As a refresher, the factors I used to create this list include how did each performance hold up with the eye test. After going back and watching the game film, was it as impressive now as it was at the time?
I also heavily weighed the game’s impact, meaning the stakes of each contest played a pivotal role in how these rankings ultimately played out—finally, good old-fashioned statistics. So while the eye test was the primary factor being weighed, I also made it a point to place enough emphasis on the objective numbers a player posted in their respective games.
Without further ado, number six on the list:
Jimmy Garoppolo - Week 10 vs Los Angeles
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Garoppolo makes an appearance on the list, but what likely comes as a surprise is the game that put him there is one where he threw for less than 200 yards. This is exactly the kind of game I had in mind when I put this list together because it provides a great example of how misleading box score statistics can be without the proper context behind them.
Remember, one of the driving factors when constructing this list was the importance of a given game, and heading into this week 10 matchup with the Rams, the 49ers all but had their backs against the wall. They were 3-5, coming from a double-digit home loss to an Arizona Cardinals team without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins.
The season was on the line, and the 49ers were getting set to take on a Rams team that was 7-2 and looked every bit of the Super Bowl team they ultimately ended up becoming. San Francisco had to have this game and to do so. It was going to require a strong game from the 49ers signal-caller, which they got and then some.
Garoppolo finished this game with a respectable stat line of 15/19, 185 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 141.0 rating. For starters, a 78% completion percentage in any NFL contest will always be impressive, as will throwing multiple touchdowns without committing a turnover.
But what really made this performance special for Garoppolo was how he performed in clutch moments throughout this contest. On third and fourth down, Garoppolo repeatedly made the necessary throws to keep the 49ers offense on the field. So let’s start on the opening drive of the game.
With 10:45 left in the first quarter, the 49ers faced a third and five from their own 23-yard line. The 49ers lined up George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings in a bunch formation to the right side, and Kyle Shanahan dials up a route combination that causes confusion for the Rams’ secondary on the back end and allows Kittle to get free in space on an out route to the right side.
While there may not be anything particularly flashy about this sequence, Garoppolo still drops back and delivers a clean ball to Kittle, who is then able to turn upfield and pick up some additional yardage. It may just appear like a routine throw any NFL quarterback should make with regularity. However, it set the tone early in this game that the 49ers were going to attack the money with confidence.
One area of Garoppolo’s undisputedly elite game is his ability to convert quarterback sneaks in short-yardage situations. He is one of the best we have ever seen when it comes to sneaks, boasting a perfect 25/25 track record on quarterback sneaks with one yard or less to go.
Later on this opening drive, the 49ers were faced with a third and one in Rams territory, needing to get inside the 40-yard line to keep the drive alive. So naturally, Shanahan went to his ace in the hole and dialed up a sneak for the guy who literally always delivers in these situations.
Next up was another third-down conversion from the opening drive, this time a third and four from the Rams’ 33-yard line with 5:25 to go in the first quarter. Shanahan dials up a choice route for Kittle, who is matched up one on one with linebacker Troy Reeder in man coverage. With Jalen Ramsey lurking to the outside, Kittle opts to take the inside and breaks to his left, where he and Reeder are alone on an island with no help over the middle.
Garoppolo drops back and calmly delivers a great ball to Kittle in stride, who is able to get beyond the sticks and move the chains before being brought down. What really stands out from Garoppolo on this play is the ball placement. Garoppolo put this ball exactly where it needed to be, and as a result, Kittle is able to continue his momentum and pick up the yardage needed for a fresh set of downs.
Finally, to cap off this opening drive, the 49ers faced a third and six from the Rams’ eight-yard line. Kittle runs a SWIRL route, and Garoppolo puts a ball on the back shoulder of his tight end to put six points on the board.
This capped off an impressive opening drive that saw Garoppolo go 3-3 for 33 yards and a touchdown on third down, as well as converting the sneak attempt. Garoppolo was simply phenomenal in this game on third down, and it continued with 8:40 remaining in the second quarter and the 49ers facing a third and seven from their own 36-yard line.
This was a play that really encapsulates one of Garoppolo’s most underrated qualities, which is his ability to stand tall in a collapsing pocket and deliver a clean ball while absorbing the risk of getting leveled by an opposing defender.
Time and time again, we have seen Garoppolo put his own body on the line to buy the extra time to deliver a ball in a less than ideal surrounding, and on this particular play, it turned a third and long into a 20-yard gain to prolong a drive that ultimately resulted in a touchdown for the 49ers offense.
Fast forward to the second half, where the 49ers faced a third and six from their own 41-yard line with 9:53 remaining in the third quarter. Garoppolo hits Samuel on the far hash before the 49ers wideout evaded multiple Rams defenders for a pickup of 19 yards and a fresh set of downs.
Once again, Garoppolo’s outstanding ball placement is on full display, putting this ball between two Rams defenders, which leads to Samuel having an opportunity to create even more yardage after the catch and ultimately getting the 49ers a hefty chunk of yardage on third down. This was just one of those games where Garoppolo had it, with his timing and precision clicking at a high level throughout this contest.
This kind of pinpoint accuracy was on display from Garoppolo all throughout the evening, including with 2:28 remaining in the second quarter and the 49ers facing a 3rd and seven from their own 30-yard line. Samuel runs a DRIFT route, and Garoppolo connects with him over the middle for an 11-yard gain.
Garoppolo and Samuel developed great chemistry on this route over the years, and it delivered here in a huge spot to keep this drive alive. This wouldn’t be the last time Garoppolo connected with Samuel in a big moment in this game, as that duo saved their best for last in what was the crown jewel of this Garoppolo masterpiece.
Up double digits with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the 49ers were looking at a fourth and six from the Rams’ 40-yard line. Rather than punt, Shanahan opted to roll the dice and keep the offense on the field, with a chance to prolong a drive that had the potential to be the final nail in the coffin to discard any hope the Rams had at mounting a comeback.
Garoppolo not only took away any hope the Rams had at coming back in this game, but he also delivered the dagger on that fourth-down play, connecting with Samuel for a 40-yard touchdown to put the 49ers up 31-7. On a night when Garoppolo’s ball placement was at an elite level, this throw stood out as one of the best we have ever seen at the NFL level from the eight-year veteran.
Once again, Samuel is going to be running DRIFT, finding a soft spot in the defense over the middle between the hashes.
The timing and touch on this throw from Garoppolo are nothing short of remarkable. Delivering that ball into that window on fourth down no less is simply spectacular. On arguably the biggest play of this game, Garoppolo not only delivered the best throw of the night but perhaps the best throw he made during his time in San Francisco.
Garoppolo not only put that ball outside the reach of safety Taylor Rapp, who Samuel was emerging behind as he broke inside on his route. He did so with exquisite ball placement, hitting Samuel in stride to allow the explosive wideout to have a chance to break upfield, which he ultimately did en route to the end zone for the game-sealing touchdown.
Garoppolo could not have put this ball in a better spot, and to do so on a throw so dependent on precision and timing is something that deserves a tremendous amount of recognition. In a game where he was sharp all night on third down, Garoppolo delivered in a monumental way on the 49ers’ sole fourth down attempt in this contest.
Here are Garoppolo’s final numbers on third and fourth down from this game:
158.3 passer rating
In a nationally televised game the 49ers had to have, against a tough divisional opponent and eventual super bowl champions, Garoppolo stole the show and put on an absolute master class of ball placement and delivering in the clutch. This game checked all the boxes for me and should go down as one of the best games Garoppolo has put on tape during his time as a San Francisco 49er.
Next up in the series, we begin to crack the top five of the list.
Here is the updated list to this point:
#6 Jimmy Garoppolo : Week 10 vs Los Angeles