INGLEWOOD CA — Jimmy Garoppolo’s alternately chaotic and highly successful time with San Francisco 49ers quarterback has produced bigger and more impressive numbers than the Week 18 performance against the Los Angeles Rams. He’s been involved in more meaningful games with higher stakes.
Garoppolo was able to meet a more significant moment in his life, given the circumstances at SoFi Stadium on Sunday. Garoppolo could have lost his Niners team with any number of late-game passes. It is not an exaggeration.
Garoppolo was throwing the ball with a badly hurt thumb in a road game that his team needed to win to qualify to the postseason. With his hand-picked replacement available to replace him at any time, this was the type of moment that would help to define a season as well as determine Garoppolo’s career.
Garoppolo was all that did was to grit his teeth and deliver the late-game magic that made him the beloved face of the Niners. Garoppolo, along with a long list of supporting characters, turned a 17-0 deficit into a thrilling 27-24 overtime win that gave San Francisco its ticket to the playoffs.
“[He’s] everything you want out of your starting quarterback to put yourself in a position to get in the playoffs no matter what he’s going through,” defensive tackle Arik Armstead said. “He could have easily tapped out or made excuses but he didn’t do that. He was a leader and made plays to get the job done.
Garoppolo’s win against the Rams was not without its hiccups. Bad Jimmy was there a few times, including an interception that was poorly thrown deep in Los Angeles territory during the fourth quarter. The Rams scored a touchdown after what should have been a field goal.
Kyle Shanahan, the Niners’ coach, never lost faith in Garoppolo. Shanahan decided to punt it back to the Rams on fourth-and-18 at San Francisco’s 17, with less than two minutes left to play. Shanahan hoped the Rams would get a quick stop to give Garoppolo and his offense another chance.
With 1:27 remaining, the 49ers were able to get the ball back at their 12, with no timeouts. If the 49ers score less than a touchdown, their season is over.
George Kittle, tight end said that “he’s a really great football player.” “You must be a great football player in order to recover from bad plays. … He doesn’t let things snowball and he just flushes it and goes on to the next play.”
Garoppolo, unfazed at the interception six minutes prior, threw a touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk for 21 yard. Garoppolo made his most difficult and best pass of the day two plays later. He released pressure to throw it to wide receiver Deebo Samson with just enough velocity and speed to slip it past Jalen Ramsey (the Rams cornerback).
Samuel hauled it in and made a few defenders miss. He then raced for a 43-yard gain. This was the kind of long throw that many wondered if Garoppolo could manage with his thumb.
Garoppolo hit Jauan Jnnings with a 14-yard touchdown pass to send the game to overtime. The season was at stake and the Niners ran 88 yards in five plays in 1:01. Following that, he steered a deliberate 12-play drive that lasted seven minutes and ended with the game-winning field kick in overtime.
Shanahan stated, “It was really tough, but to come home and lead us down that, to tie it up to send it to overtime,” Shanahan added. “He was unbelievable.”
Garoppolo completed eight of the 11 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown after the interception. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 316 yards, with a touchdown. Two interceptions were added for an 87.5 passer rating.
Garoppolo made the decision after spending a week trying to heal his thumb and hearing calls for Trey Lance to step in.
Garoppolo claimed that he knew the majority of the week he’d start, but it was just a matter how much pain he could take to make it through a full match. Garoppolo described it as “great” after it was over.
“Honestly, with injuries like that, your body’s just learning and adapting the whole time,” Garoppolo said. It felt good at first, but then it became numb. My arm seems to have learned to adapt to the changes.
Garoppolo was celebrating a win at the biggest game of this season. The fire alarm at SoFi Stadium sounded in the middle Garoppolo’s postgame conference. Garoppolo laughed, and continued answering questions even though sirens were blaring around him.
He had already faced far more challenging challenges and was not discouraged.