Imagine the 49ers on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in front of 80,000 shouting fans.
They are on their 20-yard-line, a two-minute warning is drawing near, and the entire season is on the line.
Not Jimmy Garoppolo.
“As a quarterback, those are the moments, the drives, that you win for,” Garoppolo said in a video conference Wednesday ahead of his wild-card playoff game against the Cowboys. “You want to have the ball at the end of the game.”
Garoppolo wants the ball almost as much as his teammates want him to have. The bottom line is, for what they are in the NFL, Garoppolo would overthrow Emmanuel Sanders with him and a fourth quarter in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
But the fact is, Garoppolo is often at its best when the situation is dire. Such was the case in the 18th week in a 27–24 win over the Los Angeles Rams that saw the 49ers (10–7) enter the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and No. 3 Dallas (12–5), a date with the champions. NFC ex.
The 49ers trailed the Rams 24-17 and were on their 12-yard line after a fine catch from a Johnny Hecker punt by Travis Benjamin. Only 1:27 was left on the clock.
Garoppolo finished it with 26 seconds to spare, throwing a 14-yard game-tying touchdown pass to John Jennings on the fifth play of the drive, who never made it to third.
All that was left for Garoppolo was to lead a 49-yard, 12-play drive in overtime that ended in a 24-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, and a win for Embry Thomas. To give an intercept. Game 49ers trailed 17-0 in the first half.
All with severe sprains in the toes, which were taped and numbed with painkillers.
Even for a franchise that boasts Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young, this was impressive stuff and enough to make you wonder why such a tough media and fan base for Trey Lance is on the future. Why were you pushing so hard to start one? ,
Garoppolo’s borders are no secret. Need to play in rhythm. Especially not mobile. Throwing outside the numbers on the boundary is a problem. Sometimes the head-scratcher opens the blockage.
But Garoppolo is 31-14 as a 49ers starter, and in those nine games he has brought his team from behind in the fourth quarter.
Coach Kyle Shanahan applauded Garoppolo’s idea for “ripping it up” in the big moments, and was never more clear than a 43-yard pass to Deebo Samuel for the 19-yard line in Los Angeles during a game-tying drive.
Garoppolo gave a glimpse of the post-game moment and whatever was needed in terms of defense processing and knowing the position.
“He played a shell, I think (Jalen) Ramsey was cloudy and I was doing a high-low with him, trying to bite him on George (Kittle),” Garoppolo said. “They made a move for it, I knew I had a window for Deebo and it was very tight. . . That’s just what I was trying to do, let those guys pretend and be special.”
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If this sounds confusing, keep in mind that Garoppolo processed all that in a split second. That’s something he’s done since he joined the 49ers in 2017 after being acquired by Trade from New England on October 30.
Beginning in his 49s against the Chicago Bears, Garoppolo led an 86-yard, 14-play drive in a tie game, with Gould scoring a game-winning 24-yard field goal at the gun.
Two weeks later, the 49ers and Garoppolo dropped the ball with 1:07 and 48 yards off the offense in seven plays for Gould’s 45-yard field goal and another game-winner against Tennessee.
When the 49ers went 13-3 in 2019, Garopolo fired the 49ers for a game-tying field goal against Seattle with a second left by Chase McLaughlin, though they lost 24-21 in overtime . A 48-46 road win over New Orleans was made possible by a 63-yard drive in the final 53 seconds, and a nine-play, 60-yard drive against the Rams in the final 1:17 enabled the 49ers to win 34-. 31.
In that game, Garoppolo twice converted to third and -16 to set the winning field goal.
In Season 3 against Green Bay, Garoppolo covered the 49ers 75 yards in eight plays, leaving 12-yard touchdown pass Kyle Juszcic with 37 seconds to take a 28-27 lead. The 49ers lost when Aaron Rodgers got the Packers position for a game-ending field goal.
A 95-yard, 12-play drive came to naught in Seattle when Carlos Dunlap batted a fourth-down pass from Garoppolo, with Jennings waiting in the end field in fourth place and the target with 22 seconds remaining.
The 26–23 overtime win over Cincinnati came when Garoppolo led the 49ers to a touchdown after the Bengals scored on the first overtime possession. In a 20–17 loss to Tennessee, the 49ers tied the game with 2:20 on a 2-yard pass from Garoppolo to Brandon Ayuk.
Shanahan credits the Garoppolo’s quick release and ability to avoid sacks when nearby crowds are at their most intense.
“If you get dismissed, the drive is usually over,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy has done a real good job of being able to get rid of it.”
Juszczyk said that Garoppolo had an “aura” about him earlier this season, and it’s clear that Garoppolo also draws strength from his belief in him when it matters most.
“When the time of crisis comes, we have people you can tell they want the ball in their hands,” Garoppolo said. “That’s what really comes down to it.”