppolo went 3-for-11 for 36 yards and a pick over the final 15 minutes against the Chiefs, and he looked just as a bad over the final drives against the Cardinals. With the Niners top two receivers — Deebo Samuel and rookie Brandon Aiyuk — inactive against Arizona, San Francisco needed its quarterback to lead the squad to a win.
Despite struggling for most of the game, the 49ers were still in position to beat their division rivals. San Francisco was down 24-20 with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter and was sitting on Arizona’s 21-yard line. Receiver Kendrick Bourne ran a great route to beat two Cardinals defenders, finding himself with a step on All-Pro Patrick Peterson.
Garoppolo saw Bourne open, but underthrew his pass, which wound up hitting Peterson in the back of the helmet and falling incomplete. The 28-year-old knew he missed an easy one.
“There was a couple of different options, but yeah, K.B. just, I left that one just a hair short,” Garoppolo said after the game. “That’s one I wish I had back, but when you get opportunities like that, you’ve got to take advantage of them.”
The Niners had three more downs to either move the chains or get the go-ahead score. Garoppolo hit receiver Trent Taylor for a 5-yard gain on second down, but missed him on the very next play, setting up a 4th-and-5 from the Arizona 16-yard line.
Taylor ran and out-route and was open as he turned, but Garoppolo hesitated. His throw was behind Taylor, which gave Cardinals corner Byron Murphy enough time to make a play on the ball. The pass fell incomplete, and so did any hope of a 49ers win.
“We were in that situation plenty of times last year,” Garoppolo said. “When you get in those situations, obviously it’s a little different today without the crowd, that game-day feel wasn’t there. It just comes down to execution. In the last minutes like that, every play is crucial, every yard is crucial. We just didn’t execute.”
Garoppolo’s numbers over the last four games (including the playoffs) haven’t been encouraging. He’s 56-91 for 686 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Sure, San Francisco didn’t need much when it was able to dominate the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers with its run-game, but the Chiefs and Cardinals put the onus on Garoppolo to beat them.
San Francisco’s offense struggled at critical moments, finishing just 2-for-11 on third downs and only coming away with one touchdown in four red zone trips.
Jimmy G has shown that he’s good enough to lead a team deep in the playoffs, but the ups-and-downs need to be minimal if he wants to quite the haters, something the quarterback is well aware of.
“I think personally just the consistency, making every drive as perfect as we possibly can. You just want to eliminate errors is what it comes down to,” Garoppolo said. “Just everyone being on the same page, seeing the same picture and I think we’ll be good from there, but I think it’s just when it comes to third down, red zone, things like that, we just have to execute at the end of the day.”
The sky isn’t falling yet. The loss against Arizona stings, but this team is good enough to bounce back from it, especially with back-to-back matchups against the New York teams the next two weeks.
Garoppolo needs to bounce back with a couple of good performances against inferior teams. Even though he’s 21-6 as a starter in the NFL, the critics have their pitchforks out and are ready to pounce if he stumbles again.