By Dieter Kurtenbach
The 49ers haven’t been trustworthy in a while.
They’re too mercurial. Too injury-prone. Too conservative in the big moments.
And with this team boasting some positive momentum going into Monday night’s game against the Cardinals in Mexico City, the contest felt like a perfect let-down opportunity.
The 49ers always come back to the middle, right?
Well, apparently, wrong.
Monday night’s game might have been the type the Niners have lost over the last few seasons, but San Francisco turned in a brilliant performance — as complete a game as we’ve seen in the regular season from this team since the NFC championship season of 2019.
The defense is incredible and relentless. The skill-position players are peerless. The offensive line and run game are finding a groove. Head coach Kyle Shanahan looks in control of the contest and is even calling some fun plays.
And amid all this, Jimmy Garoppolo has been anything but a bystander — a game-manager quarterback along for the ride, handing off his way to victory.
No, Garoppolo has been a key part of the 49ers’ wins, particularly Monday’s.
Heaven help me, I’m starting to trust Garoppolo to win games.
Now, the Garopporollercoaster is unquestionably at an apex, but the calmness and precision of his throws over the last three games have me wondering if this might be the new norm for the Niners’ quarterback. Perhaps that fall never comes.
And if Garoppolo doesn’t falter, it’s really hard to see the other Niners faltering, instead.
There’s one stat that sums up the Niners’ 2022 season:
When Garoppolo throws an interception in a game, San Francisco is 0-3 on the campaign.
When he doesn’t throw an interception, the Niners are now 6-0.
An over-simplistic metric? Sure. But in a league that — despite the Niners’ wishes over the last few seasons — is still defined by the performances of head coaches and quarterbacks, it’s illuminating.
The Niners have the kind of team that can win despite their quarterback.
What happens when that quarterback is playing really, really well?
You get a team that looks like the favorites in the NFC, despite their 6-4 record.
It’s well established that I’m no fan of Garoppolo. It’s not a personal thing. Garoppolo is an outstanding professional and an eminently likable guy. I have nothing but respect for how he has handled both the ups and downs of his Niners’ career. I just don’t think he’s a top-flight quarterback in a league that demands it. Forgive me for having high standards.
But as of late, he’s met that standard. Garoppolo has completed 60 of his last 82 passes for 703 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions in his last three games.
And what’s really impressed me is that in the last two games is that he’s not only taken what the Niners’ offensive scheme and playmakers have created for him, but he’s created, too.
Against the Chargers last week, Garoppolo evaded pressure, rolled to his right, and, on the run, hit Ray-Ray McCloud, who was streaking down the sideline, in stride with a jump pass. It was the kind of throw that came out of nowhere, because, well, Garoppolo doesn’t make throws like that.
One Mahomesian throw, though? That could be a fluke.
But then on Monday, Garoppolo did it again. He evaded pressure, stepped up into the pocket, and instead of running for a few yards, maybe a first down, he threw a ball over the collapsing Cardinals linebackers, hitting George Kittle in the middle of the field with no one around him. Touchdown 49ers.
Back-to-back weeks of creating off-script?
This might be a thing now.
I can get behind this kind of quarterback. And if Garoppolo can keep finding his spots to create while not turning the ball over, the 49ers can win big behind that kind of quarterback.
We’ll see in the coming weeks if this is just a heater or Garoppolo’s new norm. That’s why we’re not going to ask if Garoppolo deserves another season in San Francisco just yet. A few games — as excellent as they have been — don’t make up for a few years.
But whether this form stays or goes, we’ve seen it, and it’s outstanding. Garoppolo deserves credit for kicking his game up a gear. And so long as the guy under center looks like this, the Niners look mighty formidable and I look mighty foolish for years of doubting No. 10.
Source: Paradise Post