The “Jimmy Garoppolo Experience” was in full effect on Sunday during the 49ers 27-24 overtime victory in Los Angeles.
Nearly every game with Garoppolo is filled with more ups and downs, twists and turns than a roller coaster ride at the amusement park across the parking lot from Levi’s Stadium.
The roller coaster had barely left the loading zone yesterday before the first big drop, occurring when Garoppolo fumbled the ball after getting hit on the 49ers second possession.
It dropped again when Garoppolo’s pass down the middle fluttered into the hands of Rams safety Taylor Rapp.
From there things began to turnaround as Garoppolo led the 49ers to their first points of the game on a quick drive which started with only 38 seconds remaining before halftime.
After the break, the 49ers offense looked like a completely different unit.
San Francisco’s run game began to click and Garoppolo converted on third down with a 13-yard completion to JaMycal Hasty. After veteran quarterback hit Brandon Aiyuk with a 31-yard strike, Deebo Samuel finished the possession with a 16-yard burst to the right side to pull the 49ers to within seven.
With the score tied at 17, the 49ers looked poised to take their first lead of the game. Instead, San Francisco came up empty handed when Garoppolo threw high and behind tight end George Kittle. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey got his hand on the ball and was able to stay with it, juggling the ball until finally securing an interception in the endzone.
Taking over from their own 12 with only 1:27 left to play and no timeouts, Garoppolo engineered the 9th fourth quarter comeback of his 49ers career, finding Jauan Jennings over the middle for a game tying 14-yard touchdown.
Garoppolo led the 49ers offense to a field goal on the opening possession of overtime and Ambry Thomas intercepted a Matthew Stafford on a deep pass down the right sideline to secure a playoff berth for San Francisco the wild ride that is the “Jimmy Garoppolo Experience” came to a thrilling close for 49ers fans.
Deebo Samuel is the 49ers MVP
There has been a lot of talk about left tackle Trent Williams being the MVP for San Francisco this season.
While Williams has been very good in 2021, the 49ers most valuable player is Deebo Samuel, and he showed why yesterday.
Against the Rams, Samuel hauled in four passes for 95 yards with another 45 yards and a touchdown coming on eight carries. Samuel wasn’t done there; he also threw a 24-yard touchdown to Jauan Jennings to tie the game at 17 in the third quarter.
Samuel finished the regular season with 14 total touchdowns, the most by a 49er since Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens had 14 total touchdowns in 2002.
Kyle Shanahan’s decision to move Samuel into the backfield more often over the second half of the season energized the 49ers offense, giving them the explosiveness they had missed while staring the season 3-5.
Don’t call it a wasted season
There have been several articles and comments on social media about how this was a wasted season for the 49ers.
The thought process is based in the belief that anything other than a Super Bowl victory is a wasted season.
That’s a flawed view.
This is no longer the 49ers of the ’80s and ’90s when the team won 10 or more games in 16 straight seasons.
Over the last 20 seasons, the 49er franchise has reached the 10-win mark only six times.
You need to learn to walk before running and that’s exactly what the 49ers have done this season.
Trey Lance may have only two starts but he showed improvement from week five to week 17.
Ambry Thomas was languishing on the bench until being forced into the starting lineup due to injuries. He’s improved each week and his interception yesterday sealed the 49ers trip to the playoffs.
Elijah Mitchell finished the regular season with 963 rushing yards, the most by a rookie in franchise history, and the most by any player since Carlos Hyde ran for 988 yards in 2016.
In addition to the rookies, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings showed a great deal of improvement in their sophomore seasons.
Aiyuk saved his best performance of 2021 for the last game, finishing with six receptions for 107 yards. While his receptions dropped this season, his yards per reception jumped from 12.5 to 14.8.
Jennings showed improvement throughout the season, and like Aiyuk he saved the best for last. Against the Rams, Jennings finished with a career high six receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns. His five touchdown receptions on the season match the mark put up by Aiyuk
The final script for this season has yet to be written, and the future looks bright for San Francisco.
Defense comes up big when it matters
The 49ers defense looked outmatched in the first half. That changed after halftime.
Led by their pass rush, San Francisco would allow only seven points in the second half and overtime.
Arik Armstead led the 49ers with a career high 2.5 sacks. Quite the performance considering Armstead had 3.5 sacks over the course of the first 16 games.
In addition to Armstead, sacks would be recorded by D.J. Jones, Fred Warner, Arden Key and Nick Bosa.
Bosa has been the key to the pass rush all season long, finishing the season with 15.5, the fifth highest total in 49ers franchise history.
Even when he isn’t getting to the quarterback himself, the attention that Bosa draws helps to open opportunities for the rest of the 49ers pass rush.
Take it away
Emmanuel Moseley may have missed the previous four games due to injury, but he made his presence felt against Los Angeles.
With the game tied at 17 in the third quarter, Moseley picked off a deep throw from Matthew Stafford intended for Ben Skowroneck. The leaping grab was the first interception of the season for Moseley and the third of his career.